By Jaran Chance
The Swindle: A Steampunk Cybercrime Caper, originally released July 2015, Is a steampunk stealth game with rogue-lite, platformer and RPG characteristics from developers Size Five Games. It has been discounted 70% off in Playstation’s Mid-Year sale this week (Jun 28) but is it worth picking up?
Like many rogue-likes before it, The Swindle can be frustratingly hard and unforgiving, but this can and has been an appealing factor for many rogue-like fans.
In the game’s reimagined London, players will control many, many technologically enhanced steampunk burglars as they attempt to change the course of history. A software company is working on a new security system that will effectively put burglary to an end. So the only logical solution for a burglar is to burgle the people trying to put an end to burglary. Players will have 100 days (one heist per day) to gather as much money as possible before the final showdown and an endless supply of surgically modified burglars willing to throw their life at the cause.
Players can use the collected money from heists to upgrade their thieves, giving them double jumps, deployable steam-screen for stealth, better hacking, etc.
When performing a heist players will have to use their beat-stick to bash robotic guards and gather money laying around on the floor or hack computers once the skill is obtained. Once a guard is successfully downed its body goes flying and bounces around the room but somehow this does not alert other guards in the room or ones that pass by it laying on the ground. Also there is no link in the security system for the guards to tell when their cameras or bots are being disabled. Players will acquire bombs later in the game and set them off inches away from guards and they will not react or be alerted somehow.
For what is supposed to feel like a stealth game, The Swindle feels more like a robot beat ‘em up. The only way to successfully swindle anyone in the game is to bash any and every robot at the scene of the crime which seems to betray the nature of the game.
Artist Michael Firman and composer Tobey Evans have successfully created a wondrous 1800’s steampunk London ripe for the stealing everything that isn’t nailed down. The visual art style is exquisitely well done and lovably unique while the soundtrack is energetic and exciting, exploding into chaos when the guards are alerted.
Sadly beyond this the rest of the game is for the most part lack-luster. The control scheme can be difficult at best, especially for a game about sneaking around. The precision needed for the task at hand is often lost on clunky missteps and one misstep means a failed heist.
Players have to perform a sequence of quick time events (mashing the right button as it appears on screen) on the analog stick during the hacking sequences. When hacking a mine, even the slightest hint of the wrong input will cause it to explode failing the heist and losing any money gathered, sometimes even thousands of dollars.
This is a familiar theme in The Swindle, failing a heist most of the way through with loads of cash and consequentially earning nothing and losing a day. This can cause the game to feel incredibly dull and repetitive, repeating the same heist 10 or more times to earn enough money to move on to the next area and earn more. It becomes a monotonous task that hardly ever feels worth it with the slow rate of upgrades.
The Swindle has its heart in the right place and creates a truly unique and enjoyable experience. Though this experience may not be one that will captivate players’ attention for long. For $4.49 The Swindle may be worth investigating and returning to in the future once the frustration fades.