Don’t be swindled into buying this game.
Roguelikes are a dime a dozen in the video games industry.They even have genres and sub-genres,depending on how deep down the rabbit hole you are willing to go. Each game even has their own dedicated fan base. These people enjoy challenging video games. However, not many other gamers feel that way. Sure, there are games like Spelunky that are worth everybody’s time.
This brings me to The Swindle, a roguelike stealth platformer set in Steampunk Victorian England. In the game, you well…swindle stuff, which is a fancy word for stealing. The item of your desires is known as The Devil’s Basilisk, which has been developed by Scotland Yard to prevent any and all crime upon activation. Now, as one might imagine, that’s bad for you since that’s how you get by in life. So, now you have to steal in within 100 days to break into wherever it may be located and steal this item.
Now, I love Steampunk as much as the next guy, but the environments and characters just look a little weird. I mean, don’t get me wrong I love how much painstaking detail went into designing the art for this game. Thieves have unique ways of movement and tiny things you wouldn’t really get to appreciate upon first glance.
Each heist you start counts as a day, so 100 heists/levels and the objective of stealing The Devil’s Basilisk needs to be completed. However, in order to do this, you can’t just prance through the levels, you’ve still got things to steal. Cash is the main way to progress through the game, no matter how you get it. You’ll start off in the aptly-named The Slums and work your way into bank heists. Now, I didn’t make it past The Slums to due to my own frustration with how punishing the game is, more on that soon.
Cash is king in The Swindle. You can buy upgrades with it, unlock new levels. However, how much the cash reigns king is a bit of a problem. The upgrades are expensive, costing up to 120,000 British Pounds for the first Tier. Also, if your little thief dies on his or her journey to swindling the Scotland Yard, that’s it. If you die in a level, that’s character’s cash remains lost in the bitter abyss of the procedurally generated level, which really crossed a line for me.
I’m good if you want to randomize the levels and limit the amount of time to complete an objective, but permadeath too? I mean, come on! What Size Five Games is basically telling the player is “Hey, this game is going to beat you over the head until you have brain damage. Sound good?” No, it doesn’t. I like being punished in games, but not this much. Sure, at least I don’t have to start the entire game over and I keep the upgrades I purchased, but I would’ve liked to see some sort of leeway here. Games don’t have to constantly abuse you for it to be challenging and fun.
Oh, and did I forget to mention that the difficulty ramps up? No? Well, again, I’d understand if the developer gave some sort of push and pull here, but they really do not. Many a time I found myself looking for a way to finish it when the simple answer, as well as the only answer, was to make like a tree and leaf. To give some examples, 15 heists into the game, I started running into security cameras, bombs, sentry drones and turrets. Up until I quit playing, 85% of the levels that were provided to me I couldn’t even start because I didn’t have the right set of tools or the accompanying upgrade.
If you’re playing it on the Vita, just don’t even bother. Just use Cross-Save to download your save to your PS4 or PS3, as the handheld struggles to keep up with the game’s pacing and technical requirements. It’s Cross-Buy as well on PlayStation, so that’s good.
That said, I would not recommend this game to my worst enemy. I wish I could recommend this, but I simply can’t for all of its technical issues and difficulty spikes and general lack of leeway.