Smugglers 3 hearkens back to an earlier generation of 4X space exploration and conquest games. In a way, it's the sort of game I might have played on my old Apple II--but of course much prettier graphics.
You're a starship captain during an interstellar civil war, belonging to one of four factions in the war. Your primary activities involve trading (including smuggling illegal goods, if you so choose); accepting combat missions in support of your faction; or becoming a pirate and attacking planets. As usual in games like this, you start off with a tiny ship, and progress is mainly in the form of earning enough money and rising in rank so that you can get bigger and better ships.
It's primarily a point and click game; the screen shows planets in your system and jumpgates to nearby systems. You travel by selecting a planet and double-clicking on it. Trading means opening a window and selecting a good--the price of that good on nearby planets is showsn on the screen, which at least eliminates the tedium of many similar games that require you to explore to find out prices elsewhere. Accepting a combat mission requires you to dock and visit the governor, while buying equipment takes you to the shipyard.
In short, this is a game that could be carried in text, but is dressed up by very nicely painted static graphics. There's nothing like action here; even combat is a matter of choosing the range to your opponent you wish to maintain, and selecting what weapons or defensive equipment to use each turn.
Where Smugglers 3 shines, however, is in the over-arching story of the war, reported to you periodically. As you become powerful enough to participate meaningfully in the war (by, e.g., capturing enemy planets), you get a real sense of being involved in and having a real impact on a star-spanning conflict.