Review: Smugglers V Invasion

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).

Smugglers V - Combat

The game

Smugglers V - MissionsThe­re 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).

Smugglers V - Pirate HideoutSmugglers V - Buying a new shipSmugglers V - Crew Hiring


Smugglers V - Defense and Battleship requiredCom­bat 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.

Smugglers V - Special Event

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.

ISmugglers V - Fleet Trader Skill Treemagi­ne 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


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 - Upgrading Ship Equipment

Smugg­lers V: Inva­si­on
Gen­re: Indie, RPG, Simu­la­ti­on, Stra­te­gy
Sys­tem: PC
Pri­ce: ?
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.

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