I became extremely addicted to Skylanders figurines. To date I’ve probably spent upwards of $250 on the toys, if not more. Activision’s smart marketing released a few new figurines every few months, keeping the market from becoming saturated but at the same time making sure that each figure was gobbled up immediately.
When I had the opportunity to take a look at the follow up, Skylanders Giants, at E3, I was both salivating and curious as to how they would top the mammoth size of the previous game’s schtick.
Well, they did it… by announcing mammoth size characters. And I want all of them.
The Skylanders universe revolves around the figurines; buying, trading, and using them across different games and consoles is the key to their immensely popular sales. With Giants, the game introduces 40 new characters — all of which I will at one point or another buy, steal, or beat up a grandmother for.
First an foremost, all of the Skylanders now have a level cap of 15. This will show in the new game, not the old, so that a Level 15 in Giants will show up as a Level 10 in Spyro’s Adventure. Though it’s never been outright mentioned, all of the figurines are databased on the games; the only data on the actual figures is their level, skills and loot. The character models, dialogs, and even the purchasable areas and items are all save onto the disc. That’s not to say that there couldn’t be a downloadable update to the game to expand it, but that would be nearly impossible to manage across all of the different platforms that the game has appeared on.
The new and Series 2 figurines — the figures from the first set that have been reimagined with new poses and designs — also allow for the option to switch skill paths during leveling, which the producers told us will really enforce more personalization and ownership of the individual figures. The game’s Executive Producer Scott Krager told us that the team really wanted to have the characters’ personalities shine through as new voices, animations, and situational reactions have been created to separate them even further.
There will be 8 Giants, 8 all-new Skylanders, and 24 “Series 2″ Skylanders, which are variations on first series. The toys alone are enough to make children very happy this holiday season, but it may be a bit of a challenge to communicate to buyers that the new figures will not be playable on the original game.
An interesting addition to the figures is the inclusion of what Activision is calling “light core” tech. The tech allows for parts of the characters to glow when they come in proximity to the portal, even the current on-the-shelves device. We saw orbs glow on Tree Rex, one of the Giants, a Series 2 Prism Break’s hand crystals glow, and (new character) Pop Fizz’s potion change color. In simplest terms, it’s “magic”. All of the Giants are light core enabled, as well as four of the new Skylanders and four of Series 2.
These new additions to the games are huge Skylanders, about 2-3x the size of previous figures. Within the game they have massive size and equally massive skills, with the ability to open paths, break walls, and throw boulders. During our hands-on time we realized just how powerful they were. In one round we played as Bouncer, a jive-talking robot, that tended to obliterate the enemies on screen with his hand bullets and eye-lasers. In another playthrough we used Tree Rex to pick up boulders and demolish puny, baby orcs.
There will be one Giant per element.
Here’s something worth noting: there is actually a game associated with the figures, and it’s very, very fun. From our time with Giants on the show floor we noted a few new and important changes. The worlds are now bigger and multi-layered, closer to what the 3DS game was than the console versions. It’s no longer just a straight line with a few side paths; there is motion up, down, in and out. Buildings can now be entered and the elemental gates have been completely redesigned to be much more specific to the element. That means no more taking our Spyro off of the portal and replacing it with Whirlwind when we enter a magic-based gate. The backgrounds and environmental objects are much more interactive. The design team made it a point to make all of the levels and worlds highly-replayable.
Multiplayer has been flushed out a bit more as well, as new arena-style challenges and ring-out modes have been added, and PvP has been enhanced.
The game still looks fine, too. It’s not going to wow us, but it’s charming in the Saturday morning cartoon kind of way. What we played on the show floor was reminiscent of the first game: grassy field, village, and mountain. There are more worlds and levels in this second game, we’re told, to extend the play time even further.
It doesn’t matter to me. I just want that light core. Gimme that light core!
Skylanders Giants arrives this Fall for Wii, 3DS, Xbox 360, and PS3. And it’s going to sell so much more than the original ever did.