Thanks to Playstation Plus, I’m given a handful of free games to try out on my PS4 each month. Amongst last month’s bundle was a fascinating game called The Swindle [Steam, Official Site]. After playing for 10 minutes, I was hooked. After playing for an hour, I was turfed off “my” PS4 by my impatient children.
Curious, about the game, I looked it up on Steam. It’s available for Windows and OSX only, sadly, but as always when I see two out of three platforms supported, I head to the community page, click into the Discussion tab and search for “Linux”. When I did so, this thread obviously leapt out:
Long story short, The Swindle has a beta Linux client! Even better, it appears to have been well tested since its initial launch back in August 2015 and the most recent feedback is all extremely positive.
Encouraged, I took the plunge, bought the game, and started playing in Big Picture mode with my Steam Controller. After nearly 12 hours of play, I can happily report that this “beta” is nearly completely bug-free. In actual fact, the only bug I did catch was that if you pause the game long enough for your Steam Controller to go to sleep, it’s sometimes not detected by the game when you turn it back on again - hardly a huge issue! That said, you might want to turn off the "Bloom" effect in the video options - it's definitely more pronounced on the Linux version than the PS4.
So what’s The Swindle all about? Try to imagine a SteamPunk-based version of Mark of the Ninja and you’ll be some of the way there, although The Swindle features random level generation, so no two games are the same.
The basic premise is that you have 100 days to swoop down from your Airship in a drop pod and steal as much loot as you can to continually increase your security clearance until you have a chance at robbing the police themselves! Why the time limit? Because in 100 days, the police will have ready their new nanny-state Artificial Intelligence "The Devil's Basilisk" and will bring it online across the city, ending any hope of future heists. You intend to steal the blueprints before this can happen, ending the threat directly.
To help you, your airship has a shop that will help you power up your never-ending stream of randomly generated crooks with abilities like double or even triple jump, wall sliding, short term invisibility, stealth, bombs, remote detonators, increased strength, or even, ultimately, teleportation.
The bombs are worth noting too - nearly every block in the level is destructible, meaning that if you’re carrying enough bombs (and have ideally upgraded their blast radius), you aren’t constrained by any given level's doors and corridors. You have full control over which paths you take and which you’ll simply make. It’s amazingly fun to scale all the way over a building, bypassing reams of defences, then blasting your way in from the rear of the building!
I've recorded five minutes of game play to give you a taste of the early game. It doesn't, however, end well...
The controls are crisp and precise as you leap, zap, hack and wall slide around levels, clubbing the robot sentries as you visit banking terminal after banking terminal, racking up huge sums of money from each day’s heist. You are rewarded experience multipliers to your haul for consecutive heists in which your hero (sorry, crook) survives.
Although the levels are randomly generated, the sentry movement is largely scripted, dependent upon which type of sentry robot you face. Combined with those tight controls and lack of a time limit (assuming you haven’t tripped any alarms) means that this is one of those rarest of games in which, if you die, you have no one to blame but yourself.
And if you do trip an alarm, it's not game over - you have a short period before the police arrive in force. When they do, you'll have a struggle on your hands to make it back to your dropship as more and more police bots arrive at the scene.
In short, The Swindle is hugely compelling. Each 100 day run will take around 3-4 hours and I'm on my fourth run already after just a few days. The sheer variety of upgrades means that each run can see a different set of capabilities, depending on how you spend your money. I’ll be playing for hours yet and wholly recommend that you give this gem a chance.