As you might have guessed from the screenshots, trailers, or your ability to read words, Activision's upcoming Skylanders Giants will feature a set of new figures called Giants. You'll be able to collect up to eight of the hulking creatures, which are twice the size of normal Skylander action figures both in-game and in real life.
But the differences aren't just aesthetic; publisher Activision says your Giants will be able to interact with the environment in ways that normal Skylanders can't. Giants can push down hulking stone pillars and use them to bridge gaps or use their strength to pull and join together massive islands.
So why would you want to use anything else?
"You can be any character at any point you want," said Paul Reiche, president of studio Toys For Bob and lead designer on both Skylanders and its upcoming sequel, in an interview with Kotaku at a Manhattan event today. "There are moments where smashing is good and where the physical size and power allows you to do something you couldn't otherwise do, and there are also moments where maneuverability and being a smaller scale is also an advantage."
"One of our basic tenets is 'play the game the way you'd play with toys.'"
Though Reiche says you can beat Skylanders Giants using any character, he recommends swapping them based on whatever given situation you're facing. Some of the game's optional activities may require the use of certain types of characters, while other situations might just be easier if you use the right toy.
"If you are on top of your game and you're switching, it's gonna be more exciting, you'll feel like more of a master," he said.
It's all part of a common theme, Reiche says. He's wanted to blend toys and games for a very long time, as he explained to Kotaku last November. With Skylanders Giants, he and the team hope to inch closer to the goal of a game that feels like a toy set.
"One of our basic tenets is 'play the game the way you'd play with toys'," he said. Which might seem like an impossible goal, considering the limitations of videogames. Your toys can go wherever you put them, can do whatever you make them do. An electronic game's boundaries are stringent and restrictive. How do you evoke that toy-like feeling in that kind of context?
Reiche says that the design team has spent years thinking about just this question. They considered making a sandbox game, but found that it wasn't as "captivating" as more linear experiences. So instead of dropping players into one big playpen, Reiche says they added "lots and lots" of sidequests and other optional activities.
"It has to do with not assuming that you know the most fun thing to do at this moment," he said. "Merely it's your job to put opportunities in front of the player."
Activision has not yet announced a release date for Skylanders Giants, though the publisher said today in a press release that fans will be able to "go hands-on this fall."