The Swindle: Spelunky meets Dishonored for a spot of burglary

The Swindle bridges a colossal gap in modern game design. We’re talking about the gap between roguelike gameplay and… well, everything else. You either get as many tries as you like or you embrace the finality of permadeath scenarios and start over again. The Swindle is prepared to meet us halfway and not just where videogame death is concerned.

You’re tasked with infiltrating a grubby, steam-powered Victorian London. Scotland Yard has built itself a rudimentary AI, which they plan to plug into London’s security network in 100 days, thus making any kind of burglary or crime difficult. As a master thief, you’re keen to prevent that from happening.

Those 100 days represent 100 chances for your band of sneaks to enter as many buildings as possible, steal as much cash as possible, and get some kind of plan in order for the biggest heist of all at Scotland Yard. Complete a level, that’s a day gone. Die or get caught, that’s also a day gone.

What’s clever about The Swindle is how it turns up the pressure. As those days tick down, players are expected to be upgrading their gear and airship, and move through London’s districts towards their ultimate goal. There is a sense of urgency here that we haven’t seen in many modern games.
“ There’s no backtracking, reloading, same guards in the same place, no slightly different approach; you deal with it ”
The choice to include flexible stealth action gameplay was brave, but it appears to have been carefully balanced. There are multiple systems at work, from gadgets that let you blow up traps or hack robot guards, to abilities that enable you to smash through doors or hide yourself in a cloud of steam. Everything is unlocked with cash, meaning players will constantly ask themselves if they ought to take the money they’ve stolen and run, or risk losing it all. There’s no cash barrier to finishing a level; it’s up to you.

Each level is procedurally generated and restarting is out of the question, an echo of Spelunky’s ruthlessness. On the other hand, when players set off an alert this doesn’t instantly result in mission failure. It just means you need to start running. Knock out any robots in your way, hack the diminishing cash supplies, then get out.

Every thief is unique and has a name. By snatching 80 per cent or more cash in a level, these characters can gain XP and potentially nab even more loot in later missions. Once they’re dead, however, they’re dead.

The Swindle’s complexity will be the driving force behind its success. It looks unique, exciting and replayable.

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