by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
I must admit, I have a soft spot for pirate-based games. The original Sid Meier’s Pirates! was probably the game that got me hooked all those years ago and there have been numerous pirate games since that have kept me entertained. When King of Seas came along, I was curious…it seemed to have all the hallmarks of a classic pirate game…sailing, broadsides, and a touch of humour. But would it be able to live up to the past classics?
Long live the king…oh no!!
King of Seas starts with players choosing from one of the two heirs to the current King of Seas. After selecting their preferred option, players are initially given a simple task at a nearby town. But while your character is completing the journey, disaster strikes - the king is murdered. And wouldn’t you know it, it is your character who has been accused of the deed. The commander of the Royal Navy then sets out to hunt you down and bring justice for the regicide. The navy commander attacks and destroys your ship and heads back to the palace believing that you are dead.
Luckily, you are found alive by some pirates and are taken to the hidden pirate haven, where pirates had been hiding from the dead king after piracy had been outlawed years ago. Despite knowing who you are and that it was your father who had continued to hunt down pirates from his waters, they take you in as one of their own, and it is here that you begin your journey.
Initially armed with a small three-gun sloop, you will earn fame by completing the main storyline as well as numerous side quests that you can accept at taverns within each port, putting your sailing and combat skills to the test against the royal navy (who is now being run by the former King’s right-hand man) and anyone who would dare to attack you.
Although there is a main story, King of Seas is largely a sandbox style game akin to the aforementioned Sid Meier’s Pirates with players able to play the game however they see fit. There are three factions in King of Seas – Pirates (your allies), Royal Navy (your enemies), and Merchants (neutral). If players want to attack the ships and towns of the merchant faction, they can do so. It does have consequences though, as the Merchant towns may begin firing on you as you cruise past. If players want to play as a peaceful trader and buy and sell goods for a profit, that is an option too. No matter how you play, there are several environmental dangers that you must watch out for. Rocks that jut out of the sea, volcanoes that spew fiery rocks if you sail too close, and even giant sea monsters that whack you with their tentacles, are to be avoided.
Our hero gains experience through completing quests, rescuing stranded sailors, collecting loot that has fallen off the back of a ship or washed up on shore, and of course, destroying and pillaging enemy ships. In an RPG style, this experience gain points for our avatar and gaining enough points will result in increasing in level. Upon levelling up, players are rewarded with Talents, that can be spent on buffs and improvements to your ships and skills.
King of Seas is playable on both keyboard and controller, although I found the latter to be the better option. Sailing is simply a matter of using the left thumbstick to control the direction, whilst the right and left bumpers raise and lower the sails respectively. These controls get you from A to B but won’t help in ship-to-ship combat. By default, ships have sets of guns on each side and these are fired by using the left and right triggers.
Role playing pirate
As gamers progress, they’ll be able to loot or purchase special weapons. Four groups of special weapons can be gained and are activated using the XYAB buttons. These special weapons are cool fantastical powers, such as a shark that circles an enemy ship and reduces their crew, or a whirlpool that traps a foe in a circular motion for a short period of time, allowing you to bombard them or flee if that is your goal. The ship hull, sails and cannons can also be upgraded when looted from enemy ships or when purchased form a carpenter in a port.
Visiting friendly towns is an important aspect in King of Seas. The carpenter, as well as upgrading ships, can also repair ant damage from recent broadsides, and in the case of the pirate haven at Eagle’s Den, allows the player to buy a new ship. Whether you want a flute with a large hold, or a heavily armed but slow galleon, or a frigate with ample power and speed will depend on your goal. My favourite was the latter. Although it was expensive, it does allow for the power and speed to take on most enemy ships and ports.
Visually, King of Seas is somewhat reminiscent of the remake of Sid Meier’s Pirates. The calm blue waters ripple as you sail over them towards the tropical settlements alive with palm trees. The sounds of hammering and sawing when in town gives the impression that towns are bustling. Seagulls and blowing winds whilst at sea combined with day and night cycles further enhance this feeling. The main story and most of the quests are told via cartoon characters, many with comical appearances. All dialogue is written, and for many of the side quests does become repetitious, which had me wishing there were a skip function. The background music is somewhat repetitive as well, but provides for a serious tone when required, with a couple of the melodies having a dramatic Marvel style tune. Other tunes are jauntier and lively keeping the tone of the game upbeat.
Shivering the timbers
Like many of my piratical favourites, King of Seas doesn’t take itself too seriously, and as a result makes it a fun game for casual players. My main gripe is that the side quests aren’t varied enough and do get a touch monotonous. Unfortunately, they are the quickest way to gaining experience when grinding through the levels is required. But that said, sailing across the map is a relaxing experience, with King of Seas allowing would-be-pirates to play the game their own way. Simple controls, and fun story, and enjoyable gameplay mean that it is a game for all wannabe swashbucklers.
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Simple controls, players can play their own style
Simple controls, players can play their own style