Saturday, 15 August 2015

The Swindle: Procedural Pilfering

The Swindle Title Screen
The Swindle is a steampunk sidescrolling steal-em-up, with the objective of hacking your way into the police computer system to destroy Basilisk, an AI that could prevent burglary forever! On your way to ridding the world of such a troublesome thief-catcher you'll need to amass enough cash to buy the required upgrades you'll need for your audacious attempt. Also, you have only got 100 days. Clock is ticking...
Your mission, if you want to accept it...
I'm glad I waited a while before writing this mini-review, because several changes have been made to the game since release. Originally, the game was super-hard, unbelievably so. Upgrades were expensive, cash was hard to come by, and the amount of security on each level increased rapidly. By comparison, the game today is still very challenging but feels far more fair. Now when I die I can blame the errors I've made rather than the harsh difficulty curve.

Created by Dan Marshall, also of Ben There, Dan That (great adventure game)
Even so, you will die often. Your characters are fragile, and a single hit or long drop is enough to lose a heist. Losing a character isn't the end though, it just loses you whatever you'd gathered on that heist and also the multiplier you'd accrued. You are the mastermind, your thieves are mere pawns in your game. Each successful heist gains you a multiplier (success means getting almost all of the cash on a level), and that multiplier leads to a bonus on your cash at the end of each level. Accumulating a high multiplier is vital to getting all the upgrades you want.

Mission selection
The immediate comparison is something like Spelunky, as both have a similar initial feel and procedurally generated levels. They diverge pretty quickly though, as the nature of the games become quite different even early on. The Swindle might initially feel the same, but the reality is that you must generally try a much slower pace, take time to consider your options before heading in because while death is not permanent (for your mission anyway, even if your thieves can die), the time limit of 100 days (and 100 levels) becomes quite limiting if you have many unsuccessful heists.

The golden-brown Slums district
Your equipment and upgrades carry over onto your replacement burglars, so setbacks should feel minimal. However, each loss can make you lose focus and quickly lose several thieves and several days without gaining any money. So sometimes it's best to just leave a level with a lesser amount of cash, rather than risking everything to gain a few more pounds.

Heist Successful!
So far I've only made it to the third area (New Belgravia), so the latter stages of the game are a mystery. Each area provides different challenges, different robotic guards, traps, locked doors and such, so there's always new things to learn and new things to overcome. The cash rewards go up exponentially with new areas though, so you must make a choice between easier levels (and a better chance of increasing that multiplier), or harder levels with more computers and more cash (but harder security).
The blue-tinted Warehouse District
So far so good, and while I'm not sure I'll ever complete it (I never managed Spelunky), I am enjoying being a master thief. Well, perhaps not a master yet, but give me time.

Upgrade menu

No comments:

Post a Comment