Should I care about The Swindle? Yes. It’s randomised stealth, a heist game that could last you until the end of time (but probably won’t).
What’s it about? It’s the past-present steampunk future, and in 100 days The Man is gonna deploy a security system so advanced that cool-arse heisters with cool-arse heist zeppelins won’t be able to make a living anymore. Your crew’s solution? Same as always: steal the shit out of it.
But the Heist of the Century doesn’t just happen out of thin air. You’ve got to build up to it, lose your gut, and get one of those pilates bodies. So you go on randomly generated heists that slowly get tougher and tougher. All the while, you improve your thief by purchasing new skills and tools.
Here’s a trailer (because I haven’t been able to stream since I moved and still don’t have reliably functional internet and it’s this whole big thing):
Why is (or isn’t it) cool? It’s basically stealth Spelunky — Spelunky meets Mark of the Ninja. If you’re not familiar with either of those excellent games, the gist is that it’s tough as nails yet handsomely rewarding.
This is a game that rewards observation and planning before action. If you rush into a heavily guarded mansion thinking, “Eh, I’ll wing it,” well, what do you think is gonna happen? The Swindle does not hold your sticky fingered hand, preferring instead to let you die time and again — running down your 100 day clock all the while — as you learn what can kill you (hint: the answer is everything, including falling and P.S. SCREW YOU for that one, The Swindle). For the first hour or so, The Swindle made me angry. Very angry.
Oh, and it should be noted that when one of your thieves dies, they die forever. Admittedly, all you lose is experience and whatever they collected on that particular run of that level (upgrades transfer between thieves), but it’s still an affecting touch.
Once you figure out enemy patrols and start casing places on the fly, though, bitter rage becomes sweet satisfaction. Because The Swindle‘s levels are randomised, it’s not about memorising specific places through turgid trial-and-error. Rather, you must master the art of the heist. Observe. Scheme. Adapt and re-adapt. Improvise, but only when you’re certain that your plan has failed. And above all else, collect every loose penny you can, but remember: dead men and women tell no tales of their thrilling, last-second escapes.
I’ve been playing for a handful of hours now, and I really like it.
What if I’ve been trying to watch how much I yell curse words at the top of my lungs because my neighbours have started avoiding eye contact with me? Hm, that might be a problem, then. Especially in the early goings, The Swindle is an unabashedly frustrating game. You don’t even start with an ability that’s required for you to pull off a successful heist. You have to earn it. That’s the kind of game this is.
Also, the platforming controls aren’t quite as smooth as I’d like, though I eventually warmed up to them. But yeah, definitely play this one with a game pad, not mouse-and-keyboard.
Should I buy it (even though there are a million-billion other Steam games I could spend my money on)? Yes. It’s not super expensive, and it offers countless moments of randomised heist mayhem. Also, it’s stylish as heck. You know what I call that? I call that a stea — [Editor’s note: it was at this moment that Nathan misjudged the fall distance from his chair to the floor and promptly died. It’s probably for the better].