A word like "beautiful" is not one I casually toss about. What Vicarious Visions has done to beef up the aesthetics in Swap Force versus Giants and Spyro's Adventure relegate those previous games into looking last-gen. Everything in Swap Force is more lush, detailed and vibrant that its predecessors. Cut-scenes are now derived directly from the in-game engine and not obviously pre-rendered CGI mini-movies, resulting in a more seamless transition between exposition and gameplay.
This visual overhaul applies to not only Skylands but all the characters as well, including the over 100 characters you have been playing with from the previous games. Our demo showed Crusher the Giant in all his new glory, complete with a hammer smash so potent that it makes the screen shake and leaves visual shockwaves in its wake.
Skylanders Swap Force is an incredibly ambitious game whose development began before Spyro's Adventure shipped more than two years ago. Apart from Vicarious Visions having to animate close to 200 characters, they also had to create the upper and lower halves of all the Swap Force Skylanders. On top of that, each upper half moves based upon which lower half is attached. For example, if Night Shift's top is on Roller Blade's bottom, then the arms of Night Shift will move as if he is skating with the legs of Roller Blade.
A key challenge for Vicarious Visions was how to make the top and bottom half of the figures stick to one another via magnets and also successfully pass data back and forth. A magnetic field naturally disrupts data integrity, so Vicarious Visions brothers Karthik and Guha Bala and their team had to come up with a creative solution. What that solution is they won't say as it is still patent pending, but they're definitely the first to pull it off and it works like magic.
Here are some more Skylanders Swap Force facts gleaned from our demo event. More information will be forthcoming after we check out the game again later today.
New at E3 Swap Force Skylanders
Activision and Vicarious Visions are debuting a total of three Swap Force Skylanders (MSRP $14.99 each) at E3, bringing the total number officially received thus far to 8 of 16. Rattle Shake looks to be the standout design of the newly announced set, and he will be available as a single release and as part of the 3DS Skylanders Swap Force Starter Pack. His Swap Force ability is spinning as denoted by a coiled snake tail on his figure. Hoot Loop is what appears to be a whacky owl, and Free Ranger is a storm chicken. That's right, a storm chicken. His lower half turns into a vortex and he's got a variety of wind-based attacks.
New at E3 Regular and LightCore Skylanders
Two additional regular Skylanders and one new LightCore character have been announced for E3 as well. Star Strike is the LightCore character, though we don't know (yet) if she(?) will be also available as a non-LightCore figure with a different pose. Unfortunately the only look I have of Grim Creeper right now is from a gameplay screenshot. Look for more on Grim Creeper sooner rather than later.
Fryno is a fire element Skylander best described as a "leather biker rhinoceros." He's got a great powered up attack that has him pound his fists into the ground for several seconds, building up power until a funky bike appears that he rides on. Unfortunately I do not have an image of Fryno to share just yet, but I am working on it.
Already Announced Swap Force Skylanders
The next of images are new looks at the previously announced Swap Force Skylanders except for Night Shift. For whatever reason Activision did not distribute artwork for Stink Bomb in this batch of images.
Already Announced Regular Skylanders
Last but not least are new images from the three previously announced regular Skylanders that join the group with the release of Swap Force. This is by far and away the best look we have had at these characters to date. Ninja Stealth Elf (Series 3) is included with all versions of the Skylanders Swap Force Starter Pack for consoles.
To end with a little bit of a mystery, here is an enlarged image of a new Power A Skylanders Swap Force carry case accessory bag. You will notice what appears to be a Series 3 Spyro with elongated horns on the bag, as well as an all-new green Skylander with an ample supply of pointy appendages. We will be hunting for a clearer image of this guy immediately.
Skylanders Swap Force video, screenshots, additional impressions and more questions answered are coming very soon in separate articles.