The Skylanders State of Gaming: 2015

The Past

It all started with a Dragon…Robot.
It was June 2013.I was just a boy in love and my girlfriend was a budding gamer looking to play something that wasn’t too challenging and yet somehow engaging for us to play together. We were in the midst of a love for the 3DS and I wanted a game that reminded me of the olden days of gaming.

It’s hard to think that was almost two years ago!

Anyway, Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure on the 3DS was one of the highest ranked games available. I couldn’t bring myself to believe it, but the ratings were consistent across the board. After doing a little research I found myself at the local Wal-Mart with Amanda and we looked over the console versions as well. The ratings were lower on the console version, but enough people were praising the franchise for it’s engaging gameplay.

We decided to go for it.

We told ourselves that we’d just buy a few characters if we really liked them, but we had no intention of getting more than those few. Then we played the game for a bit and really started to get attached to our characters. Our roster soon expanded to 8 characters, one for each of the elemental gates. Then, it started to grow a little more. Before long we had 16… that way each of us had the 8 elements.

After knocking out Spyro’s Adventure, we headed straight into Skylanders: Giants without any regard for collecting three stars in all the levels or anything like that. Of course, the second game introduced new characters and the new giant-sized figures.

Well, now we each needed at least one giant, right?

By now our love of the 3DS was fading. Giants didn’t have the same quality on the handheld console and we were both fully engaged in the XBox/Wii versions that we had (Wii for Amanda’s place and Xbox for my house) on our TV.

As we headed into the fall we started to focus on getting 3 stars on all the levels and taking our characters to their maximum strength. The distance during the work week limited our game time together, so I focused more on my Xbox achievements while she tried to get her team to max level. By now, news of the new Skylanders game had spread far and wide. We were getting ourselves ready and we weren’t the only ones. We learned that Huntsville Toys ‘R Us would be holding a midnight release and Amanda and I knew we had to be there!

When we arrived at the midnight launch I expected a few nervous parents and maybe one or two adults like Amanda and I to show up. Instead, we found ourselves in a very long line of individuals who were all talking about the characters they wanted to add to their collection and the people they wanted to play. It was in this moment that I realized Skylanders wasn’t just a game for a younger audience, but it was a game designed for a more casual gamer, more in line with where Amanda and I were in our couch gaming. There were several couples there just like us, with a few nervous parents and even a grandparent or two in the mix.

I wasn’t a fan of the swap force characters. They felt “gimmick-y” and made me feel like Activision was pushing for more money from the players.

The game on the other hand, was amazing. The series introduced jumping and now the simple dungeon crawler had instantly evolved into a simple platforming game. The new developer (for this franchise) named Vicarious Visions, had really stepped up to the plate. Soon enough I learned that the “swap gates” unlocked challenges that were really engaging and difficult on the right difficulty. My drive to hit 100% kicked into high gear and over the course of the next year Amanda and I would end up with the 8 swap characters we needed to unlock all their special areas in the game.

By now I had come to understand that half of the enjoyment we got from the franchise had nothing to do with the game itself. When I would travel for work, I would head over to the Toy ‘R Us wherever I had ended up and swing in to see if they had any new or exciting characters that I hadn’t found back home. Amanda would be excited to hear I was bringing home a new character every now and again.

We loved playing Swap Force, but we equally loved the physical “hunt” for the characters were wanted to play too.

By October of 2014 Amanda and I were now living together in the same city. In the midst of new careers for the both of us, we didn’t have the time to hit the midnight release of the fourth game in the series, Skylanders: Trap Team. Instead, we picked up our copy at the store and brought it home ready to play. By now we’d dedicated ourselves to the series and decided we were just going to end up buying the whole supply of characters this time around…

Then we played it.

I can’t say why, but Amanda and I almost instantly lost interest in the game. When the game launched the controls were different and I know that threw Amanda for a loop since it had been the same since launch. There was a delay in the game’s jump feature that made it feel less than useful in combat, and we hit the horrible truth that elemental gates could now only be opened by the new array of “trap master” characters. Somehow, despite the fact we had decided we were going to buy them all anyway, knowing that our characters were limited in their usefulness caused us to fall away. In all honesty, we both had major changes in our lives and things were happening really fast. In hindsight I believe we just didn’t have the time to relax like we had in the prior years.

The Present

So fast forward to just this January. As life has started to become more routine and Amanda and I are now feeling a little more comfortable with our day to day schedule, the Skylanders started to draw our attention once again. Adding in the news that Vicarious Visions was the developer making the next Skylanders title, we suddenly decided we should give it another go.

Our first night playing led to fantastic results. The controls were suddenly the same as they were in Swap Force and that was absolutely welcome. The jump responded correctly now and after playing a few times we remembered why we liked the game so much in the first place. It was us, together, sitting on the couch and tackling the bad guys in our cooperative experience that made it so much fun; talking to each other and helping each other as we solved puzzles and trapped our first bad guys.

Suddenly, hope was renewed.

Our first reignited love of the physical “hunt” happened just this week when we shot out toward the local GameStop stores on our way to work, each of us trying to bag a Kaos trap for our gaming experience. I cannot express how excited I was when I got a text from Amanda with a picture of the newly bought trap. We did it!

This item is going for $40-80 on Ebay right now. Why? Because people want to play as Kaos and supplies are short. That’s the easy way out of the problem and I gladly denounce buying and reselling this stuff to others online. There are a lot of parents that don’t have the time/energy/desire to go “hunting” as Amanda and I did and they’re the ones that lose out when reselling these things becomes it’s own thriving black market.

If we hadn’t bought this trap, based on the current market it appears it could have easily ended up in an online auction being sold to someone else instead of being used as it was originally intended.

Thankfully… We’re going to rip that sucker open and play with it like real adults.

Our love for the Skylanders franchise is in bloom!

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