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Niels Bauer Games

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Niels Bauer Games is a computer game developer based in Freiburg, Germany which has produced games such as Smugglers 3, Empires and Dungeons, and TV Manager (also known as TV Tycoon). The company specialises in strategy games with open-ended game play.

The Smugglers series

The Smugglers series is Niels Bauer Game's trademark game. Set in the future, players start out as low ranking officers and work their way to be commanders with their own customized starship.

Smugglers 1

Announcing the first title in the Smugglers Series in the late 1990s, Niels Bauer Games kicked off with a space trading/combat game. Set in the future, the game uses a turn-based system. Players trade between planets to make money, upgrade to better ships, and battle vicious space pirates.

Smugglers 2

This is Niels Bauer Game's second game in the Smugglers series. This newer game features a new interface and greater variety. Players now take the role as a space adventurer, and are free to explore the redesigned galaxy. Smugglers 2 features an addictive gameplay in which players trade goods, undertake dangerous missions, make money, upgrade his/her ship, and improve in rank. The wide assortment of weapons, engines, and equipment upgrades along with a variety of exploration makes the game addicting and enjoyable. Players choose their own path, so replay value is spectacular.

The major improvement in Smugglers 2 is the playing space – the game's galaxy. Unlike the previous Smugglers 1, Smugglers 2 has a galaxy of 13 planetary systems, each linked with one another through jump points. This provides diversity, a wide range of activities (such as gambling, smuggling, or pirating), as well as the map of a civil war.

Later released is the Smugglers 2 module editor. This editor lets players easily create their own galaxy, star systems, ships, etc. This module editor now comes free with the game.

Smugglers 3

"Easy to learn, but a challenge to master", Smugglers 3 further advances the gameplay of the Smugglers Series. Released in 2004, Smugglers 3 offers an improved movement design, an advanced tactical battle system, and the introduction of factions. The game still maintains its basic profit making and ship upgrading systems of Smugglers 2. But new to Smugglers 3 is the factions system. Players now play the role of a young ensign from a nation of your choosing. By utilizing trading, completing missions, and catching a bit of luck, players make money, gain fame and reputation in their faction, upgrade to better ships, and rise in rank and glory.

The gameplay of Smugglers 3 is exactly as Niels Bauer Games proposed: "Easy to learn, but a challenge to master". A quick tutorial shows new players the basic and simple controls/functions. It is then up to the players themselves to find strategies, experiment new ways, and explore the game. A wide variety of starships and ship upgrades allows players a great deal of variety. The large fictional game galaxy with its many star systems gives the game a realistic feel. And the variety of goods available for trade promotes economical thinking. Smugglers 3 also offers a wide assortment of random encounters and events (new to the Smugglers series). Players often encounter phenomenons as they play, and these phenomenons can bring a stroke of luck, or just another obstacle. The most remarkable feature is the replayability of this game.

Months later after Smugglers 3 hit the market, Niels Bauer Games released the add-on. Featured in the add-on is a new Gameris fighter tournaments, new ships and upgrades, higher ranks, and newer encounters. But the prime feature of the addon is the ability to meet a faction leader's family, build a relationship, and get married if you wish.

With its highly textual interface and turn-based gameplay, Smugglers 3 has also been found to be highly compatible with screen reading software such as Hal, Jaws or Window eyes, and is therefore fully accessible to visually impaired and blind gamers.

Smugglers 4

Smugglers 4 is the fourth part of the famous smuggler series. As with Smugglers 2, many elements of Smugglers 3's gameplay such as the factional civil war, the ability to carry out missions and rise in rank, and the large galaxy map have been retained; however the game also introduces many new features to the Smugglers series which make the game even more open-ended.

New elements include an entirely revamped combat system, the ability to learn and use a variety of combat and non-combat skills, and choose a profession at the start of the game which effects a player's starting skills and equipment.

Other new elements include a variety of extra missions, and more game content later on with fleet battle ship combat and an all new tracking system.

Though released in July 2008, smugglers 4 is also still being worked on and improved with new versions which both fix bugs and address game balancing issues.

A special compatibility mode has also been included for visually impaired or blind gamers, which replaces many of the in-game unlabled images with text, thus making them accessible to a screen reader.

Empires and Dungeons

Set in the traditional RPG landscape and time line, Empires and Dungeons is a strategy game in which you must start an army from scratch, defeat dragons, and run through dungeons in order to conquer the land, and your rightful throne. Although not yet as popular as the Smugglers series, Empires and Dungeons is a well-respected game with a small cult following, despite persistent bug issues, particularly relating to dungeons and equipment, which the programmers have not seen fit to address.

TV Manager

TV Manager is one of Niels Bauer Games' first offerings. The setting is that of a city, in which you come into the possession of a nearly-bankrupt TV station. From here you must employ your skills as a sly businessman in order to dominate the broadcasting networks and, ultimately, save your pocket book and your pride. Niels Bauer Games has already promised to release a sequel. The sequel will be called TV Manager 2, and is to be released after Smugglers 4.

Popular Acclaim

Smugglers Series

PC Magazine (2002 Cover): "Smugglers 2: New version of the strategy cult game."
GameStar (special issue 2/2004: budget games): "Smugglers 3: Excellent."
Rocket Downloads (5-star review): "Smugglers 3 is actually multi-faceted because there are more ways to win, and more ways to have fun."
Topshareware.com (Editors Choice): 5 star editors choice.

Empires & Dungeons

Downloads2you.com (2006): 5 star "Our pick."

TV Manager

CNet download.com: 5 stars for TV Manager

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