Smugglers 5 PC Review

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Smugglers 5 is a futuristic title where 4 warring factions are vying for control of the universe. What your role is in this game is decided completely by you. The game lets you choose between several different classes like a bounty hunter, fighter or merchant trader which will decide what perks will be open to you as you progress through the game and will also decide what path you will be particularly skilled at.

You can also choose your allegiance – whether you want to fight or capture VIP’s for one of the warring factions, capitalize on the turmoil as a freelance trader or put your own ideals in place and join the fray as a pirate nation is a choice you will have to make. There are hundreds of systems to travel, fight and trade through and countless mini-stories and side quests to enjoy on the side. The game is all about choice and, unlike some other games where choice is merely an option, your decision could have incredible and very important effects.

 

For example, the class that you choose to start off with gives you a particular skill tree to follow with perks which are unique in most cases. If you have chosen to be a trader but a few years down the line you decide you want to take part in the fighting and start capturing VIP’s, you will find it to be an extremely difficult task which would otherwise not have been a problem if you had chosen to become a bounty hunter. If you have broken off from your faction and started your own nation, if you make some particularly unpopular decisions for your population, do not be surprised when they suddenly change their allegiance back to their old faction.

The game exceedingly makes you feel as if your decisions have weight and importance in the universe. Even delivering war supplies to planets or evacuating civilians can completely change the tide in a war. However, although the unique selling point in the game is completed to a nearly perfect standard, there are some points where you wish you could have a little more choice. You can only choose the look of your pilot out of a few premade casts, your empire will automatically be named “[Your Pilots Name]’s empire” with seemingly no way to change the name or that you start as a pirate nation, and you cannot make peaceful negotiations with the factions so you will find yourself constantly rushing about warring should you choose to break away. These are just minute details, but ultimately you feel as if they should have been included. Still – the end result is fantastic anyway.

 

In addition, the title has a flawless balance in the way that the universe depends on you but at the same time carries on without you. As you rush about the universe capturing ships to tow back to planet ports and sell, wars are declared and fought around you. The different factions have their own agendas and ideals to stick to and will carry them out with or without your help and your own planets will defend themselves against your rivals so at no point during the game do you feel as if everything depends on your actions. However, if you choose to take part, you can increase the chances of the attack being successful so your choices still mean something. This is perfectly achieved carried out by the game, and, although you will always feel like the main character and controller of your destiny, you will never feel as if the whole universe is waiting on your move.

In contrast, although this is all going on at an epic level, the actual goals and attitudes of the different factions do feel a little shallow and stereotypical leading to the conclusion that they could have done with a bit more work. The Syndicate are your expected morally ambiguous case who tends to concentrate their efforts into illegal pursuits, whilst the Federation are the long-time rulers who have kept peace in the galaxy but with terms that are not agreeable to at least a few people who have split off and formed the Outer Rim alliance. Amongst all of this is the neutral Coalition, who spends its time trading for the most part. Arguably, these factions should be black and white so it’s easy to spot which faction you should be siding with to match your abilities and goals, but a little more background could have been excellent.

 

Furthermore, the turn based combat in the game requires you not only to prepare your battle plans for the inevitable attacks you will launch or defend against, but also for the unexpected. You have a wide arrange of modifications you can make to your ship and plenty of ships to choose from. Perhaps you want to concentrate on boosting your small guns fire so you can accurately whittle away the enemy health to destroy or carefully damage it enough to board and capture. If you have no interest in a boarding party and want a quick end to the battle, you might want to concentrate on your devastating missile attack. The combat is generally very good and, unless you are hitting well below your weight, each victory will be something you really have to work for.

Not only do you have to prepare for what you will be using in the fight, you also need to be prepared for the special events that happen during the game. You might suddenly have to close in on a long range enemy or sweep away from one that’s too close, or navigate your way through an asteroid field. The special events keep the combat very exciting and constantly fresh. The only complaint in the combat department is the graphics are rather lacking. The animations (if any at all) are extremely short and very dull, but, to be fair, some battles can last for a long time. At that point, a lengthy animation would become extremely irritating, but it still would have been nice to see some better graphics.

In close relation, the graphics holistically seem a bit behind the times, which is very disappointing because the rest of the game is so enjoyable. Areas like the portraits of other captains and the small views of the planets are actually respectable, but, apart from that, the title lacks anything visually impressive. Twinned with the confusing decision to make the game window 800×600 with no way to change the size, the final outcome is you will be spending your time thinking about battle strategy and appeasing your angry citizens rather than taking the time to enjoy the view. Finally, at the time of playing, the title still has a vast array of bugs, most of which will require you to shut down your window and load it up again (which doesn’t take that long. but is an inconvenience); however, if you are one who requires an auto save feature to constantly be backing you up, you will have to make some time to save your game every so often. But again – the title is still in beta at the time of playthrough, so I am sure the developers are still working to fix these issues.

Despite it’s various drawbacks, Smugglers 5 is an impressive and exceedingly addictive game. You will feel yourself gathering momentum as you play, and you’ll as your problems change from simply where to go to balancing the demands of your empire, ship, wife, and your children. The combat will always feel fresh, and the skill trees are well designed to enhance the way choices impact the universe; even more impressively, how the universe carries on without you has been finished to a perfect standard. The title could do with just a few more minor choices which would have just made it a little bit better, and, if it looked as good as it played, it could be a truly marvellous title where the graphics are matched by the incredibly fun gameplay.

8/10

by

Version tested: PC

Developer: Niels Bauer Games

Genre: Strategy, RPG, Simulation