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Video Game / The Swindle

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A Steampunk Cybercrime Caper

A heist-focused videogame from Size Five Games.

The year is 1849, in a technologically advanced England. Scotland Yard is 100 days away from bringing online the Devil's Basilisk, a Master Computer that will turn the entirety of England into a surveillance state.

Naturally, this concept is simply unacceptable for thieves, who might have to give up being thieves! So the plan is hatched: steal the Devil's Basilisk before it's finished.

The downside is that you need a very high security clearance to get to Scotland Yard, and you start with no money in a zeppelin above the Slums.

Cue 100+ levels of stealth-platforming around procedurally generated locations, hitting mechanical guards in the back of the head with a stick, hacking computers, planting bugs, blasting holes in walls...and running like hell should you get spotted.

Tropes present in The Swindle include:

  • Achilles' Heel: The security stations, which shut down drones and security cameras.
  • Action Bomb: Some enemies seek you out and explode, most notably the mini-zeppelin, which will seek you out based on sound. This can be very bad, or a hilarious way of getting through that locked door, depending on how quickly you get out of the blast radius.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: Caught in the middle of a massive bank robbery with a hundred thousand pounds? Death! Caught having wandered into a slum house and pocketed eight pounds that were lying out in the open? Also death!
  • Asshole Victim: Apparently there was a big banking scandal in 1842, and that's why nobody is hugely sympathetic to the bankers you'll rob in the late game.
  • Bank Robbery: The location tier before the Swindle itself is the Banks.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: Burglars try to stop the birth of an omnipresent surveillance state because they'll have to get real jobs.
  • Brain in a Jar: One of the sound-activated enemies has this mounted on top.
  • The Caper: Calls itself this, but it doesn't fit the trope: only one thief goes in at a time.
  • The Casino: You rob them in tier three.
  • Confusion Fu: Flying drones are annoying because of this. Unlike the ground mooks, which follow a predictable patrol pattern, flying drones float around and, in many cases, point their cameras in random directions.
  • Continuing is Painful: If you fail the final mission, you need to round up the money for a second go if you don't want to lose the game. "The money" is quite a large number.
  • Cyborg: A lot of upgrades for your thieves are cybernetic enhancements - faster movement involves replacing a fair chunk of the pelvis, for example.
  • Deadly Gas: Some of the robots use poisonous gas, including one that vents it on death and a drone that drops gas bombs from above. It dissipates after a while, and if you get back to the airship quickly, you can get treated. (Don't get back, and you of course die.)
  • Dungeon Bypass: There will be times when, to get to a security station or computer, you need to painstakingly sneak around a huge, heavily guarded area. There will be others where you just need to break a window and plant a bomb on the ledge on top.
  • Early Game Hell: You start out with no bombs, no wall-cling, no double jump, no bugs, no steam purge - you can't even hack the computers, and if money spawns in a region you can't access without bombs, good luck getting any of that! Later levels have weirder and crueller security systems, but at least you're making a decent amount of money and can get past enemies.
  • Electronic Eyes: One of the upgrades.
  • Gameplay Grading: Each mission will show you how much of the possible loot you acquired, with three bonuses: a "Ghost bonus" for getting out undetected with nearly all of the money, a "Proficiency bonus" for skilled use of technology, and a modifier based on the number of times your current thief has gotten out with a large chunk of the money (+20% money for each successful heist).
  • Giant Mook: One of the mid-tier minions is a hulking gorilla-like robot cop.
  • Goggles Do Something Unusual: Once you get any of the "Goggles" upgrades, your thief will get a nifty pair of these that point to remaining computers and other things and goodies.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Justified example. The guards follow a predictable patrol route, have a set line of sight, and don't even notice being attacked outside of line of sight...because they're steam-powered robots.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Hacking a computer consists of sitting at it and following the button prompts. You can also reprogram mines to ignore you and explode when a robot goes past and even reactivate downed drones with the right upgrade.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: You're just as vulnerable to bombs as the enemies are, possibly more so in the case of the more durable enemies. On the other hand, mooks are just as vulnerable to mines as you are, so long as you hack or remotely detonate them.
  • Incredibly Obvious Bug: You plant them. They give you a constant flow of money directly to your bank account until they're randomly discovered, with more money for higher-tier locations. You can make a lot of money when you plant bugs in the later stages.
  • Mecha-Mooks: All of the enemies you face are these. They range from mechanical English bobbies to hulking gorilla-mechs to mobile gramophone-mechs that produce tiny drones when you make a sound nearby.
  • Mook Maker: The aforementioned gramophone-mech.
  • No Peripheral Vision: Mook vision is a rectangle pointing in a specific direction. A mook climbing the stairs is almost blind until it starts poking out of the top, unless it's one of the few designed to look up (such as the penny-farthing riders).
  • No-Sell: Poison effects don't inconvenience the robots because, well, they're robots.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: The game's way of gently encouraging you to be sneaky.
  • Punk Punk: The setting and aesthetics are textbook Steampunk (Victorian London, airships, and plenty of neat old-timey gadgets), with generous helpings of Cyberpunk elements for good measure (cybernetic enhancements, an omniscient AI, and hacking. Lots and lots of hacking).
  • Randomly Generated Levels: Every single one. The thieves are also generated randomly whenever you need one.
  • Spikes of Doom: Do not fall into a spike trap or onto one of the bladed centipede robots (which are basically mobile spike traps). You will die.
  • Stealth-Based Game: You will spend a lot of the game hiding, and when hiding fails, running away because the police are on their way and will kill you in one hit.
  • Steampunk: The objective is to take out a police AI. It's 1849.
  • Timed Mission: 100 days to reach the final level and take out the Devil's Basilisk. You can buy extra days, though - if you have a hundred thousand quid to spare for the base gadget, plus an increasing amount each time you stick on an extra couple of days.
  • Trial-and-Error Gameplay: Generally, you find out how new things work by getting killed by them, at which point you make a mental note that, for example, the penny-farthings explode if you get too close and move on.
  • Villain Protagonist: Given that you play as criminals...
  • Wall Crawl: Well, Wall Cling. One of the earlier upgrades you'll probably get (because it's really useful, for one thing) is the ability to stick to a wall rather than continually slide down.
  • Wall Jump: You can do this in both the triangle-jump form and the repeatedly-jumping-up-the-same-wall form.
  • We Have Reserves: The thieves' policy. Losing a thief is a pain: it costs you a day, the money they're carrying, and any experience bonus they've accumulated. However, there are always more randomly-generated thieves willing to undergo extensive surgery to go and take out the Devil's Basilisk.
  • Wrong Side of the Tracks: You start here, grabbing the relatively slim pickings so you can get security clearance to go to more lucrative areas.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: Your home base is a zeppelin.