Published on February 14th, 2013 | by octaneblue3
Review: Skylanders Battlegrounds
Developer: Vicarious Visions
System(s): iOS, Android
Release Date: November 21, 2012 (iOS), November 4, 2013 (Android)
Publisher Activision recently announced that the Skylanders franchise has generated over $500 million in sales. Needless to say, Skylanders is immensely popular right now. Given the success of the first game in the series, Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure, Activision set out to expand the franchise beyond consoles and into the mobile app territory. The first of these games, Skylanders: Cloud Patrol, is an arcade-style shooter released for iOS devices and Kindle Fire HD. The next one, Skylanders: Lost Islands, is a town-building simulator, and the third title, the one reviewed here, is Skylanders Battlegrounds. Like the other mobile titles, Battlegrounds is nothing like its console counterparts; rather than being an action/platformer, Battlegrounds plays more like a strategy RPG. Is this game worth checking out, or is it just best to stick to the console versions of the series?
The graphics of Battlegrounds are very good, exceeding those found on the 3DS games and coming very close to matching the console versions. Each character has nice attack animations, and unique victory poses. The environments are pretty vibrant too. Sound-wise, the game uses the great tunes found in Skylanders Giants. The voices found in the game are absent here, so the characters have their own voice effects instead (i.e., grunting, screeching, yelling, etc.).
If you own the Starter Pack, you can summon your Skylanders into the game with the Bluetooth Portal of Power. If you downloaded the game from the App Store instead, you can purchase additional Skylanders with the game’s currency. While you can summon as many Skylanders as you want into the game, your party in Battlegrounds consists of two Skylanders, with one designated as the leader — this is the one that appears on the map screen. All movement on the map screen, which is divided into a grid-like area, is done by dragging your Skylander through the map. The map contains enemies, treasures, and, as in the console version, elemental gates that require Skylanders of specific elements to go through. Each level has some sort of objective, such as finding a specific object or defeating a specific enemy type. The enemies in each area move mainly in a specific pattern (back-and-forth, in a circle, etc.), so if you plan correctly, you can avoid them completely. Bumping into them initiates the battling portion of the game.
Battles take place in an enclosed area, with varying terrain (riverside, desert, ice, volcano) depending on the space that the enemy encounter occurred. Enemies attack in waves, and defeating all the enemies in each wave allows you to go back to the map and move on, with rewards given with successful wins in battle. Once the enemies begin to attack, you’ll need to assign actions to your Skylander duo. Holding and dragging a Skylander to an enemy makes them attack, and they’ll attack until the enemy is defeated. If you need to retreat, you can drag them to an open part of the battle area. An inventory is available during battles, with helpful items such as healing potions that you can use when needed. One problem during battles is that the attack assignments can be inaccurate or too strict; when moving a Skylander to an enemy to attack, sometimes the game makes them move past the enemy, completely ignoring them. This does get annoying, to say the least, as the enemies get free hits on your characters.
By default, all Skylanders in Battlegrounds have one special attack. These specials range from a shield that makes them invulnerable for a few seconds, a long-range energy beam, and a spell that gradually heals their health for a moment. Tapping on a special move during battle activates it, but there’s a timer that shows up that prevents the special from being used until it’s available again. You can buy more specials for each Skylander, but in order to actually assign it to them, the second slot for specials must be purchased first. Something you’ll notice about the game is that many customizations for your Skylanders are very costly, so you’ll have to grind through the game for more gems and coins. There’s an option to buy gems with real-life money, but stay away from that; it’s not worth it at all.
What is really nice about the game though is that there’s a good emphasis on differentiating each Skylander, as they have different specials and attack patterns. Some of them are better at long-range attacking (i.e., Flameslinger, Double Trouble, Flashwing, etc.), while others excel in close combat (like Crusher, Ignitor, and Chop Chop), and all of them have varying specials to further differentiate them from each other. Pairing characters with each other to make a formidable combination is one of the strategic elements of the game.
Unfortunately, Battlegrounds does not distinguish a majority of the variant Skylanders from their regular forms. The Legendary Skylanders and a few variants like Dark Spyro and Royal Double Trouble show up as intended, but others like Gnarly Tree Rex and Granite Crusher, show up as their normal colored forms. The game also does not distinguish between Series 1, Series 2, and LightCore Skylanders. This is a bit disappointing as those that own a big physical collection can’t make full use of them.
There are two purchasing options for Skylanders Battlegrounds. The first is a download-only option from Apple’s App Store. You can download the game to your compatible iOS device and either buy more Skylanders in-game or you can use the web codes from any of your Skylanders figures. The other option is the Skylanders Battlegrounds Mobile Starter Pack. This pack includes a download code for the game, a Bluetooth Portal of Power, and three figures: Jet-Vac, Series 2 Cynder, and an exclusive version of Series 2 Double Trouble. GameStop stores in North America have an exclusive Royal Double Trouble with a special color scheme and in-game appearance. Purchasing the starter pack in other stores has a version of Double Trouble with a Series 1 pose on a Series 2 (orange) base. Both are pictured below. It’s recommended to purchase the Starter Pack if you want the figures that goes along with it, and while the Bluetooth Portal is very handy to use to warp in your Skylanders, it’s not completely necessary to have. It is, however, also compatible with the two previous iOS Skylanders titles.
Skylanders Battlegrounds is an interesting game for sure. While it does get repetitive and requires strict amounts of coins and gems for upgrades, there’s still some fun to be had here. Since the gameplay is very different from the console and handheld counterpart titles, Battlegrounds may not be for everyone. But Skylanders fans looking for a more strategic-oriented title should definitely check out this game.
+ Great graphics
+ Interesting gameplay that’s different from the console games
+ Lengthy campaign
– Emphasis on grinding for gold and gems
– Strict precision on targeting
– Game does not distinguish between variants
Final score: 3.5 out of 5