Smugglers 5: Secession is an indie, turn based, open world, space trading, and strategy game. I think that should cover it. Developed and published by Niels Bauer Games and released on Steam 04-11-2014. Honestly this is my first encounter with any of the Smugglers games so I can’t really tell anything about the background story. This works out because you start the game as an unknown pilot without a background story. But let us not get ahead of ourselves. The universe is torn apart by four factions at war with each other. The Federation, the Coalition, the Outer Rim systems and the Criminal Syndicate.
First you need to choose a faction. Then you can choose your profession: trader, pirate, fleet trader, bounty hunter, and more. Your profession will determine what ship type you’ll get and your skill tree. You can use the tutorial that will explain all features available, how to upgrade your ship, fight another ship (actually I lost but because it was in the tutorial he let me win), and all your menus. Depending on your previous choices, your starting point can be any solar system. At first you won’t be able to leave your solar system until you upgrade your ship to a ship with jump engines, otherwise you won’t be able to use a wormhole. So the beginning of the game you will be chained to your own solar system. Every planet sells and buys goods. Obviously, buying low and selling high is the goal here. (Editor’s note: It would be interesting to see the opposite someday.) The prices will show by the planets. If the price is unknown it will be represented with a question mark. It can very well be that the prices have dropped during the time of your journey, forcing you to fly around a bit with the goods, or sell them with a loss. You’ll get experience points for every profitable transaction. It would be a pretty boring game if buying and selling goods would be your only occupation.
You can play missions given to you by the military, though if you start exploring this path and find that it’s not for you, moving on to a different career path is easy. You’re a Han Solo type of guy free to roam the universe and looking to make profits and find adventures. Missions will mostly contain battles against enemies of the faction you currently joined. The battle system depends on action points, firing your guns will cost you two action points and once you’re out of points it’s your opponent’s turn. On your radar screen you can see all ships within range and like you would suspect friendlies are green and hostiles are red. You can visit any planet and get married and have children, upgrade your ship, join the local military looking for work, open a factory and more. In-between all of this you’ll frequently see news channels keeping you up to date about what is happening in the galaxy. There’s a war raging, remember? (Editor’s note: When isn’t there?) It starts out a bit limited but after you proceed a little in the game you can build your own fleet and conquer planets. The great thing about the game is that it’s open world with no set goal, you can follow your own path and therefor it has multiple endings. The content itself is much larger than you would suspect and you will spend many hours in this game.
Graphically the game isn’t the most advanced one I’ve seen. Everything looks simple but good. There is a simple charm to it. A really great feature, and the first time I’ve ever seen it in a game, is a special setting for visually impaired. I guess they mean colorblind people. The game even allows blind people to enjoy it, but you will have to install third party software. My humble apologies to the devs of the game for my earlier statement. Sound is equally simple but solid. The music stands out, effects are simple but not bad, but there is no speech whatsoever.
The game is knee deep in content, giving the player more freedom than I could imagine. But because of the simple (dated) graphics and sound I don’t see it reaching further than the genre fans. If your hardware can’t handle games like Starpoint Gemini 2 this is an excellent alternative. If you don’t mind missing the latest 3D environment in high res, this game is definitely worth the money and guarantees many hours of play and replay value.