Ever wanted to be a swashbuckling Pirate Captain? Ever wanted to sail the Seven Seas and bring a reign of terror to merchant and Navy ships alike? Well, King of Seas is the game for you if that is something you ever thought of. Albeit there is a slight twist to the tale. Developer 3D Clouds and Publisher Team 17 have teamed up to release King of Seas across all major consoles and PC, and gamers are in for an enjoyable adventure.
Players start out with a simple choice between characters. Marylou and Luky. These characters are the King of Sea’s children and depending on which one you pick, they will be your playable character for the rest of the game. The game kicks off with the player embarking on their very first mission as a ship captain. It’s a simple delivery mission but things escalate rather quickly after that.
On your way back from the delivery mission, something happens that would be considered to be quite a big spoiler so it’s best it’s not talked about. Fast forward a little bit and you’ll find yourself in Eagle’s Den, an abandoned base of operations. At your new base you’ll slowly get to grips with the rest of the game’s mechanics by means of some rather easy main missions. These missions will teach you the basics of King of Seas combat, exploration and trading. Soon enough, you’ll be out exploring the vast sea world and will slowly start to build up your gold reserves.
Missions in King of Seas are split between the main questline and side missions. Side missions can be picked up from any of the ports, towns or villages found in the King of Seas world. These missions fall into simple categories. Delivery quests, escorts quests or warfare quests. Deliveries are simple and involve transporting a required item to another location. These tend to reward you with a lot of other items which can then be used for future deliveries or be sold at a merchant. It’s formulaic but it works. Escort quests involve simply escorting another ship to a destination. And lastly warfare quests involve taking out a specific ship, usually one from the Royal Navy.
Main missions have the added benefit of advancing the storyline of King of Seas which is fairly interesting but nothing absolutely mind-blowing. There’s lots of trope-filled writing but the game’s story quests do keep you going.
King of Seas’ gameplay is where the game is ultimately let down. Sailing your ship is incredibly easy. Players will raise their sails and aim their ship where they want to go. The sails will increase your speed based on the direction in which the wind is blowing. Sail with the wind blowing into your sails and your speed will increase. Sail against the wind and you’ll still move forward but at a much slower pace.
Combat in King of Seas involves pressing either the left or right trigger on your controller to fire cannons that are positioned on the left or side right side of your ship. You can change the cannon ammunition you’re firing too which allows for shorter- or longer-range damage or hull-based damage. Swapping between the different ammo types in combat is essential to victory since you’ll be facing off against various different enemy ships that may or may not be larger than your own.
Combat in King of Seas can be likened to a dance. Players will circle around enemy ships firing their left or right cannons while enemy ships try to do the same thing to you. The wind, your sails deployed, your steering, your cannons and ammo type all need to be taken into account in combat. Additionally, later on in the game players will unlock special abilities. These abilities can range from fairly basic abilities such as deploying crew to board an enemy ship and loot it, to firing off a flamethrower to torch an enemy vessel. The special abilities add a great additional layer to the combat which makes it less tedious and a lot more enjoyable.
Players will gain experience points and level up by completing missions and other in-game activities. You can also fish and loot abandoned shipwrecks or land-based treasures. There’s a lot of side content on offer in the game to keep you busy and there’s harder difficulty modes which alter the amount of bounty you get too. However, King of Seas falters because of a couple of design decisions which firmly entrench some dated, formulaic aspects into its core gameplay loop.
Moving your ship across the vast ocean means that there’s be times where you’ll be staring at the screen just waiting for your ship to navigate to a distant, far off locale. This isn’t exactly fun and just comes across as time consuming. Players will eventually be able to earn enough gold to purchase bigger vessels but this further reinforces the grindy nature of doing repetitive side missions.
Discovering new parts of the map is also tied to finding cartographer outposts and paying a sizeable portion of gold to buy a map. The map is divided into smaller blocks and finding the cartographer just to purchase tiny segments adds further to the grindy nature of the game. Early on, it’s quite easy to get lost too since the map will be rather blank and you won’t be able to afford purchasing map pieces. This problem is alleviated later on in the game when you’re a higher level and have lots more gold available. However, the fact that your ship still moves rather slow is a big problem when the game world is so large.
Speaking to the cartographer each time you find an outpost of his becomes annoying quite fast in King of Seas. This is because he doesn’t have anything new to tell you apart from the fact that he’s selling you a map. Players will be hammering away at the confirm button just to purchase the map and move on. The same can be said about accepting side quests since accepting one will trigger a cutscene which becomes generic and repetitive after you’ve done enough of the same type of quest.
Upgrading your ship with new parts is fun and finding new loot is rewarding up until a certain point where the grind sets in. Players will have a talent tree which they can spend talent points gained from levelling up in. Talents in the talent tree augment your ship’s capabilities and help out quite a lot. Disappointingly however, players will throw everything they can into the movement speed and experience point talents early on in the game when the realisation that the game is quite a grind and slow-paced sets in.
Graphically, King of Seas is an extremely good-looking title. The art style is vibrant, colourful, and cartoony. The game has really visually pleasing weather effects and there’s a day and night cycle too. Ships look great and thankfully change based on the equipment you have installed on them such as different sails or mastheads and hulls. Mind-bogglingly, there is no photo mode in the game which is quite a missed opportunity given how aesthetically pleasing everything looks. Players are also locked into a fixed camera viewpoint which can only zoom in or out. Not being able to rotate the camera freely is another massive design flaw.
The soundtrack in King of Seas is rather lacklustre too. The main theme and battle theme is fine but there are plenty of moments when playing the game where the game is just filled with large stretches of silence from a musical perspective. When you’re traversing the large open seas, not having a musical masterpiece playing throughout makes you rather aware of how tedious the voyages truly are. Some sea shanties or more tracks which played while sailing would have immensely helped the game and bring more immersion to the players. There’s also no voice acting whatsoever in the game and that’s a big misstep given that there’s quite a lot of text when receiving new quests.
King of Seas is a solid indie title. It’s going to sell well given its vibrant eye-catching aesthetic but it’s also a remarkably “Average” title once you’ve sunk enough time into it. The game takes too long to get going and even when it does, it’s bogged down by traditional design elements which keep it from excelling. If 3D Clouds can take a good look at the game they’ve created and tweak it with additional content that alleviates the grindy aspects and slow traversal speeds, they’ll have a title that can be highly recommended. This is not a bad game but one that could be so much more given a little more polish.
Publishers: 3DClouds, Team17
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PC
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