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Swarm 2

Swarm 2

Written by Eric Hauter on 3/7/2024 for QW3  
More On: Swarm 2

In the world of VR games, there are many experiences that can fool your brain in one way or another. Some games give players a “tactile” experience, making objects or environments around them feel real. But only the very best VR games can remove the player completely from their bodies, transporting them into not just a different world, but a different state of being. Swarm 2 is such a game.

Playing Swarm 2 feels a lot like what being a superhero must feel like. Not the typical tights-wearing, flying type of superhero, but more the Bionic Commando grappling-and-shooting type of superhero. And while playing the game, I surprised myself by forgetting that I couldn’t actually do the stuff I was doing in Swarm’s beautiful combat-laden world. It all just feels so damn right.

Swarm 2 surprised me in a lot of ways – not the least of which was that I had forgotten just how excellent the original Swarm game was. Released back in 2021, Swarm was so enjoyable that in my review I said that “Swarm is one of the best action/arcade VR games I’ve ever played.” Now with the release of the sequel, I’ve found myself once again drifting back through my game reviews on Open Critic, and yep, that assessment still stands. There are some great VR action games, but none of them are as good as the Swarm games.

For the uninitiated, here’s how Swarm works: Players materialize in mid-air in the middle of a level. In each hand, they hold a gun which is capable of shooting baddies, but also capable of sending out grappling hooks. Your primary mode of locomotion is web-slinging (let’s just call it what it is). So, you grapple onto a nearby building, swing low past it, then high into the air on the other side. Then, when you are at the apex of your swing, let go, and get propelled way up into the air.

All around the level, aliens are popping into existence. The laws of the natural world demand that these guys be shot. So, while you are swinging, you are also shooting. My favorite move is to swing way up into the air, whip around, and blast baddies on my way back down. Rinse and repeat.

You might be thinking that all of this swinging and whipping would make you feel bad. This is understandable. But, speaking as someone that suffers from very easily triggered VR sickness, I can attest that this game has some incredible magic going on under the hood that completely prevents any sort of ill feelings. I can play Swarm with zero comfort options activated, and I feel just fine the entire time. Yes, I may had made myself a bit stumbly on occasion, but that’s more about reorienting my body in the real world than it is about feeling poorly.

Much of what made the original Swarm game such a revelation is carried directly over into the sequel. Players are still whipping about gigantic 3D environments, using their gun/grappling hooks to maneuver through, over, and around enormous structures to shoot hordes of alien robots. The moment-to-moment gameplay feels very much the same as its predecessor, though playing on Meta Quest 3 lends the proceedings a greater clarity than previous iteration. Swarm didn’t look bad at all (it was pretty awesome looking, actually), but Swarm 2 looks better.

Gone are the yellow-rimmed platforms that players had to grapple onto to swing around. This new game allows you to grab onto just about anything, which expands the already glorious feeling of freedom exponentially. You also have a few new moves at your disposal, including the fantastically helpful new Dash move. Controlled by the right thumbstick, Dash allows you to change direction mid-swoop, which is a bit of a game changer. You can also unlock Jet Boost, which shoots you skyward like a jetpack, allowing you to set yourself up for some truly stellar kill runs.

So, beyond a few new moves, some improved visuals, and a few new guns and baddies, what sets Swarm 2 apart from its predecessor? The new Swarm game is roguelike, which makes it umpteen times more addictive than Swarm was.

Each game of Swarm 2 is structured as a run, and your success is measured by how far you get each time, and how many points you earn (in the form of “shards) to put towards permanent upgrades in between said runs. These points can be used to expand your base health and shield (essentially an extension of your health) and unlock new in-game abilities like the aforementioned Jet Boost.

The game is tuned to allow players to slowly ramp up their survivability as their skills grow, which is a lot of fun. If you’ve played a roguelike before, you know how this dynamic can lead to “one more run”, until you suddenly find yourself turning on lights in the room because it has gotten dark out and you had no idea.

In between levels, players get to choose an upgrade from a group of three presented, and here’s where the real make-or-break stuff happens. On a podcast this week, I heard someone explain that playing roguelikes triggers “gambling emotions”, because the luck of the draw can completely alter your chances of success. (And yes, one of the unlockables allows players to reroll their perk options, but you still might end up with a bad build).

I’ve tried a few different tactics with builds – sometimes focusing on extra health and survivability, sometimes focusing on damage output. Both are totally viable options, but they are not always fully available to you. It’s possible to mix and match your way into a rough state, completely killing your prospects of having a good run.

That said, sometimes you end up with a surprise winner. On one run, I randomly started focusing on sticky bombs, with perks that stuck explosives to enemies with a certain percentage of successful shots. This was a wildly successful run, and I’ve never been able to duplicate the exact combination of upgrades I’ve had again. I’m constantly chasing that sticky bomb high.

There are also a number of new ways to experience Swarm for those that manage to free themselves from the grip of the roguelike cycle. There's a new Arcade mode that allows you to battle it out for leaderboard status in individual levels from the main game, a survival mode (also known as Challenge Mode), and an interesting new Free Roam mode, which has players racing through open environments (or just exploring at their leisure). The bottom line is that Swarm 2 is bigger and deeper than it's already super-long-lived prequel. 

I’ll be honest – I love Swarm, but I’m not the best player. I hold onto my grapples for too long, and I’m a bit of a rough shot. For players like me, Greensky Games did us a solid, and added three difficulty levels. Players that are having trouble getting into the swing of things can drop down to an easier difficulty with the assurance that their permanent upgrades will carry over when they gain enough confidence to take on a higher level.

So what do we have here? Another Swarm game, just as awesome as the first, with sticky new addictive properties that make you want to play all night. If you loved the first game, you will love this one even more. And if you have never tried Swarm, this is a great place to jump in. The shift to roguelike structure allows Swarm to wriggle that much deeper under your skin, and the feeling is almost as glorious as swinging and shooting.

Swarm 2 improves almost everything from the stellar first entry, while adding a roguelike structure that makes the game that much more addictive. At this point, if you haven’t played a Swarm game, you are failing at VR. There just aren't that many games that can grant this freedom of motion without a side helping of nausea. You owe it to yourself to experience the pure joy of movement that Swarm 2 offers. 

Rating: 9.5 Exquisite

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

Howdy.  My name is Eric Hauter, and I am a dad with a ton of kids.  During my non-existent spare time, I like to play a wide variety of games, including JRPGs, strategy and action games (with the occasional trip into the black hole of MMOs). I am intrigued by the prospect of cloud gaming, and am often found poking around the cloud various platforms looking for fun and interesting stories.  I was an early adopter of PSVR (I had one delivered on release day), and I’ve enjoyed trying out the variety of games that have released since day one. I've since added an Oculus Quest 2 and PS VR2 to my headset collection.  I’m intrigued by the possibilities presented by VR multi-player, and I try almost every multi-player game that gets released.

My first system was a Commodore 64, and I’ve owned countless systems since then.  I was a manager at a toy store for the release of PS1, PS2, N64 and Dreamcast, so my nostalgia that era of gaming runs pretty deep.  Currently, I play on Xbox Series X, Series S, PS5, PS VR2, Quest 3, Switch, Luna, GeForce Now, (RIP Stadia) and a super sweet gaming PC built by John Yan.  While I lean towards Sony products, I don’t have any brand loyalty, and am perfectly willing to play game on other systems.

When I’m not playing games or wrangling my gaggle of children, I enjoy watching horror movies and doing all the other geeky activities one might expect. I also co-host the Chronologically Podcast, where we review every film from various filmmakers in order, which you can find wherever you get your podcasts.

Follow me on Twitter @eric_hauter, and check out my YouTube channel here

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