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Skylanders: Imaginators lets users run free with DIY character creations

I've got the head of a squirrel, the body of a lizard, and an adorable backpack. No, wait, now I've got the head of a sweet pea, a cybernetic body, and no tail at all. No, no, wait, I really like the leather-clad brain head on a turtle body with lizard mouths for hands. No, no, no, wait...

Since its inception, Skylanders has focused on toys to life — that is, the idea of taking tangible action figures and "importing" those characters into a stylish action game video game to play as. The results have been really good so far, with more than $3 billion in sales since the series debuted in 2011. Each successive Skylanders title has added some new gameplay element and a plethora of new physical toys to buy.

This year, the company is trying something different: letting players create their own custom in-game hero. Skylanders: Imaginators has built a rich number of customization options around the general "biped-with-a-tail" body type. If you want scaly, lizard-like limbs and a squirrel's head, hey, that works — and you can adjust the size of each limb to, say, make the head cartoonishly big and the legs cartoonishly small. Imaginators does its best to match the color scheme as you combine disparate elements, though there are more nuanced color customization options if you'd like. Players can also choose voice and "theme song" to further refine the personality of the hero.

Your character's appearance can be changed whenever, and indeed as you play, you'll discover and unlock new body parts and weapons / gear to use. It's unclear at this point whether you can change the character's battle class (e.g., Knight, Brawler, Sorcerer) or associated element.

While it is a custom character (and therefore no toy to be found), there is a physical element to Imaginators. Characters are saved via a "creation crystal" placed on the traditional game portal accessory — not quite as visually appealing or shelf-worthy, but they do glow while on the portal. Each crystal is aligned to a certain element — red, for example, is fire type. Activision said that a "limited number" of players will be able to build 3D-printed versions of their creation, but there are no details beyond that.

Note: not at all to scale

For those that would rather use a classic character, Imaginators will support more than 300 Skylanders toys from the series, which you can place on the portal and play as you would in past games. Vehicles, the most recent franchise gameplay twist from last year's Superchargers, will be playable in standalone racing tracks, but aren't part of the game's main quest. Imaginators will have 20 new premade characters you can buy and play with. These "Sensei" characters will unlock unique weapons for your custom characters and are also the only characters that can use superpowered "Sky Chi" moves, which charge up over time.

One platform Imaginators won't be found on is mobile. Following last year's efforts to bring the full Skylanders Supercharged game to Android and iOS, this year the company instead decided to focus on consoles while letting the new Hearthstone-like mobile card game Battlecast be the franchise's mobile title. (Skystones, a card minigame originally found in Superchargers, is reportedly also in the new console title.)

The game launches October 16th in North America for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, and Wii U.