Steel Shadows is a standalone RPG set in the epic universe of Ancient Frontier. Take command of a rag tag band of pirates and outlaws as you fight your way across the Frontier for treasure and glory. Delve into our latest turn based tactical RPG.
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Release Date:
December 11th, 2018

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Available: December 11th, 2018


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October 3

Unit Preview - Smuggler Light Escort

The Smuggler is well named, and often used for moving illicit cargo or breaking blockades. Surprisingly fast for her ship class the Smuggler is also well armed. Three Ripper guns allow her to quickly dispatch fighter patrols that may try and stop her, and ion cannons and short burst quad auto cannons make short work of escorts. Long range sensors allow her to pick her battles, and the Smuggler is likely to rely on her speed to outrun and avoid larger capital ships.

Smugglers are found in fair numbers in pirate fleets. The Smuggler is a versatile escort that can pose a threat to fighter squadrons or single escorts. Smugglers don't normally hold up well against capital ships, but they are fast with a good evasion ability for their ship class.


The original origin of the Smuggler design is unknown, however the current version is produced by half a dozen different manufacturers on the Core Worlds. The Smuggler is an odd mix between combat craft and civilian vessel. While it won't win a gunfight with a military ship, or move as much cargo as a dedicated hauler, there is apparently a large market for pilots that would like to do a little of both.

The foundation of the Smuggler is built around its engine system and cargo space. Unlike other ships of a similar size the Smuggler is built to handle with extreme weight for her size, expecting large amounts of cargo to be stashed within. Because of this designers gave up on focusing on straight up speed. Instead, the decision was made to focus on agility, allowing the ship to avoid incoming fire while looking for a good place to hide or to make it to a nav beacon to jump out of a system.

The rear fuselage has a semi circular design, allowing the craft to make quick lateral movements at a moments notice. The weakness of the design is that the full engine power can never be focused in a single direction. This does give a fully loaded Smuggler which is overdriving its engines the agility of a fighter craft, making them exceptionally hard to hit and able to maneuver through very small spaces. A smuggler can still outrun a larger capital ships that might carry boarding marines.

The lack of incredible speed and only a modest shield system meant that the design needed to account for the many smaller and faster fighter craft and escort the Smuggler might encounter. The weapons systems needed to be designed to take out smaller escorts and fighters quickly, as these are the craft that could give it the most trouble if it tried to run. The main armament of the Smuggler is a trio of Ripper Cannons. Ripper technology is not as sophisticated as lasers, but it excels at dealing high amounts of accurate damage at very close range. Almost useless against capital ships, the Ripper Cannons can make quick work of enemy fighters.

The Ripper Cannons are backed up by a Quad Light Autocannon Turret. Light Autocannons specialize at taking out smaller escort craft, and do give the Smuggler at least one weapon option to hurt larger prey. Autocannon turrets are often unreliable and subject to jamming, so often can only be used in short bursts. Still, the sudden amount of focused firepower can often surprise and disable an enemy escort. With sparse and judicious use of the autocannon turrets a Smuggler can stretch its limited ammo capacity for some time without needing to resupply.

The final weapon system on a Smuggler is a pair of Ion Guns. Ion technology drains shields and can disrupt engine systems. This weapon is often used offensively, to drop the shields of a civilian ship before boarding it. It can really excel, however, in the primary role of taking out smaller craft, as it can not only quickly drain the feeble shield output of smaller ships, but it also disrupts their computers and engines reducing their ability to dodge, making the other two weapon systems even more effective.

While only effective at short range and for short engagements, the overall weapon loadout of the Smuggler works perfectly for most pilots. It deals high burst damage against smaller targets that can't be outrun. The weapons are not designed for fighting against larger ships, but against larger enemies the Smuggler's speed and agility let it escape from most encounters.

Finally, the Smuggler packs one final trick up her proverbial sleeve. Most Smugglers come equipped with a small supply of sensor drone probes. Along with superior radar technology that already gives the Smuggler a larger detection range than most ships, the sensor drones allow a Smuggler to get a really clear picture of their surroundings. Whether used as sentry drones to cover a flank, or used offensively to spy on shipping lanes, the Smuggler with its sensor probes will typically give its crew a great deal of information of what threats they are facing, letting them plan the best mode of attack or escape.

All this does not come without some cost, however. The Smuggler is notorious for the amount of fuel it consumes, and this is made even worse when it is hauling cargo. Pilots find that they often are forced to return to a station or trading hub to store up on ammunition and fuel in between cargo runs. Also, because of the large engine drive train and ample cargo space, most Smugglers run on a very small crew. This has the effect of reducing the overall survivability of the ship as in a tough firefight critical personnel might become injured.

Overall, despite its downsides and hybrid nature, the Smuggler has endured as a smaller civilian hauler, a scout, and an anti-fighter specialist. There is no doubt that there will continue to be high demand for this ship across the galaxy.

Where there is access to a sophisticated civilian docking yard, you will find as many variations of the Smuggler as there are pilots and weapon systems to go with them. The Smuggler is a highly customizable craft. The only pieces of the design that are difficult to remove or modify is the unique engine system and the central shield coil.

On the Core Worlds, therefore, it is fair to say that probably no two Smugglers a pilot encounters will be quite the same. Out on the fringes of space, like the Frontier, where there is little access to advanced weaponry or shipyards, the majority of the Smugglers found will meet the "stock" design parameters.

Steel Shadows:
The Smuggler is one of the first units available to purchase. The Smuggler has three equipment slots and two crew slots allowing you to make further small customizations to fit your playstyle.
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September 18

Unit Preview - Gunship Heavy Fighter

One of the oldest, toughest fighter models ever designed. The gunship has found its way into almost every civilian and mercenary force. Standard loadouts feature twin Light Autocannons for ranged engagement, a Mini-Gun for short range dogfights, and a light torpedo for area damage. Gunships lack in mobility but excel in reliability with good armor and easy maintenance.

The gunship is one of the most popular designs ever manufactured by Icarus Industries. Despite recent advancement in weapons and shield technology the gunship remains a reliable favorite across the Frontier. The diverse weapons loadout and offensive focus makes these fighters the perfect compliment for a commander that is looking for firepower over speed.

The gunship is especially deadly against Escort class vessels, making it the ideal counter to the more common system patrol boats. The port mounted torpedo tubes and high offensive output also allow the gunship to deal decent damage to larger capital ships. The gunship is more vulnerable to lightning quick hit and run tactics employed by lighter fighters.

The original heavy fighter designed in the space faring era was the Gemini heavy fighter. Produced on Mars and every Core World, the Gemini was the most available and cheapest combat unit available to any government or fleet. The fighter featured a dual cockpit design, with both forward mounted weapons and a single dorsal turret. This allowed one pilot to focus on navigation and the second to focus on the turret systems and fire control.

The Gemini performed well for its time. It did suffer from several problems, however. In many engagements the turret system was unnecessary. Also the two pilot requirement was seen as more of a burden than an advantage. If one pilot died the ship was often flown solo anyway. Finally, the older weapons used in the Gemini design had neither the range or hitting power of the newer naval based Autocannons.

With the eventual development of shield technology the weaknesses of the Gemini meant that it was just a matter of time before a rival design took its place. Icarus industries at the time had mostly made a name for itself creating merchant and colony ships, and the heads of the company were eager to dip into the military market to expand their reach. Icarus developed the Gunship heavy fighter, and it quickly became one of the most common ships across the galaxy.

The first change Icarus made was to drop the dual cockpit design, opting instead to use the extra space for an additional weapons system. The entire frame of the chassis was reinforced with extra ceramic and steel, giving the Gunship incredible survivability even when it had sustained heavy damage. Finally, and critically, Icarus incorporated a native shield generation system, which was a novel idea at the time.

The firepower was also enhanced. A naval light autocannon was considered too large a weapon to be mounted on a fighter, but Icarus found a way. By reducing the ammo capacity and reworking the feed mechanism Icarus was able to make a fighter sized version of the weapon. Autocannon's were becoming the standard for larger ship engagements, but often proved too slow to effectively deal with fighters. To account for this a pair of Miniguns were placed under the cockpit, allowing the Gunship to put out incredible amounts of short range firepower with the speed needed to track lighter fighters. Finally, the former cockpit bay was filled with a single fire torpedo tube. The chassis did not allow for more ammunition, but most pilots found a way to work with the single shot design.

The result was a fighter with unrivaled toughness and firepower. The shield system backed up by the increased armor made the Gunship as tough as some light escorts. There was a price to be paid for this, however. The mobility of the fighter was greatly hampered. Furthermore, the additional burden placed on the engines meant that the Gunship required a much larger engine housing even though it gained no agility. It was ultimately not possible to incorporate the same turret system that was standard with the previous Gemini.

With the Gunship design being well more than a century old, there has been plenty of time for variation. Maintenance on the ship is relatively simple, and over time different pilots have been known to make their own modifications.

Prime Pattern
The main variation of the Gunship was an upgrade made with the development of newer targeting computers. The Gunship's original onboard computer systems proved compatible with the newer design, and while the extra gear made the cockpit more cramped, most pilots preferred the tradeoff for additional accuracy to the weapons.

With a targeting computer in place the standard light autocannon became even more effective. In addition, newer lighter torpedo systems meant that some gunships were able to mount a second or even a third torpedo, for surprise backup firepower. The shield system and Miniguns remained unchanged.

Mustang Pattern
Torpedoes can ultimately be quite expensive, especially for merchant cartels that used Gunships as escorts. As such, more civilian forces ended up finding the torpedo mounting to be wasted space.

A common civilian configuration was to drop the torpedo pod completely and using the additional chassis space for booster rockets and a larger engine. This gave the gunship more maneuverability at the cost of firepower.

The variation did not catch on more widely, however. Even with the increased horsepower the Gunship was still painfully slow compared to other light fighters. Ultimately a little more speed for a slow ship was not worth the loss in torpedo firepower for most pilots.

Scorpion Pattern
One of the newest variations of the Gunship is also one of the most rare and least versatile. With the new development of Rail Gun technology, some enterprising pilots found a way to mount a smaller version of the Rail Gun in place of the autocannon mounts.

The results have been decidedly mixed. To make room for the increased energy requirements of the weapon the torpedo mount also had to be converted. In addition, due to the size constraints of the fighter the reloading mechanism was surprisingly slow and subject to jamming.

This variation ultimately has only the Rail Gun with a long range but very slow rate of fire, and retains the two backup miniguns. While deadly in an alpha strike, especially in a group, this variation has led to more destroyed and captured Gunships than any other. Rare and unpopular except with the most gambling of pilots.

Outrigger Pattern
The Outrigger engineers, as is often the case, have made the largest advances to Gunship design. The Outrigger variation has greatly upgraded the shield capacity of the fighter, as well installing a much more efficient converter system resulting in greater shield regen from the natural burn of the engines. In addition, upgrades to the core engine system allows for a much smaller fuel burn compared to other versions.

In addition the Outriggers have installed their own computer systems and sensor suites, resulting in much greater sensor range, including limited stealth detection. All of these upgrades have been made without any compromise to the basic firepower.

The result is a ship that is even tougher and able to operate independently away from a base for extended periods of time. Along with the increased sensor data, this variation is superior in almost every way. The Outriggers jealously guard their technological advances, however, and so this pattern can only be found used by their fleets.

Ion Pattern
Used primarily by Pirate fleets, the Ion Pattern Gunship was popular for several decades but has since fallen out of use.

The main change of the Ion pattern was to replace the torpedo system with a primitive ion gun. The ion guns are especially good against shields, and allowed the gunship to easily strip the shielding of targets making the ships easier to board (or destroy outright). Ion cannons paired with autocannons were very deadly in a wide variety of combat situations.

The variation had problems. The static fields caused by the ion weapons would consistently short out the targeting computers. Given the small size of the fighter chassis, there was no way to adequately shield the computer systems from the destructive power of the ion weapons that were installed so closely. Because of this most pirate pilots would choose to drop the advanced sensor and targeting computers completely.

Ultimately the newer designed Pirate Raider fighter was designed with the limitations of the Ion weaponry in mind. Due to this the Raider proved to be the superior ion fighter, and pirates that continued to use the gunship mostly went back to the original loadout with a torpedo and autocannons. There are still a very small number of the Ion Pattern gunships in use.

Steel Shadows:
The Gunship is one of the first units available to purchase. The player has access to the Prime Pattern, featuring one of the strongest loadouts with autocannons and a single shot torpedo, a significant amount of firepower for such a cheap ship. The Gunship also has three equipment slots allowing you to make further small customizations to fit your playstyle.

Will you survive the frontier?
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About This Game

A new chapter in the world of Ancient Frontier!

Steel Shadows is a standalone RPG set in the epic universe of Ancient Frontier. You do NOT need to own or have played Ancient Frontier to enjoy this content. Take command of a rag tag band of pirates and outlaws as you fight your way across the Frontier for treasure and glory. Delve into our latest turn based tactical RPG.

You play as Rogan Harker, a recently freed convict. He travels to the Frontier to find old friends and start a new life. But the overpowering Federation still controls most of the Frontier, and the new and budding Alliance is no fan of outlaws. Hated and feared, the pirate life is one of constant danger. Friends and allies are hard to find and harder still to keep. Beset on all sides can Rogan find fame and fortune with his fledgling pirate fleet?

  • A full campaign with over 20 story missions
  • Over 50 procedurally generated side missions
  • Dynamic initiative-based turn-based combat
  • Purchase, outfit and control the unique Pirate faction ships
  • Hire and assign crew members that gain experience and power along with your ships
  • Hidden unique mercenaries and ships to add to your fleet
  • Experience over 50 random events
  • Customize your play style by unlocking technologies in an extensive Tech Tree
  • Large, detailed space maps to fight across
  • Three different strategic resources to manage
  • Dozens of different weapon systems and abilities to control
  • Includes both free DLCs; Ancient Frontier - The Crew and Ancient Frontier - Quests and Events

Will you survive the frontier?

Do you like Steel Shadows? Check out the original Ancient Frontier for more!

System Requirements

    • OS: Windows XP or newer (may not work on all 32 bit systems)
    • Memory: 8 GB RAM
    • Graphics: Must be able to display 1024x768 resolution or higher.
    • Storage: 8 GB available space
    • Additional Notes: Ensure your Microsoft Visual C++ Libraries are up to date if you get runtime errors.
    • OS: Windows 10 (64 bit)
    • Memory: 16 GB RAM
    • Storage: 8 GB available space
    • Additional Notes: Ensure your Microsoft Visual C++ Libraries are up to date if you get runtime errors.
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