Some games make you work to get enjoyment out of them. It becomes quite evident as you slowly work your way to understand the intricacies of its steampunk world that The Swindle is one of these games. If you're ready, let's break in and give it a go.
The Swindle puts you in the shoes of a thief who breaks into buildings and attempts to steal as much as they can before getting caught (or worse). Ultimately, your job is to prevent a major security system from being installed in London so you and your kindred spirits can continue your shifty practices with as much freedom as you're used to. However, this won't be easy since you only have 100 days to gain enough funds to carry out your mission. You'll also get caught constantly and when you do, you better flee before security ramps up to an insurmountable degree. If you can't get away, you'll inevitably be killed and the next thief in line will emerge to fill their predecessor's shoes. It's a similar system to the one in Rogue Legacy. Things get brutally difficult, but that makes being able to overcome seemingly impossible feats all the more satisfying. In order to do so, you'll need to scope out areas thoroughly, patiently wait in the shadows, strategically use your tools, and take out guards with perfect timing and surgical precision.
The steampunk world is masterfully presented with detailed illustrations. Your enemies consist of many different imaginative robotic creations that come alive with their quirky personalities and distinct movement patterns. Even the way your thief rigs up explosives and uses a steam-powered jetpack to double-jump looks great. This is truly a uniquely intricate world. The audio complements the graphical presentation with appropriate orchestral music and fitting sound effects. Overall, you'll find it difficult not to get lost in this immersive steampunk take on centuries-old London; especially if your imagination is prone to run wild.
You control your thief by running, jumping, attacking, and sneaking your way through heists. You can also leap off walls, hack into various computers (with simple quick time events), and use a variety of purchasable tools and abilities. Being able to learn what you and your enemies are capable of takes a while to thoroughly understand, but a sense of accomplishment and determination will wave over you once you start to get a grasp of it. One downside to this learning process is the fact that the controls take some getting used to. At times, your thief will do things that you don't want them to such as cling to walls instead of jumping straight up or hack a nearby object next to the one that you want to hack. This sort of wonkiness can be just enough to result in your demise since enemies will spot you and attempt to snuff you out as soon as you enter their field of vision. Upon being spotted, all hell breaks loose as lasers activate, shutters drop down, enemies are put on high alert, and police forces arrive. In other words, there is very little room for error. It's this severe punishment for minor slip-ups that will frequently make you want to throw your controller with rage.
The Swindle becomes increasingly difficult as you move from poor areas like the slums to wealthy establishments such as casinos and banks. To help you along the way, you'll purchase a massive array of abilities and tools. Eventually, you'll be able to quadruple-jump, hide in clouds of smoke, hack security systems, and cling to walls and plant explosives (among many more helpful skills that every competent thief should possess). Although acquiring and experimenting with these abilities is incredibly enjoyable, it's also easy to be ill-equipped for the next heist. For example, you may find yourself requiring bombs to tear down a wall that's in your way yet you haven't purchased enough or you may need to scale an overhanging wall but you haven't bought the double-jump ability so you can't. The game should either tell you what items you'll require ahead or not generate levels with unconquerable obstacles for your current set of abilities.
In the end, The Swindle is one of the most rewarding and unique rogue-likes that I've ever played. However, it demands a lot of anyone who attempts it so make sure that you're prepared to train to be a master thief before you even think of giving it a download.
- + Can be very rewarding if you have the skills
- + Solidly presented steampunk atmosphere
- + Huge arsenal of diverse tools and abilities are enjoyable to experiment with
- - Controls are wonky from time to time
- - Heavily punishes you for minor mistakes
- - It's difficult to know how to adequately prepare for the next heist