Skylanders takes on Hearthstone to win the hearts and cash of game fans

battleforce

It’s been an odd time for ‘toys-to-life’ gaming, in which physical toys are transformed into digital versions of themselves to use as playable characters in video games.

Skylanders started the trend with its console-based titles which brought Activision billions of dollars. Yup, you read that right – billions. Both LEGO and Disney saw what was happening and eagerly followed suit with LEGO Dimensions and Disney Infinity respectively.

However, last week it was announced that Disney was pulling the plug on the Infinity series of games despite their popularity. The games feature Disney classic characters (meh) as well as the very best from the Marvel and Star Wars universes (woo hoo!) and have always had solid gameplay. But despite strong sales, the finances still didn’t add up, so Disney has decided to kill the title.

So, where does this leave Skylanders? Each game has brought something new to the series, but despite more recent iterations, none surpassed the brilliant Swap-force version where players could swap the top and bottom of each character to create an entirely new one.

The folks at Activision have obviously had a think on where to take the console series next, more of that to come once the embargo has lifted, but they’ve decided to diversify the series into a separate mobile title based around game cards.

If you have played Hearthstone you will know exactly how the gameplay works. Presumably there is enough difference to stop litigious action, but there can be no doubt as to where the ‘inspiration’ for Battlecast came from. You pick a deck of cards and use them in turn-based battles to try to beat your opponent.

Mixing up character cards, spell cards, gear cards and relic cards allows you to customise your decks to tactically play to both your and your individual character’s strengths.

battlecast

What’s different about Skylanders Battlecast however is that the cards you play with are initially real, physical objects. While the game is free to download on iOS or Android devices, you will need to buy packs of cards in your local newsagents to improve your deck (and thus your chance of winning). Using your device’s camera you scan the card to add it to your digital pack. When doing this Battlecast uses a cool augmented reality effect that makes it look as if the character is standing in the physical world on top of the card. You can also just buy packs digitally, but you’d miss out on the fun AR effects.

Each card is unique with a pattern around the edge of the card. Once scanned, nobody else can use that card, so if you have a double and want to swap it with a pal, you better do that before scanning it. With 270 unique cards to collect and, presumably, millions in circulation quite how Activision is making each card unique is some very clever/freakin’ expensive shenanigans.

Battlecast is released today, 24 May, so you can get downloading and see if it’s the sort of game that floats your boat, but with the meteoric rise of Hearthstone, adding in physical card collecting and aiming at a younger audience could well make this another runaway hit for Activision.