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June 2024

King Of Seas

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Team17
Release Date: May 25, 2021

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PC Review - 'King of Seas'

by Andreas Salmen on July 6, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

King of Seas is an Action Role playing game set in a deadly procedurally generated pirate world.

A pirate's life is a dangerous affair, but it's never dull — except when it is. King of Seas is an isometric pirate adventure game with basic RPG and economy mechanics set in a procedurally generated open world. From open-sea pirate battles to finding treasure , most of what one would expect from a pirate game is present. Alas, King of Seas cannot quite execute its ambitious vision, as the game is frequently limited by shallow gameplay mechanics and a lot of grinding. We reviewed the game on the PC, but King of Seas is also available for the Nintendo Switch, PS4 and Xbox One.

King of Seas has a story to tell, and it's not a bad one. Taking the role of the heir to the throne, our young protagonist (either male or female) is cast out as a traitor after their father's death and is subsequently adopted by pirates. Your goal is to live a pirate's life, figure out who killed your father, and reclaim the throne. The kingdom is trying to rid itself of both pirates and voodoo magic, so if you were hoping for a pure pirate experience, that addition might not be to your liking. The story presentation is lackluster. While I can live without voice acting, the game renders characters in a crayon art style with over-simplified gestures and dialogue that both seem intended for younger players. Quests usually advance the story, but the presentation is so unengaging that I started skipping the dialogue. Thankfully, the rest of the experience is more solid.

After a few tutorial missions, you are largely left on your own. The "Eagle's Den" pirate HQ is the starting and respawn point, and the rest is up to you. From the get-go, you can pick up main quests and side-quests from various settlements and islands, engage in sea battles, or trade for goods. Most of what the game has to offer is introduced quickly, but that also takes away some of the excitement of making progress.

Since this is an isometric pirate game, Sid Meier's Pirates would be an easy comparison point, but King of Seas is not quite what I'd call a spiritual successor. At its heart, King of Pirates is mostly an arcade experience that stretches its sometimes-shallow gameplay over long stretches of grinding. Quests are a good example, since the main quests and side-quests feature repeating tasks, a lot of which involve simple fetch and collectible missions or sea battles. They're entertaining enough for the first couple of hours, but they feel uninspired over time.

More importantly, navigating to quest locations is often more tedious than it should be. There are no direction indicators, markers, or maps readily available in the UI. If you want to know where you should be going, you have to locate the quest in your log, activate it, and then open a separate map to see your current location and the destination. That means you need to repeatedly pause the game, pull up the map, continue moving, and rinse and repeat. I like when games make navigation more challenging, but this is inconvenient, and I hope it's addressed in a future update.

Sea battles are what you'll want to engage with the most; it's a pirate game, after all. There are multiple ship types to unlock over time, and each ship has a full inventory system that holds our gear that can be swapped out and installed in any port that has a carpenter. New hulls, crew, cannons, and masts have a meaningful impact on your battle prowess, which sometimes seems to make things harder. You earn XP and receive skill points to improve your stats, but the improvements are rarely more exciting than a few percentage increases here or there.

You'll naturally encounter other ships; some will automatically engage you, and others will avoid you until there's no other option. Enemies and you have a level that seems like the main way to gauge if you would be fairly matched in battle, but that's a red herring. You'll get obliterated by opponents that are significantly under your level but are equipped with way better gear. It's not necessarily unbalanced (though it can often feel that way), but it makes it difficult to judge if you should engage in a battle.

If you had hoped that King of Seas would fulfill your pirate power fantasy of being a feared and unbeatable force to be reckoned with, you'll be disappointed. You'll eventually get a price on your head and will appear on the wanted rankings, but you never reach those heights — without substantial grinding beyond the point of fun.

Battles have some strategy around wind direction and moving around your opponents, but that is often undermined because randomly firing cannons on either side of your ship sometimes seems to be just as effective. Mostly, NPC AI is abysmal, and enemies make easy targets as long as you are well equipped and leveled, since they rarely do more than blindly follow you. It can still get challenging, though. The game has five difficulty levels, the two highest of which are locked when you start, so there's a challenge if you seek it, but that doesn't correct its other shortcomings. There are some interesting voodoo skills you can use in battle, but you'll likely repeat the same skills since seem much more powerful than others.

The game world of King of Seas can feel rather empty and unexciting. There is more to do, and while it's reasonably engaging, it wears off over time. Except for collectibles, random ships that want to fight, and tentacles of a sea monster reaching for you, there's not much in terms of interesting events in the world to make the journey interesting. You'll spend a lot of time moving around; completing repeating quests; checking your map; and picking up random chests, loot or fish from the sea.

It's serviceable and fun in short bursts, but the progression and repetition hurt the title the most. Every death brings you back to your spawn point, so if you failed a mission on the other side of the map, that means you must move at the game's agonizingly slow travel speed over the whole map again. There are missions where you have to fight specific ship types, but then you spend long stretches without seeing a single one.

The game requires you to acquire new ship types, and even though the game showers you with currency, buying all of the ships can take ages. It starts with a rather reasonable entry price of 10K for the first ship but quickly jumps to 100K and other roadblocks that aren't easy or quick to accomplish. It's this slow progression that hurts the game the most, since the repetitive gameplay can't support it.

On a technical level, King of Seas works well. I enjoy its simplistic art style, and it ran well, but it evidently isn't a game targeted for the PC. Mouse controls are entirely not supported, not even in its menus, and its frame rate is locked to 60fps. It's perfectly playable, and we did not encounter any bugs or performance issues, but I'd expect the mouse to be usable in menus for ease of navigation. I would have also appreciated a way to adjust the camera settings, which are currently fixed in a single position. Sound and music are not up to par, either. Some decently catchy tunes repeat far too often due to a limited selection of tracks that quickly get boring.

Overall, King of Seas is a serviceable action-RPG with a pirates theme that is intended for a more casual audience. Its mechanics are solid, and the title is entertaining enough for short bursts of gameplay, but its grindy and repetitive nature quickly takes the wind out of its sails. Some of my complaints are certainly fixable in future updates, at which point I imagine the game to be a solid option for those who yearn for a decent but simplistic pirate life simulator. For now, I'd steer clear until some changes are implemented, or you can wait for a substantial sale.

Score: 6.7/10

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