Swarm 2 Review: An Adrenaline Spiking Sequel

When Greensky Games released Swarm back in 2021, it was a refreshing entry into the VR scene. Sure, we’d seen grappling games before, but not quite with this arcade intensity. It was a bold move. And now we have Swarm 2 for Meta Quest, looking to outdo its older sibling with the same frantic gameplay but with a deeper replay system. As we find in our review, Swarm 2 does exactly that. Bigger, bolder and badder in every way.

What you have to realise before going into Swarm 2 is that the gameplay is all about movement. Constant, adrenaline-pumping movement where staying still is not an option. Quite literally! In either hand you have guns, and each of those guns contains a grappling hook to attach to any surface you can see. Whether it’s a blimp, a building or even an enemy, you can swing from it. Pivotal when you realise that you can’t land. Hitting an environmental object will instantly bounce you off of it. Whilst hitting the ground/water will hurt and cause damage. Slightly better than the original Swarm where a shark would eat you.

It is no easy task to master swinging around battlefields and shooting hordes of enemies. There will be plenty of times when you’ll accidentally faceplant a building or miss time a grapple. But when it all comes together and you find the “flow state”, Swarm 2’s magic comes alive.

Swarm 2 screenshot

Take to the skies

Swarm fans will notice plenty of nods to the first game, such as the red and blue robot swarms or the orange drones that fire missiles at you. However, there are plenty of major differences between the two that make the sequel worth a look. Firstly, there’s the new roguelike element. Like many VR roguelike games, this gameplay methodology adds a huge amount of replayability. The idea is to get further during each run by carefully planning upgrade purchases and perk allocations.

So during the main 18-level campaign, you have to collect purple crystals called Shards. Dropped from enemies or found within the environment, collecting these is key to making it through to the latter stages. Like a 90s sidescrolling shooter Swarm 2 is no easy beast, requiring a huge amount of determination and perseverance to complete. The Shards can only be spent once you die, upgrading your shield health, core health, retries, and perk rerolls permanently. Or you can save up to unlock three key abilities Backstab, Slowmo and Jetboost. They’re costly, but worth unlocking to give you that extra edge.

Speaking of extra bonuses, you then have the in-run perks to explore. These offer all manner of abilities from health and shield enhancements to tank your character up. Or damage, critical hit, stun, corrosion and other offensive perks to take the fight to the machines. Plus, the more you play the more you’ll unlock, including new weapons like the lightning gun and the grenade launcher. To be honest, while the limited-use guns are fun, the standard pistols are still the best weapons in the game. Especially once their damage is upgraded.

Swarm 2 Screenshot

Grinding the Swarm

Grinding is part of any roguelike game, as you’re too weak to begin with. It may not always be a favourable mechanic yet Swarm 2’s frantic, arcade-style makes each run just as exhilarating as the last. This is aided by the new level design which throws out the older floating yellow pads in favour of more interactive environments. From cityscapes to space stations, the ability to explore and swing through these expansive locations makes for a far more immersive grappling experience.

There are three themed biomes that Swarm 2 employs, City, Desert and Space. These are split across six stages, so for example, you’ll have City-themed locations for the first six levels. The first four will be procedurally generated so you won’t know which you’ll get before each run. The fifth level offers a new Race Mode which is all about collecting Shards as fast as possible. Finally, there’s the boss battle, with a total of three to complete. These test your swinging and evading skills to the max, yet offer the least variety in the game.

All three bosses are giant walking mechs, where you have to shoot specific illuminated sections of their bodies. It’s difficult to understand why all of them are so similar. Yes, fighting a giant Jaeger can be fun but it feels like Greensky missed the mark. Facing essentially the same opponent three times makes these battles a notable low point.

Swarm 2 Screenshot-2

More bang for your buck

While the boss battles weren’t quite as impressive as hoped, what did impress was all the added extras. Greensky Games has been listening to the Swarm fan base, which is why the Race Mode was included. Furthermore, you’ve now got a Freeroam Mode to explore a giant, desolate city. Pretend to be Spider-Man and swing around to your heart’s content, or grab one of the glowing markers to initiate a Shard race.

Then you have the Arcade Mode where you can play individual maps from the campaign. Last as long as possible to get on the global leaderboards. Or how about Challenge Mode, a revamped version of the ever-popular endless game mode? And let’s not forget the auto PvP Challenges that pop up if another player beats your score! You can ignore these but when your Swarm honour is at stake, can you really?

Swarm 2 Review Summary

If you watch a trailer for Swarm 2 you may think that the gameplay looks too intense, too nausea-inducing. But somehow it isn’t. With its bright, stylish visuals, pumping soundtrack and smooth grappling, there’s a lot to love here. It’s an exhilarating experience being able to launch yourself high into the air to then unleash a volley of bullets on the swarms below. So long as you don’t mind an early grind to get yourself suitably powered up, Swarm 2 is the biggest thrill ride you’ll play in VR this year!