Review: King of Seas

What is it about being a pirate that is just amazing? Every game, film, everything makes being a pirate sound amazing. Even Captain Philips has that great quote despite pirates being the bad guys: “I am the Captain now”.

In King of Seas, you do get to be the captain now. A navy militia is led by your father, the King (of Seas) but he is murdered. The Government assume you did it based on some dubious intel, and decide to group cannon barrage you to death at sea without so much as a trial.

Fortunately, you’re rescued by a band of pirates – formerly the bad guys but it turns out, just misunderstood. They have a code, you see, and part of that code does not like injustice – so will help you to discover who killed your father, and right the wrongs that were done to you. This is done primarily by doing little missions for them, and killing the navy outright as you please.

The story is introduced by a nice little voiceover video, then it’s on to cartoon, hand-drawn characters and on-screen text for the rest of the adventure which was a bit of a shame but they’re nicely presented. Almost everything you do grants you XP, which lets you level up and earn currency to upgrade and buy new ships. 

Sailing around, before you even get to collect stuff, the realisation hits that sailing takes time. The bumper buttons account for the addition or removal of a sail at a time to increase or decrease speed, then it’s just waiting till you get to your destination. Sadly there are no shanties which is a real missed opportunity, but the piratey music is quite nice. 

You soon find bits and pieces in the sea; schools of fish to get, wreckages, people to rescue. There is quite a bustling economic dynamic at trade posts, which changes based on your relationship, reputation and availability of goods at each. The game warns you to take note of this, as you could be selling some things for less than you would elsewhere, but very quickly I had so much gold and so little patience for sailing around to monitor prices, I wasn’t that fussed.

Most of these interactions with quest givers, trading posts are through menus that seem a bit too heavily laden for what they need to be. It works, but it’s a nicer game when it’s out on the sea rather than buried in the UI.

Out on the sea then, sadly the depth doesn’t really translate to the action. Sailing, as mentioned is fairly slow, and combat is limited to firing various types of bullets left or right. Which is fine, enjoyable, but does turn into repeated ‘sailing in circles and first to die’ affairs. Specials powers mix things up a bit, using voodoo powers (it’s explained in the plot, long story) you can equip powers to four face buttons. You get the ability to breathe fire from the front of your ship pretty early, which is helpful. 

It does make for some fun strategy moments, whereby you may for example take out a treasure ship’s escort, only to have to race it before it gets to port safety before you can sink it without defence, although as I discovered, treasure ships also pack some pretty powerful guns.

It’s a fun enough game overall. It’s procedurally generated, although this seems limited to side-quests and the placement of various islands on the map (which I’m not really convinced it needed to be). Annoyingly, when you get a new quest, the waypoint is buried in your map so you’re constantly switching screens to check where you’re going, but once learned it gets a bit easy anyway. I’m not convinced there’s quite enough game here to keep you going for hours and hours, but it’s fun for a bit.

Reviewed on PS4

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