The New Skylanders Game is Like Diablo For Kids
Looting the Skylands
As a parent, I've always thought of the Skylanders series as a gateway for kids to other games. The franchise has, after all, always had simple controls that even very young gamers could grasp, making them perfect training grounds for little ones before they tackle more grown up action adventure fare.
The latest in the series--Skylanders Imaginators--acts as another gateway, but this time it's not only for action games. With a ridiculously in-depth character creation system and what seems to be a fairly intricate loot-drop mechanic, Skylanders Imaginators is pushing more into action-RPG territory, and it could be the most "grown up" Skylanders game experience to date. It's Diablo for kids, if Diablo made you buy each character as a separate toy.
So yes, there is still an element of commerce about the game, as there are new physical toys for you to buy in order to get the full Imaginators experience. There will, of course, be new Skylander characters; these newbies are called Senseis, and much like the Trap Masters from Trap Team, are powerful characters with unique abilities. But the most interesting addition are toys called Creation Crystals, which allows you to create your own Skylander from scratch within the game.
These creations--the titular Imaginators--is where a lot of complexity for the new game can be found. The level of customisation shown to me during a brief demo of the game was outstanding, and it'll likely be something that kids (and adult fans of the franchise) will obsess over. To start off with, there are 10 different classes to choose from, roughly aligning with your typical game character archetypes like tanks, ranged, and more. It gets much deeper once you hit character customisation, with the amount of individual tweaks that can be made to how a character looks, sounds, and behaves bordering on the excessive. Yes, you can tweak head and body parts to the nth degree, but you can also do things like change the color of individual body parts, change the sound your character makes when using their weapon, decide what music plays when they start attacking, create your own catch phrases (and change the pitch of your character's voice), and more.
That customisation extends into the game itself. While Skylanders games have long featured a very light gear system, Imaginators is embracing loot in a much more expansive way. Defeated enemies will now drop random loot, and they'll be categorised much like gear in other action-RPGs via their rarity (in Imaginators case, common, rare, epic, and mythic).
I didn't get to actually have hands-on with the game during my preview session, so it's hard to say just how impactful these new loot drops will be when playing. From what I saw, the game plays similarly to every other Skylander game before it (that is, a cute yet simple action adventure game). But will there be a huge variance in loot, compelling you to keep playing and keeping you in a constant state of swapping out your gear? Will this increase the replayability of the game? It's hard to tell right now, but it is an exciting new direction for the Skylanders franchise to take. Given how tough it is to be in the toys-to-life business right now, this move towards expanding the game side of Skylanders over the toy gimmick side is welcome one indeed.