The Skylanders franchise might be Activision’s biggest overnight success, sending parents worldwide clamoring into department and retail stores hunting for the little figurines. Trying to keep the energy (and sales) high, Skylanders Giants is the first full sequel to the franchise, acting as both a brand new game for newcomers and an expansion for those already familiar with the worlds of Skylands. At E3 I was given a chance to watch a preview of the new title and see some of the new characters in action.
The preview started with one of the new Series Two characters, Jet-Vac. He wields a vacuum and a jet pack which he can use to travel around the Skylands. As he tramped through the area, Jet-Vac found an over-sized rock pushed up against a wall. Pushing the rock out of the way revealed a hidden cave that he could enter to find additional loot. These caves introduce the first-ever interior sections into the Skylanders main game; though indoor levels were available in the challenge missions in the original Skylanders game, Giants will spread interior sections throughout the entirety of the main game.
One of the biggest changes to the franchise is the introduction of giants. Giants are huge, lumbering figures that tower over the other characters and deal out massive damage. Two Giants were showcased, the life-elemental “Tree Rex” and the tech-elemental “Bouncer.” Tree Rex is able to wipe out hordes of enemies with massive swings of his limbs, while Bouncer controls remotely-targeted missiles that blast opponents away. Each giant has its own special abilities, while giants in general are able to move heavy objects that smaller Skylanders are unable to manipulate. For example, Tree Rex was able to take large, floating rocks in the sky and drag them closer to the island, creating a new pathway to another section of the level. Even moreso than the last game, Activision seems to be trying to make each character very unique in its style, personality, and abilities, adding to the “Gotta buy ‘em all” mystique.
Speaking of buying figures, Activision has definitely increased the variety and and types of figures for this new series of battlers. In addition to the presence of the giants themselves, one of the coolest new updates are the “Light-Core” figures, figures which light up as they draw closer to the Portal of Power. Mind you, they don’t have to be touching the portal or plugged in at all to light up…I’m not precisely sure how its done, but it was pretty cool to see. Also, placing a Light-Core figure on the portal creates a wide-reaching sonic-boom attack to damage all the enemies on the screen. The team seems very committed to creating in-game bonuses to correspond to the cosmetic features that special figures may have. Giants will also unleash a similar AOE attach when placed on the portal, giving Portalmasters multiple ways to fight their way out of tough scrapes. Also, 24 characters from the original game will be re-released as Series 2 figures in Giants, featuring new poses and supercharged upgrades called “Wowpows.”
Overall, Skylanders Giants looks like it will be an exciting, in-depth new venture into the realms of Skylands. The graphics look tightened up and the entire landscape feels more lively. Areas with elemental barriers that only allow certain figures are highly animated and feel more alive; the Dark zone that they showed off completely darkened the skies and was full of skulls and creepy black trees. The level cap has been raised to 15 instead of the original 10, and all the original Series 1 figures and tools (including the original Portal of Power) are completely compatible with the new game. Old figures will be able to work up to level 15 when used in Giants, while Series 2 figures can be used in the original Skylanders without their wowpow and leveled up to 10. Hot-swapping of figures at any time will still be included, as well as an enhanced Battle Mode which will feature a new ring-out style contest.
Skylanders Giants will be available this Fall for XBox 360, PS3, Wii, and 3DS. When asked about a possible Wii U release, the spokesman said “We’re currently considering the Wii U, and that’s all I’m allowed to say.” There are also talks about creating a mobile portal and mobile version of the game, but those aren’t concrete ideas just yet. He also said that they will attempt to provide better supply of the figures this time around, hopefully addressing shortage issues from the last game. Standard single figures have an MSRP of $9.99, while Light-Core figures will be $11.99. Giants will be available for $14.99, and new Battle Packs which feature 2 exclusive figures and a special battle-mode arena, will be $24.99.