Skylanders Swap Force preview

First there was Skylanders Spyro's Adventure, where action figures linked to your gaming console could harness the elements to cast powerful spells. Then there was Skylanders Giants, whose characters possessed unmatched strength and could pick up humongous rocks and move unmovable objects. And now there's Swap Force, the next game in the Skylanders series, where some characters can be fused with another to create wholly unique hybrids. Yes, it's just as awesome as it sounds.

Though Swap Force will introduce a lineup of 32 new characters, you can actually only fuse 16 of them by mixing and matching their upper and lower bodies, forming crazy fusions with unique skill and movement combinations. The other half the Swap Force roster consists of new static characters that can't be fused with others--but that doesn't mean they aren't just as cool. Roller Brawl, a roller derby-inspired lady who can skate around and shoot razor-like projectiles, is but one of the many imaginative characters in the pipeline.

In practice, creating a hybrid Skylander is quick and simple. Magna Charge, for example, is a new tech-based Skylander that can lift small objects into the air via kinesis and take down enemies with his railgun. He's also got a fast roller wheel for legs, which allows him to quickly zoom around an area. Wash Buckler, on the other hand, is a water-themed pirate squid with a bubble gun useful for crowd control, and a cutlass for slicing foes in half. But by physically separating the upper body of Wash Buckler's action figure from its lower half, then attaching it to Magna Charge's legs, you get both the powerful attacks of the former with the unmatched speed of the latter. Considering there are 16 Skylanders that can be mixed and matched, that's a lot of combinations--256, to be exact.

You'll have to rely on creating hybrid characters, too, to overcome some of Swap Force's many obstacles. Just as there were elemental gates in Skylanders, now there are Swap Gates that require specific types of mobility to bypass. In one section of our demo, a gate prevented a character on screen from progressing; but once fused with the lower body of new Skylander Blast Zone, he suddenly had rockets boosters on his legs and could proceed through the aerial gate. There will be other types of similar gates that require these special characters as well, though anyone who has dumped some cash into forming a healthy roster of Skylanders and Giants can still use them here.

New characters aside, Swap Force has another huge focus: storytelling. We didn't get much info regarding the lore of the game, but Activision is aiming to include more narrative than ever before in the series, as to make it feel like your Skylanders are fighting for something tangible. Everything from the cutscenes to the newly updated graphics look fantastic, and are sure to please Skylanders fans, as is the inclusion of the ability to jump--a long-requested feature that had been absent until now.

Swap Force is the Skylanders game we never knew we wanted. Mixing and matching multiple characters to create wholly new characters is an exciting prospect, and we're curious to see what kind of interesting combinations will be available. We just hope our wallets can withstand the process of discovering our favorite combos.

Ryan was once the Executive Editor of GamesRadar, before moving into the world of games development. He worked as a Brand Manager at EA, and then at Bethesda Softworks, before moving to 2K. He briefly went back to EA and is now the Director of Global Marketing Strategy at 2K.