has a few key changes that actually simplify some aspects of Skylanders
and, I believe, actually address some issues that have been growing bigger and bigger with each past release. In past games, the gimmick characters (i.e. Swap Force, Trap Team) were released alongside reposes of classic characters or new "core" characters, but the gameplay itself encouraged the player to stick heavily with the gimmick characters and the more basic figures were left relatively unused. In Imaginators
, there are no reposes and no characters (short of the customizable Imaginators themselves) that aren't the special type for this game, Sensei characters. These Sensei do come in two flavors though: half of them are villains from past games turned good, and the other half are brand new designs, but they are all Sensei and you never feel like there are characters that need to remain unused, especially since there are areas of each level that encourage you to switch between Sensei and Imaginator characters, whereas past games never gave you a reason to take your gimmick figure off the Portal of Power.
As fans of the series would expect, Kaos has a new plan to take over Skylands. This time, he plans to harness the power of Imaginite to reshape the entire world to his desires. Of course, the Skylanders need to stop him, and this time they have the help of Skylanders who are masters in one of 10 different Battle Classes.
These classes have the characters attacking in a wide variety of ranges and each attack type has wildly different levels of speed, power and ability. One Battle Class is all about short-range melee combat, while another focuses on archery and another uses rapid gun fire. There is one that is all about brute force and another that uses magic, and each one feels different enough that you can end up with vastly different feeling characters because of how those Battle Classes work out.
The Sensei figures level up and have ability progression like past Skylanders. As you spend coins, you unlock various attacks in the character's tree, and you will get to choose one of two paths that will make one or two of the character's attacks more versatile. Each character also has a powerful attack unlocked by finding its Soul Gem and there is another attack made available when a Sensei finds its Battle Class shrine. This newest feature is called its Sky Chi ability and while they take effort to build up, when they are executed, they can quickly clear out some of the more densely packed areas of the game with little issue.
Imaginators, on the other hand, have a very different feel when it comes to their abilities, and those abilities end up being just as fluid and changeable as their body parts and armor: well almost. There are a couple of immutable aspects that are locked down from the start, but more on that later.
Imaginators have several different categories of attacks that you can choose to make a truly unique fighter. These attacks let you choose how you want to use your Battle Class weapon, how to use your Elemental Power, and which Secret Technique you want to use (unlocked either by collecting a Sensei or by defeating one of the game's bosses). These abilities can be upgraded for a cost, and at any point you can switch from one attack to another. Between the fact that you can drastically change how Imaginators attack and change how they look or sound or even what their catch phrases are, each Imaginator really comes out to be a unique creation that I can easily see kids growing an attachment to.
I mentioned earlier that there are a couple of aspects of your Imaginator that are set in stone when you create it, and that is the Element and the Battle Class. The first is chosen by which Creation Crystal you are storing your Imaginator on, and the other is chosen when you go to create the character. You have to chose one of the 10 Battle Classes and while every other aspect of the character can be changed and tweaked, this Battle Class isn't a facet you can change. At first glance, I didn't really have a problem with this, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I couldn't think of a technical reason why this should be. Short of some kind of game balance issue caused by being able to change the Battle Class on the fly, there just didn't seem a reason to force this lock down, especially since there isn't even an option to reset the Creation Crystal back to factory settings like you can with every other Skylander figure. I can only imagine that this is to encourage players to buy enough Creation Crystals to have at least one for each Battle Class, which makes the restriction feel more like a marketing ploy that limits the player's ability rather than a technical detail.
Given the sheer number of body parts, armor, and weapons that you can choose from in Imaginators it should come as no surprise that the game doesn't hold back in rewarding players with new pieces frequently. Levels are scattered with Imaginite Chests that can contain several different pieces of varying rarity. Players also get pieces by adding Creation Crystals or Sensei to their collection, defeating bosses, solving puzzles, playing mini-games or unlocking Battle Class shrines. Of course, Skylanders being what it is, you can also purchase Imaginite Chests in a store in blind packages (so you aren't sure if you are going to get a bronze, silver or gold chest), or over Xbox Live where you could also purchase a platinum chest that guarantees even more rare items. Thankfully, the frequency that the game rewards players with Imaginite Chests should curb any desire to purchase them either in-game or in-store.