by Lord Badger
The pirate theme is an obvious setting for games so why is it so hard to get a decent pirate game? The legend, the mythos, the characters all seem pre-built for gaming yet we have extremely few decent pirate games made! The only ones that pop to mind are Sea of Thieves, which I haven’t played due to not having an Xbox ( I wish it would come to PS5 so much!) and Sid Meier’s Pirates that came out all the way back in 1987 and we remade in 2004! Seeing a big gap in the market, and possibly riding on the success of Sea of Thieves, Team 17 join the fray with their new title King of Seas.
It has been many years since the pirate menace was subdued in a massive war and the King of the Seas has maintained a fragile peace across the oceans. You begin your adventure as the king’s child and heir, Choose between his son Lucky or his daughter Marylou.
It is your birthday and you are coming of age. To prove your worth you are tasked with taking command of a ship for a simple delivery. As you are returning from the mission an ominous purple phenomenon fills the sky above the planet and news breaks that the king has been murdered.
For absolutely no reason at all and in a narrative twist that makes no sense what so ever you are suspected of killing your father and the navy sinks your ship as you return home. Luckily you survive and are found floating on wreckage by a couple of zany pirates. You begin your life as a pirate and attempt to clear your name so that you can take your rightful place as King of the Seas.
Off to a good start. Decent enough story that introduce you to the world and gives you a struggle as well as purpose…unfortunatley decent enough is a phrase I will use a lot during this review.
Everything in King of Seas takes place on your ship. You never actually control your character or even have dialogue choices to make. When you visit one of the multiple ports in King of Seas you interact via a simple menu. Even though you visit dozens of towns you never get to see them or walk around them.
With the vast majority of King of Seas takes place …well, at sea. I found the controls for the ship are incredibly well done. Steering is smooth. Dropping and raising sails to increase/decrease speed is a simple trigger press and is intuitive. So much so that when you get into battles with other ships, rather than just circling each other and firing off cannons it actually becomes quite tactical.
Making a pass along the side of a ship and unleashing a full spread of cannons is fine but then suddenly dropping all sails, making a sharp turn before deploying full sails to power out of the turn means you not only avoid incoming cannon fire but get the advantage over your opponent.
Being able to outmanoeuvre your opponent isn’t all that here is to the battles in King of Seas. Oh no. Your ship has three health bars (Crew, sails and hull) The health bar of your crew drops and your cannons reload slower and you won’t be able to fire at all if it depletes. The more your sails health decreases the slower your ship can move and turn to put you at a great tactical disadvantage. Finally, lose all the health in your hull bar and you find yourself sinking to the bottom of the deep blue sea along with your ship.
Every aspect of your ship can be upgraded too. From the figurehead to the quarter-deck, The sails, crew, cannons and more. All can be replaced and upgraded to give you more health, armour, bonuses and abilities. These upgrades use the tried and tested and RPG method of colour coding items for the rarity ( white through to orange. White is common orange os legendary… you know the score). This does serve to give the impression of an RPG title and when tied into your captain talents goes a fair way in doing so.
Captain talents are unlocked after level 10. You receive one talent point per level and can unlock a whole plethora of talents across three sections. These talents do have a noticeable effect on the gameplay too. Whether it is more XP from missions or regenerating health to the hull during daytime. You do notice the effects of different builds.
SO far so good right? King of Seas is sounded like a pretty decent pirate game, right? Well unfortunately this is where it goes wrong…trading.
You obviously can’t have a pirate game without trading. King of seas keeps it simple there are only a few items to trade-in. Wood, Pelican eggs, Rubies, Chicken Legs, Medicine, Repair kits, Candies and of course Rum. Each port will produce a large amount of one item (therefore buying for a low price) and a low amount of one item ( therefore paying over the odds when buying from you)
This simplified trading system would be great…if you actually had a trading menu. I’m not wanting something in-depth and complicated just a simple menu that shows the sale and buy price of items in port when you last visited it. Now you may get there and the price has changed since you last visited which is fair enough.
The omission of a simple trading menu is a massive mistake and is glaring in its absence during the game. Most of the time you find yourself filling your ships cargo hold and sailing around the map aimlessly in the hope of finding a port that pays well. The addition of a trading menu or record would enable you to plan a trading voyage and be more efficient with your time.
While I am on the subject of time, King of Seas is a pretty slow game. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Since you are at sea most of your time will be taken up by sailing from one port to another and while time-consuming can in fact be relaxing and calming. Although I wouldn’t expect mammoth gaming sessions on this title. While it is chilled and relaxing it can become monotonous after two or three hours.
King of Seas comes across as a bit of an early access release. It has the core of a good game but it missing quite a bit of polish. The battles, ship upgrades, weapons and talents are all brilliant. The trading system is merely missing a simple trading menu that would make the world of difference to the game.
While the story is adequate I would like to see some dialogue choices that affect how the story plays out instead of having dialogue pop up on screen and tell me what to do and where to go. Having the story progress in this manner makes you feel somewhat disconnected from the main character.
Another gripe is the map itself. No matter how much you sail around and discover new ports they will never be included on your map unless you stop at the cartographer outside each port and buy a map. Now I like the idea of buying maps from the cartographer but these should be for extras such as treasure maps or shipwrecks etc. Instead, they are a single visit, one use only required to fill in your map.
Like I said at the beginning of this review, King of seas is decent enough and at £19.99 is fairly well priced. It just feels like an early access title. Add a trading menu, rejig the purpose of the cartographer and add some dialogue choices and you have a bloody good pirate game here. It is just a shame that those mechanics that are lacking are so obvious it ruins the enjoyment of everything King of Seas does well.