Last year’s Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure proved to be a successful experiment for Activision, a unique marriage of video games and action figures that captured the hearts and minds of children (and emptied the wallets of parents) around the world. Never one to shy away from striking while the iron is hot, Activision quickly put Skylanders developer Toys For Bob to work on a sequel, and the resulting game, Skylanders: Giants, looks to give fans more of what they loved about the original.
You’ll notice from the name that Spyro is being significantly downplayed in this installment of Skylanders, but that was to be expected; even in the first game, the dragon’s role was ancillary at best, a fail-safe way for Activision to launch a new IP by piggybacking it on the vestiges of an existing one. He’ll still be playable in the game (as will every other figure you’ve accumulated from the first Skylanders), but the focus this time around is on the eponymous Giants, who bring a few unique twists to the gameplay.
Like regular Skylanders, the Giants are summoned into the game via the Portal of Power. Each one has its own unique abilities and attributes, which players will need to master– and often use in tandem with other characters– in order to advance through the story. In the guided demo we were invited to watch, the booth representative summoned Tree Rex, a Life-element Giant, into the game. Tree Rex’s hulking frame made him significantly more powerful than a regular Skylander, and he was able to clear wave after wave of enemies with ease. His strength also allowed him to use the environment as a weapon, uprooting trees or picking up large boulders to hurl at his foes. However, his size meant that he could not reach enemies standing on elevated platforms, so the representative switched to Bouncer, a robotic Giant that specialized in ranged combat, to take out any enemies that were out of Tree Rex’s reach. These kinds of situations will be prevalent in Skylanders: Giants, encouraging players to experiment with different character combinations.
The Giants will even play a vital role in exploration. Just as there were elemental zones exclusive to certain Skylanders in the first game (which Activision promises will be more organically integrated into this adventure), there will be some areas that only the Giants can access. Players will also need to use their abilities to complete Feats of Strength, which open up new areas in the Skylands to explore; in one instance, the representative used Tree Rex to pull a chained island closer to the mainland, allowing other characters to access it. Still, while these scenarios will be integral to the gameplay, Activision assured us that Toys For Bob was doing its best to make the game balanced for all character types.
Of course, the Giants aren’t the only new heroes being introduced in Skylanders: Giants; Activision promised a whole new set of regular Skylanders will also be available for purchase. What’s more, the game’s level cap has been raised from 10 to 15, allowing all of your old Skylanders to be powered up even further. Add to that new Battle Modes like the sumo-inspired Ring Out, not to mention three different difficulty settings and new Hero Challenges, and you have what is sure to be an exciting new game for fans of the series.
Skylanders: Giants may skew toward a younger audience with its reliance on action figures and cartoony visuals, but it is shaping up to be an enjoyable romp for anyone who likes action-platformers. Just as in the first title, players will be able to use their Skylanders figures with any version of the game, allowing for seamless cross-platform play. There will even be a special 3DS version (developed by none other than n-Space) which will place an even greater emphasis on platforming than the console versions (not to mention will have its own unique storyline). There’s no word on whether or not the series will also make the jump to Wii U, but as it stands, fans of the original have a lot to look forward to in Giants regardless of which platform they plan to play it on.