The Swindle is a challenging entry in the rogue-like genre with gorgeous steampunk visuals, and a ticking clock that keeps players on their toes.
The Swindle is a rogue-like, thieving heist game that’s heavily inspired by titles like Spelunky. This game’s procedurally-generated levels give would-be thieves a run for their money, with an army of robots to contend with in the pursuit for the loot.
The Swindle has a simple introduction that briefly explains that in 100 days, a new anti-theft robot AI will come online in the game’s Steampunk take on Victorian England, stopping all thefts forever. It’s up to the player character to gather the financial means and skills necessary to stop this bot before it activates – by stealing it. Like other rogue-like games, the player will control a variety of randomly-generated thieves, as each time their character dies, a new one is created to pick up where they left off. Thankfully, any collected money and established perks transfer from thief to thief.
Players start out in the slums, where the profits are small but the maps are relatively simplistic, and can unlock five other levels with bigger loot to be found and more complex buildings to traverse. The Swindle‘s thieves have to face a wide variety of automated robots on patrol, ranging from slow and easily-avoided guards to motion-sensing alarms and fast-moving, highly-aggressive bots. Being caught doesn’t mean immediate failure, but all guard-bots can initially kill the player in one hit, and once the alarm has been raised, the police will eventually show up.
While players are initially only equipped with a blunt weapon and their wits, a wide variety of skills and tools can be unlocked with the money stolen in each heist. Thieves can equip quad-jump boots, bombs, the ability to teleport through walls, or a tool to make the bots attack each other, among other things.
Whether the player proceeds to another level or not, more advanced guards and technology protect the target buildings as the days go by, making it difficult for anyone who’s struggled to earn enough money to unlock skills to proceed. Players who are unfamiliar with this style of game and struggle early on may find the increasing number of guards and their challenging behaviors to be overwhelming, and the only solution is to start over from the beginning.
Perhaps The Swindle‘s greatest downfall is that there’s nothing in the way of a tutorial mode, and players start out with nothing: no skills and no cash. Initially, the only way to earn money is to pick up small amounts of loose cash found in homes, before player earns enough to unlock the hacking skill. This skill allows players to steal bigger amounts of money from each home or building via computer. This can lead to a lot of frustration, because if the player doesn’t adapt quickly to the controls and game mechanics, chances are they’ll see a lot of their thieves die, and a lot of days roll by without making much (or any) progress.
The controls are generally good, and the thieves can initially jump once, bounce from wall to wall, slide slowly down walls, and choose between running or sneaking. However, the game often didn’t respond to inputs as expected, like attempts to slide down walls resulting in the thief plummeting to their demise.
Experienced rogue-like players, especially those who enjoy the steampunk genre, will most likely enjoy this game. While there may be some frustrating moments at times, the skill system allows characters to constantly develop and explore their environment in new ways, and the addition of the 100-day countdown can be exciting and nerve-wracking near the end.
The Swindle is a visually beautiful and enjoyable rogue-like game for the experienced, but may not be the best choice for players who’ve never tried games like Spelunky or Rogue Legacy before. The learning curve, especially if it’s the first time someone has tried a game like this, may become extremely frustrating. If the player can’t advance in the first 15 days or so, the increasing difficulty of enemy characters may make it nearly impossible to enjoy the game and progress at all. If you’re new to the genre, we’d recommend trying another rogue-like game with a less steep learning curve. See if it’s to your liking, and then give The Swindle a try.
The Swindle is available now for PC on Steam, and will be available on PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Xbox One and Wii U at a later date. Game Rant was provided a PC code for this review.