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Swarm Grinder is a very unique horde-game now in Early Access

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If you love anything remotely similar to Vampire Survivors and other horde-style auto-shooters, you might want to take a look at Swarm Grinder. Note: key provided by the developer.

Available now with Native Linux support in Early Access, Swarm Grinder is an action rogue-lite game where you control a single character with auto-firing weapons. Here, you're presented with a randomised map each time, which is full of strange looking cells you need to erase that regrow to surround you. As you erase them to make a path, various types of enemies will spawn from inside the darker coloured cells for you to battle. And occasionally, you also get a big wave where a whole bunch of cells explode around you with lots of enemies coming at you.

The problem is the clock on your fuel is always ticking. You have to keep moving, to destroy enemies who will occasionally drop fuel. If you run out of fuel, it will start quickly reducing your health. This mechanic makes quick-thinking essential and it's really challenging.

In the one mode currently available, your mission is to race through the cells across the map, to find 25 mining zones to clear. Once you clear a zone, a pod drops down that releases three power-ups that you get to choose one from. These are a mix of extra weapons, ability buffs or upgrades to weapons. The problem at the start, is you don't know what they are until you pick them up. On top of that, extra weapons reduce your fuel at an increased rate so it's a toss-up between more weapons and less fuel or ability buffs every time you clear a mining area. I'm not overly keen on the fuel system being tied to the weapons, as it feels just a bit too punishing.

The fuel system serves another purpose though, other than to just keep you constantly moving and battling to get more. If you overfill your tank, it gives you a nice ability buff and that can really help you out in a pinch. Especially as if you manage to get surrounded by one false move, it's pretty much game over which is another problem. 

During you run you might also find golden nuggets to destroy (pictured below), which will give you currency towards the permanent upgrades system. They take longer to destroy though than most creatures, and you don't get a lot of them, making it take quite long time before you really start getting some of those upgrades which end up essential for getting further into a run. However, if you collect a few and last a while, you'll also get a time bonus that gives you a few extra of these upgrade shards.

Currently I cannot recommend playing Swarm Grinder on Steam Deck, as the performance is pretty problematic. The effect of removing the mass of cells drags down the performance constantly (often below 30FPS), making it a hassle to play. The developer is aware of this, as it affects some lower-end PCs as well. On desktop Linux though, performance has been great on my main Fedora KDE 38 system.

I'm very keen to see how this game evolves, because they have an absolutely fantastic idea with a solid foundation, that really needs some balancing on the weapons, fuel and pickups. That said, even with the issues, it's already a lot of fun to play through.

You can buy Swarm Grinder on Steam in Early Access.

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I am the owner of GamingOnLinux. After discovering Linux back in the days of Mandrake in 2003, I constantly came back to check on the progress of Linux until Ubuntu appeared on the scene and it helped me to really love it. You can reach me easily by emailing GamingOnLinux directly. Find me on Mastodon.
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