Developed by Niels Bauer Games, for PC, Smugglers V: Invasion, out now today on Steam, mixes turn-based strategy game with RPG elements and trading in a space war between the human race and the Jalkath (an alien race whose appearance remember that of a tiger).
Written by Rafa
You start by choosing one of the three factions available: Federation, Coalition and the Jalkath Empire – the Outer Rim Alliance faction is not available (due to the outcome of Smugglers V: Secession). You then choose one of the six professions available: Fleet Trader, Free Trader, Fleet Officer, Bounty Hunter, Smuggler, and Pirate. Each profession has a singular skill tree to develop as you level up – this info is of major relevance (we will talk about it again soon enough).
There are many types of missions and they are fun for some time, but they become repetitive. Every mission you complete gives you experience points and they sum up to level your character up. While playing, you will find ‘artifacts’; these can be sold, or given to your faction – case in which you receive additional experience. ‘Treasures’ appear sporadically as you travel.
Trading (buying cheap goods in a planet, to sell it with a higher price elsewhere) seems fun at the first glance (and it is!), but as a Fleet Trader, we didn’t feel like we was restricted to help my faction by trading – as a matter of fact, that’s one of the features I’ve used few times.
News texts appear every time a planetary system participates directly on the war. They are very important, for they point where your efforts will be more relevant.
Do not forget to save your progress! You will probably need to do it often.
There is some text reading on Smugglers V: Invasion. Many players may not be pleased to spend time on learning the meaning of each image and skill, to the point where they will have memorized how many AP (Action Points) it takes to activate each one of them. Then would one be able to plan how to react properly in order to succeed (win battles, board enemy ships, or even finish missions before each confront of the campaign ends).
Combat consists on your ship (on the left) facing the enemy target (on the right). On the top of the screen you’ll be able to check which skills are active and below it, a screen display shows if you, or the opponent have reinforcements to help during battle. There are two bars below each ship. They show how many Action Points are available to use on the given turn and the ship’s shields.
The bottom is composed of three parts. On the left side, there are the attack orders (usually cannon, missile and ECM). On the middle bottom, your ship specialty; then seven skills to choose on its right. On the bottom right, available only on special events, the special event related skill. Of course, below the Smugglers V: Invasion image there’s the “End this turn” button.
Design of Choices
We would like to take the opportunity on writing about this game to prevent you about certain design choices that might happen to bother you.
Imagine that, as myself, you are new to the franchise. You run the game for the first time and it offers a tutorial. You will probably go for it, right? Well, we thought it would be fundamental, so we played it.
Let us assume that you choose to be a trader. At first, the profession selection does not seem to prevent the player from acting differently than the behavior that would be required of a trader on playing its role on ‘trading’ as the main activity while war wages on.
Although, the skill tree of each profession has a direct impact on what you expect from the game. That is because you can head straight to combat as your main activity, but you may not be able to board enemy ships – this is the only way to acquire a battle ship, with which you can strike an enemy star base. Why are we indicating that as something relevant? Well, according to the game’s manual, “It is the only way in the game to get a battleship, which in turn is required for the end-game content”.
That is it. We have played around 16 hours as a Fleet Trader, to realize that boarding ships even by stunning (EMP skill) the enemy ship while shields are below 10% and by equipping my ship with the boarding equipment is not possible because the skill is not available for that profession. This obstacle fell on us as an unexpected ‘bucket of cold water’!
Playing the tutorial was not enough to clarify that this situation could happen. We felt like reading the manual is something necessary to prevent this sort of inconvenience.
Smugglers V: Invasion has a lot to offer. Would you like to have your own Pirate Hideout? Would you want to own factories to produce goods for trading? Bribe the Governor of a system in order to increase your popularity, or ask him for amnesty in case you have a criminal flag, or even marry his daughter and have a baby? Maybe you prefer to hire pirates, military or navigation crew. It is all possible. The game offers more, but it is not my intent to exhaust all its features.
Many modern games appeal to the graphics to delight the audience. That is not the case on this particular game. The images you will see on this game are mostly static. 2-D planetary systems and ships facing each other and making ‘pew-pew’ sounds are the only things some may choose to see and end up thinking this is not a good game. We think that, if you can see past it, you will find that this game has an awesome fun value. We had some great moments while helping my faction to invade, or to fight back an invasion, conquering planetary systems, or defending those we already owned.
Overall, it was nice to play Smugglers V: Invasion. Our humble opinion is that the texting, the turn based combat and the lack of graphic appeal will not fit the demand of players that focus on modern installments. Certainly, some graphical development to boost the game dynamics summed with a wider soundtrack (which is not large) would make this a much more enjoyable experience. However, it may please those who take the risk on having just one more turn.
Smugglers V: Invasion
Genre: Indie, RPG, Simulation, Strategy
Developer: Niels Bauer Games
Publisher: Niels Bauer Games
We took all screenshots using the final Steam version in a resolution of 1440×900. This game was provided by the publisher for review purposes, check our review policy for details.