Whether you’re obsessed with collecting toys to life figures or you think it’s all a silly money trap aimed at kids, one fact is undeniable. The toys to life genre has exploded in the last few years, raking in billions of dollars for Activision’s Skylanders series alone. Now we have LEGO, Nintendo, and Disney all capitalizing on this unique toy-game craze.
But it all began with Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure in 2011. Every year brings us a new Skylanders game with new gimmicks and toys. A hallmark of the series is that you can take your older figures into each new game, creating a fun bond between your beloved characters.
A new Skylanders game has become as common as Call of Duty. As a Skylanders veteran I’m here to provide my wishlist and predictions for the next Skylanders game, which is expected to be announced within the next few weeks.
A Brief History of Skylanders
First let’s briefly recap what each Skylanders game brought to the table.
Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure (2011)
The original introduced the concept of toys-to-life by piggy-backing on a dormant franchise – Spyro. The cartoon dragon has since taken a back seat to his fellow Skylanders. In fact, Spyro hasn’t even had a proper toy since Swap Force. Figures maxed out their levels at 10.
Skylanders: Giants (2012)
The first sequel introduced a new special set of large figures called the Giants. There was one Giant for each of the eight elements. Giants were slower and more powerful than the core figures. Light Core figures were also introduced, which lit up when placed on the Portal. The level cap on figures was raised to 15.
Skylanders: Swap Force (2013)
Swap Force was the first game in the series to not be developed by Toys for Bob. In order to keep up with annualized releases, Vicarious Visions would take over every other game in the series. The 16 new Swap Force figures (2 for each element) had interchangeable top and bottom halves. This let you mix and match their parts to create unique combinations. Skylanders: Swap Force also added the simple but game-changing ability to jump, opening up new puzzles and combat abilities. The level cap was raised to 20.
Skylanders: Trap Team (2014)
Skylanders: Trap Team utilized an obvious Gotta Catch ‘Em All mantra. A new unique portal could house an elemental trap (sold separately of course). These traps were used to capture the many new bosses that now terrorized the skylands. Players could then switch to these rehabilitated villains for a temporary power boost. New large Trapmaster figures carried powerful weapons and two entirely new elemental types were added: Light and Dark. A new Hearthstone-like card game called Skystone Smash was well-received. Trap Team also had a noticeably better story, with several fun new villain characters. Oddly the PVP battle mode was removed and and has yet to return.
Skylanders: SuperChargers (2015)
Skylanders went racing in last year’s entry. Instead of having a unique line of figures like in the last three entries, Superchargers added vehicles to the mix. These new toys were modeled after specific Superchargers characters, some new and some re-designed. Typical Skylanders gameplay was frequently broken up by racing segments via land, sea, and air, though only land was necessary to complete the game. For the first time in the series Superchargers added online play, though it’s limited to racing only.
Skylanders 6 Wishlist
Which brings us to 2016. The promise of a new Skylanders game is on the horizon. With new features, figures, and gameplay added in each entry, it becomes more difficult to handle everything at once. For example, in SuperChargers each trap (from Trap Team) simply adds a new Skystone card and a temporary weapon power to vehicles.
Here are some features I want to see in this year’s Skylanders game, regardless of what theme or gimmick they go with:
- Bring back Battle Mode – Skylanders isn’t exactly balanced for PVP but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a lot of fun.
- Actual online gameplay – It’s 2016, there’s really no excuse to not bring this incredibly popular series online.
- Raise the level cap – There’s a steady power creep issue at play here. But the level cap of 20 has been in place for years, making many fans not able to progress any further with beloved figures.
- Properly integrate the traps and vehicles – The Giants and Swap Force figures are still fun to play with, but traps and vehicles require specific gameplay modes and features to work well.
- More Nintendo and other licensed figures – Superchargers surprised everyone by adding Bowser and Donkey Kong. Given the insane popularity of Nintendo’s amiibos, it makes sense to lock down more of these figures.
Skylanders 6 Predictions
And now the moment we’ve all been waiting for – my bold predictions for this year’s Skylanders. Each new entry has been wrapped around a specific theme. This theme provides the basis for new gameplay features as well as new figures. Based on my experience with the series and the current climate of gaming, here are my predictions for Skylanders 6:
Skylanders: Time Warp
When TV shows get long in the tooth they present a clip show to reintroduce old favorites. After six years World of Warcraft released the Cataclysm expansion, completely redesigning many old areas. I think Skylanders is ready for its clip show Cataclysm. Skylanders: Time Warp could bring back many old levels with some kind of time-travel plot. These classic levels would be tweaked and remastered to allow for the much improved designs of the latter games. Fighting old villains and exploring classic levels with new figures could be a neat twist.
Instead of a new set of time figures the new wave could include time bubbles that unlock newly remixed levels. These mini-play sets could fit right over the portal and provide yet another cool series of toys to collect. They could unlock additional advanced difficulties, time attack, survival modes, etc. Time Warp would introduce new fans to older content while providing some fun nostalgia for older fans.
Skylanders: Swap Force introduced unique figures that could swap their top and bottom halves. Combiners expands on this idea by combining whole Skylanders together into a super figure. Think Devastator from Transformers. The story could be centered around Kaos harnessing the Combiner technology to create his own army of gestalt super warriors.
The new line of Combiners figures would actually need to be smaller to accommodate this feature. Trap Team already introduced the Minis, so size shouldn’t be an issue. Having to collect five or six of them in order to create a Combiner would be a pretty obvious incentive. Large packs could also be sold that included each figure. Bonus points if you could mix and match them!
Minecraft is pretty popular. The target audience of Skylanders and Minecraft intersects to create Skylanders: Builders. The new line of Builders would be armed with construction tools. New gameplay features would be modeled after the LEGO games. Builders can find and create new paths and objects. The story would involve a grand rebuilding of Skylands after its many terrible wars.
The real hook would be a fully customizable Academy and level editor. The Academy serves as an important hub world for each Skylanders game. Supercharges let you place Legendary Treasure through the world, but what about letting you place every single person and object, a la Disney Infinity? These personalized Academies could then be shared online and visited by other players. A full-on level editor would provide infinite replayablity, especially if we could share and download levels online.
Skylanders: SuperChargers teased us with online racing. One of the single most requested features for the series is true online gameplay. So how about we fully embrace an online world? In Skylanders World heroes would take on dangerous missions together. PVP arenas and MOBA-like battlefields would allow Skylanders to battle competitively. Cooperative missions would reward teamwork, allowing players to play with friends and see Skylanders in action they may not (yet) own.
A new line of figures could emphasize the persistent, cooperative gameplay by including special team-up attacks. Skylanders World could represent a whole new direction for the series as it adopts many successful traits of the Massively Multiplayer Online genre. New figures and missions packs could then be added throughout the year, keeping players fully invested in the new world.
Skylanders: Even More Hats
For as long as there have been Skylanders, there have been hats. These collectible and wearable in-game accessories range from cool to cute to completely bizarre. They also serve as useful stat boosters. Figures retain their equipped hat through each new game iteration, meaning each game has had to add more and more hats. As of SuperChargers there are over 250 hats.
So let’s make a game about hats! Kaos has, uh, stolen all the hats and now holds Skylands in a deep fashion crisis! Only the Skylanders can recover all the missing hats. New figures would just be actual tiny hats you can place on your existing figures. You’re welcome, Activision.