Impressions – Smugglers 5 Beta

During the past two days I’ve been playing a bit of the Smugglers 5 beta by Niels Bauer Games and in between trading as much illegal contraband as I could, a few missions here and there and gaining loads of experience I’ve been in fights with pirates and police, upgraded to a new ship twice and found myself completely lost on what to do.

Let me get this started by simply saying if you need anything with more visual stimulation than a few pictures stuck on paper then this isn’t the game for you. Smugglers 5 is made in such a way that even integrated graphics would laugh at it in a derisory fashion as if to say “give me a challenge”. However, I don’t consider this a bad thing, my most played franchise of games is Football Manager and like this, that is about as visually stimulating as a etch-a-sketch. Simply put, the graphics of a game do not matter in the slightest if it is a good game to play.

I do have one complaint though. The game is clearly made to only fit an incredibly small resolution and so all that happens is the background is shown on the outside of the edge of the playing area. I do like that it’s been made usable, I find myself dragging the trade menu over into the nothingness, but I just wish it could have been utilised instead of ignored.

This is as exciting as the game comes

So I said it doesn’t matter if it’s a good game to play, but is it? Well that’s all subjective of course, but everything about writing is, it’s your opinion. I think it’s a good game, however it can be incredibly slow at times and as with all open ended games, can lack a sense of direction.

Here’s what happens when you play: You fly around the galaxy by double clicking the planet, wormhole or other place you want to go to. Once you reach your destination after a countdown of the days it takes to travel, every now and then a popup box telling you new events that are occuring, you are able to then select more options of what to do.

In the case of a planet my option was always Explore, sometimes uncovering a little event driven purely by text or a mission, given purely by text. Then I would talk to the governor (assuming it’s the lead-planet of the system), often getting ignored unless he’s got a mission to give me or a tip about a big trading/treasure vessel that is ripe to be attacked by pirates, finally I would trade, which has taken up approximately 365% of my time. Oh, I also chose the pirate class, but you need to trade to get a ship good enough to start pirating.

I’ve visted asteroids only to be told I can’t do anything, I’ve visited floating life-pods, always with a corpse inside and always holding the location of more things in the local system and also wreckages of ships, always about to explode and giving me varied amounts of plunder. There are also Treasure caches and Artefacts that appear every now and then, you always keep the treasure and you have the option to sell the artefact or give it to the local governor for experience.

It’s all very formulaic after you’ve played for a few hours, the only varied thing being the battles which can simply be there to torture you. The battles are driven by numbers like any of these types of games, and it’s down to random chance or favor if it goes well. I’ve had some fights where my attacks will hit 70% of the time, others where I can barely reach 10% and that’s against the same type of enemy. More often than not I die in the more unfortunate battles.

Back to being a trader. Am I a trader by choice? Probably, I do like trading on other games. This is what’s keeping me interested, albeit not riveted, watching my cash figure increase more and more and then watch it take a big plummet when I spend millions on a big ship for some future pirating or to increase my chances in the battles. That and one of the future skills I have available is to create my own pirate empire which will need some funding.

Oh, on the skills. I have only tried the Pirate class but it has a skill list that allows you to pick in the direction you want to go. I’m aiming to become a pirate king and lead my own empire. Just had a quick look and the trader has a different skill chain so I assume the other classes will too, what this does mean is that even after choosing the class you will have other options on how to cater your character to your playing style.

The game is still in its beta, there are one or two bugs and naming errors, and I’ve even crashed once but that’s nothing unusual for a beta. Hopefully all the small things can be fixed for the full release but otherwise the rest is perfectly fine and functional.

The most important thing is that I can say I’ll play more of Smugglers 5 because while it isn’t exactly the most edge-of-your-seat exciting game it is very good at what it does. It gives you a large amount of flavour text to make the universe feel fleshed out. It give you a lot of detail in what is an open ended universe, you can go around and do what you want and that can make for a very interesting game. Most importantly, I’m going to play more because I want to rule a pirate empire.

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