The year is 1849 and in 100 days time Scotland Yard will introduce a new high level security system called the Devil’s Basilisk. The Devil’s Basilisk is an artificially intelligent system that will render all thieves useless going forward. It is now the job of your team of master burglars to work your way up to the Police Headquarters and steal it before it can be released.
Size Fives Games’ The Swindle takes place in a 2D alternate Victorian London, full of cyberpunk robots and sneaky burglars. Over 100 days and 100 procedurally generated heists your band of merry thieves will have to steal enough money for you to pull off the great heist on the Basilisk. During each raid you will attempt to bring home more and more money in order to upgrade your tools, abilities and gain security clearance for more dangerous looting. This game certainly isn’t a cakewalk, the security measures as you progress further into the game become increasingly difficult to slip between and for some players more often than not you will be pulling your hair out as you witness your 100 days dwindle away and the opportunity to steal The Devil’s Basilisk slip through your fingers.
There are 6 different districts throughout the game, and each of these areas represent the ladder as you make your way towards the Police Headquarters to attempt to steal the Basilisk. Starting out in the Slums, your thief is able to steal small amounts of money with minimal security resistance although as you earn more money you are able to buy upgrades as well as new security clearances that allow your team to visit other areas such as the Bank or the Casino. Due to the procedural generation each time you visit these areas you will be faced with a completely different level, including the layout, enemies and the amount of money up for grabs. Despite this design allowing the game to persistently feel fresh it is also The Swindle’s greatest downfall. Although not often enough to become a major issue the procedural generation served up some incredibly difficult levels, some that were even impossible to clear out. It would be quite frustrating when a level was generated early on in the game and you physically couldn’t complete it due it requiring upgrades that you won’t be purchasing any time soon. The fact that the game only gives you a certain amount of heists to complete it makes these situations even more frustrating.
The Swindle gives you complete freedom when stealing from your targets. Whether you want to scour each building with a fine toothed comb and steal every bit of cash on offer or slip in and out quickly after getting just enough for that next big upgrade, how far you will dive into each building is up to you. It was more than once when I felt the pain of clearing out all the cash only to be intercepted by a guard on my way out, watching of my hard earned cash explode into a cloud of green.
Upgrading your abilities, tools, goggles and gear is extremely important as you make your way through each of the districts. There is a huge range of upgrades that you can purchase for your character. Upgrading your hack skill, speed and aptitude as well as bolstering your melee strength, double jump and movement speed can be paramount when pulling of some big heists. Along with your character upgrades there are also some first-rate tools that can be purchased that would help out any master thief on the job. Bombs to blow through walls, steam purges to hide you from enemies or even EMPs to temporarily take down your robot enemies. Buying the security clearances are probably the most important purchases you will be making, each security clearance you buy will grant you access to the next district, which will put you up against tougher enemies and give you the chance to score much more loot. Unless you are extremely good at the game you will find yourself being able to purchase less of the abilities and saving more money for the next security clearance.
When pulling off a heist in each of the districts there will be security guards peppered throughout the buildings. All of these guards have their own line of sight and avoiding their scope is paramount when pulling each mission off. As soon as a security guard notices you is when things start to take a turn for the worst. Alarms will sound, security measures will kick in and the police will be called. It is then when you have to make the decision of whether to push on a steal a bit of extra cash or hightail it out of there with what you have before the police show up. Along with the bevy of different security guards littered throughout each of the buildings there are also security measure such as locked doors, cameras and flying security bots, these different obstacles are a lot tougher to tackle than the standard security guards. Upgrading your hacking skills allow you to pick locks on doors as well as hack into security consoles to disable those trickier security measures.
Stealing all of the money undetected will net you bonuses and extra cash; this will also feed into gaining experience for your master burglar. If you are good enough to pull of a number of successful heists in a row and keep your burglar alive, your burglar will start to gain extra cash bonuses the longer they stay alive. This mechanic is incredibly important as you start to build a solid foundation to steal The Devil’s Basilisk. But just like other rogue-likes when your burglar finally gets caught and gets killed those XP bonuses will be lost and the next master burglar to step up and take their place will start all the way back at zero.
As you progress deeper into the game the generated levels begin to become insanely difficult and absolutely huge, towering buildings to scale up or deep dark labyrinths to explore. Taking on levels with multiple security control rooms and up to six computers to hack into is quite overwhelming although makes for an incredibly satisfying payoff on the very rare occasion when you somehow manage to slink away undetected with more money than you know what to do with.
The Swindle takes the classic rogue-like style or procedurally generated levels and that death actually means death and adds in a touch of RPG with a bevy of upgradable skills and abilities. Despite the procedural generation sometimes spitting out some impossible heists that can be frustrating at the start of the game the real reason you will be grinding your teeth will be the sheer difficulty on the later levels. Pulling off big heists undetected is incredibly satisfying and escaping with a bunch of loot just as the cops arrive could be even more. Watching your days dwindle before you can make it to the swindle is something that probably more players than not will experience in their first few attempts at stealing The Devil’s Basilisk.
This review is based off a retail copy of the Playstation 4 version of The Swindle developed by Size Five Games.
- Blend of roguelike and RPG
- Incredibly satisfying heists
- Excellent upgradable gear
- Difficulty leap
- Some impossible levels