It is the first Skylanders game to be released in North America before other regions, unlike the previous two games where Australia got the installments first. It is also the first Skylanders game not to be owned by Vivendi.
During the last eruption ceremony (the volcano fuelled Skylands) something tragic happened. Kaos' mother aimed to destroy the volcano, but a team of Skylanders defended it. After that, the volcano erupted, sending these Skylanders to Earth. The volcano's eruption gave these Skylanders the ability to swap their tops and bottoms, transforming them into the Swap Force. Skylanders Swap Force is the third installment of the skylanders series and the main villain, Kaos, takes over Cloudbreak Island with his evil crystals. New villains are set in different levels with different landscapes.
The gameplay for Swap Force is based on the two previous games, Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure and Skylanders: Giants. Players use a portal to bring real life action figures into the video game. For the new game, Skylanders are able to jump, and there are new swappable Skylanders. The new game also brings a new Portal of Power (and therefore is only sold as a starter pack). The new Portal was added because of the new technology that makes the Swap Force characters work correctly. The older portals from the past two games would not be able to sense the top half of these new Swappable characters. These sixteen new characters have top and bottom halves that can be separated from each other and recombined with the halves from other characters. This allows for a total of 256 combinations between all tops and bottoms. Another new feature of the swappable characters is that each has one of eight distinct ways of moving. These different movement types are necessary to enter certain side areas in the game called "Swap Zone Challenges". Only characters with the correct bottom half can enter said areas. There are eight: Rocket, Spin, Dig, Stealth, Teleportation, Bounce, Speed and Climb.
As with the previous installments of the game, Skylanders: Swap Force is available for purchase in starter kits that will include a copy of the game itself, the portal of power, three characters to begin or supplement your collection, a poster of the entire Swap Force collection, cards, stickers, and Web codes. The current starter packs and the characters include the following:
Console Starter Pack
Wash Buckler (Swap Force - Water - Climb)
Blast Zone (Swap Force - Fire - Rocket)
Ninja Stealth Elf (Series 3 - Life)
Nintendo 3DS Starter Pack
Rattle Shake (Swap Force - Undead - Bounce)
Free Ranger (Swap Force - Air - Spin)
Volcanic Lava Barf Eruptor (Series 3 - Fire - Alt Deco)
Nintendo eshop Starter Pack
Night Shift (undead - teleport)
Boom Jet (air - rocket)
Echanted Star Strike (magic - alt deco)
People who pre-order Console Starter Pack or Gamestop Exclusive Dark Edition Starter Pack from GameStop receive a free, never before released Skylanders: Giants Lightcore Hex figure and a poster.
People who pre-order Console Starter Pack from Toys "R" Us also receive a free, never before released Lightcore Hex figure, a poster, and any single Skylanders: Swap Force character they would like.
People who pre-order Console Starter Pack from Walmart also receive the free, never before released Lightcore Hex figure.
People who pre-order Console Starter Pack from Target Corporation receive a free, exclusive, physical magic/trading card that grants a hat (UFO Hat) when placed on the new Portal of Power, as well as the Lightcore Hex figure.
People who pre-order Console Starter Pack from Best Buy also receive the free, never before released Lightcore Hex figure.
New Skylanders/Returning Skylanders and Map Packs
Swap Force features sixteen new core characters and sixteen new swappable characters, in addition to sixteen reposed Skylanders from previous games, five new dark figures and eight Lightcore Skylanders.
Dark figures are in game variants that are only available as part of a packaging exclusive by Gamestop (US stores).
Dark Wash Buckler (Swap Force - Water - Climb)
Dark Blast Zone (Swap Force - Fire - Rocket)
Dark Slobber Tooth (Earth)
Dark Ninja Stealth Elf (Life - Series 3)
Dark Mega Ram Spyro (Magic - Series 3)
Legendary figures are in game variants that are only available by certain retailers (Toys R US - US stores).
Legendary Free Ranger (Swap Force - Air - Spin)
Legendary Night Shift (Swap Force - Undead - Teleport)
Legendary Zoo Lou (Life)
Legendary Lightcore Grim Creeper (Undead)
Tower of Time - Includes Pop Thorn, Battle Hammer item, Sky Diamond item, and Tower of Time location item.
Sheep Wreck Islands - Includes Wind-Up, Platinum Sheep item, Groove Machine item, and Sheep Wreck Islands location item.
Arkeyan Crossbow - Includes Grim Creeper, Thorn Horn Camo, and Arkeyan Crossbow Magic Item
Fiery Forge - Includes Bumble Blast, Knockout Terrafin and Fiery Forge Magic Item
Bumble Blast (Life)
Grim Creeper (Undead)
Star Strike (Magic)
New characters in Skylanders:SWAP Force
Roller Brawl (Undead)
Grim Creeper (Undead)
Slobber Tooth (Earth)
Star Strike (Magic)
Dune Bug (Magic)
Bumble Blast (Life)
Zoo Lou (Life)
Wind Up (Tech)
Punk Shock (Water)
Pop Thorn (Air)
Blast Zone (Fire - Rocket)
Boom Jet (Air - Rocket)
Doom Stone (Earth - Spin)
Fire Kraken (Fire - Bounce)
Free Ranger (Air - Spin)
Freeze Blade (Water - Speed)
Grilla Drilla (Life - Dig)
Hoot Loop (Magic - Teleport)
Magna Charge (Tech - Speed)
Night Shift (Undead - Teleport)
Rattle Shake (Undead - Bounce)
Rubble Rouser (Earth - Dig)
Spy Rise (Tech - Climb)
Stink Bomb (Life - Sneak)
Trap Shadow (Magic - Sneak)
Wash Buckler (Water - Climb)
Returning Characters / Reposes
Anchors Away Gill Grunt (Water - Series 3)
Big Bang Trigger Happy (Tech - Series 3)
Blizzard Chill (Water - Series 2)
Heavy Duty Sprocket (Tech - Series 2)
Fire Bone Hot Dog (Fire - Series 2)
Horn Blast Whirlwind (Air - Series 3)
Hyper Beam Prism Break (Earth - Series 3)
Lava Barf Eruptor (Fire - Series 3)
Mega Ram Spyro (Magic - Series 3)
Ninja Stealth Elf (Life - Series 3)
Phantom Cynder (Undead - Series 3)
Knockout Terrafin (Earth - Series 3)
Super Gulp Pop Fizz (Magic - Series 2)
Thorn Horn Camo (Life - Series 2)
Twin Blade Chop Chop (Undead - Series 3)
Turbo Jet-Vac (Air - Series 2)
Variants in Swap Force comes in the following categories:
In Game Variants: Characters that appear in game and are produced in good numbers to the public.
Physical Toy Variants: Characters that appear different as a toy but does not look any different in the game. Availability varies by figure and how it is released.
Employee Exclusives: Characters given to employees that are generally not available to the public. These characters are generally expensive and are targeted to collectors.
Chase Variants: Characters that are physical toy variants only and produced only in limited numbers to the public. These characters are generally expensive and are targeted to collectors.
In Game Variants:
Enchanted Hoot Loop (Swap Force - Magic - Teleport)
Lightcore Enchanted Star Strike (Magic)
Jade Fire Kraken (Swap Force - Fire - Bounce)
Volcanic Lava Barf Eruptor (Fire)
Jolly Bumble Blast (Life)
Nitro Magna Charge (Swap Force - Tech - Speed)
Nitro Freeze Blade (Swap Force - Water - Speed)
Spring Time Trigger Happy (Tech)
Kickoff Countdown (Tech)
Quickdraw Rattle Shake
Physical Toy Variants:
Silver Metallic Sprocket (Tech) (Best Buy - US Stores Exclusive)
Green Wash Buckler (Water - Climb) (Only sold in special Wii U packaging)
Gold Fire Kraken (Fire - Bounce)
Snowderdash (Fire) (Labeled Snowderdash on box)
Green Translucent Scorp (Earth)
Green Translucent Rip Tide (Water)
Green Translucent Chop Chop (Undead)
Red Dune Bug (Magic) (Toy Fair 2014 Exclusive)
Bronze/Silver Trap Shadow (Swap Force - Magic - Sneak)
Silver/Gold Stink Bomb (Swap Force - Life - Sneak)
Gold/Bronze Doom Stone (Swap Force - Earth - Spin)
Skylanders: Swap Force was released to positive reviews, with the reviews from GameRankings and Metacritic being the highest and most genuinely positive of the series so far across all platforms. Gaming website Quarter To Three gave both the Wii U and Xbox 360 a perfect score of 5/5. Video Game website Gaming Age gave the PlayStation 3 version the highest grade of an "A" and further commented that "Whether you’re a Skylanders fan or a gamer who’s looking for a charming and unique family-friendly game series to get into, Skylanders SWAP Force comes highly recommended."