Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
King of Seas is an enjoyable, if flawed, action RPG from the folks over at 3DClouds. Taking on the role of either the son or daughter of the King of Seas, you’ll strike out in a lowly schooner to build wealth and support in your quest to reclaim your stolen kingdom. Though it may not be a blood-pumping, high-seas action title, King of Seas has an abundance of character that keeps bringing me back for more.
While the story may be juvenile and performance questionable at times, King of Seas is nonetheless an enjoyable escape into the wild seas. Featuring procedural generation that helps keep the explorers in you interested and a living world that reacts to your decisions, from piracy to trading, the world truly does feel alive. Pair the sense of exploration and piracy with an enchantingly simple combat system and King of Seas has a low barrier to entry while maintaining replayability.
Set in a fictional tropical archipelago, King of Seas greatest reason for replayability lies in its procedural generation- each game you load will be different and given the focus on exploration, is reason enough to continue coming back for more. Gorgeous blue seas and lush tropical islands hold countless treasures, from gold to tradeable goods to consumables to equippable items, so make sure you spend the time seeking out these hidden treasure troves! Beware, though, as the Royal Navy and Pirates are out in full force to take your booty and make it their own.
With its enchanting art style, it’s hard not to just wander the world searching for more loot and as you do, you’ll inevitably be drawn into battle. Though combat is relatively simple, there are some interesting elements to it- there are three different types of cannons; those that hit the mast (and doing so reduces an enemy’s speed), then there are those that aim for the crew (to reduce the enemy’s combat effectiveness), and lastly, those that hit the hull itself (which is how you sink a ship).
Adding a slight layer of complexity to it is that there are two “sides” to your weapons- left and right (or for the more nautically-minded, “port” and “starboard” respectively) and each are controlled with the left and right triggers. This method of broadside nautical combat often leads to circle-strafing so you can always keep your guns on an enemy, however, one on one naval battles seem relatively rare, especially as you become more renowned as a pirate (as your bounty will rise, enticing more plunderers and bounty hunters to come after you).
There have been a number of battles that I’ve managed to survive in the smaller, faster ships as I was able to weave through battle lines made up of more powerful, and slower, enemies, firing left then right (often aiming for the masts to slow them down). In addition to your three types of cannons, you can install special weapons that are placed at the bow of the ship; one of the first ones that you get is a flamethrower and it is an absolute hoot to use and has saved my bacon more than once.
Combat, either as a pirate trying to flee a more powerful force, or as a bounty hunter out to make their mark on the world, isn’t the only method of making sweet, sweet cash money dollars! What manner of pirate game would King of Seas be if you couldn’t build your own trade empire? As an alternative method to combat, trading is a satisfying and if you play your cards right, rewarding endeavor that slows down the pace a bit and allows you to relax out on the open seas. Sure, you’ll have your share of plunderers that you’ll need to defend against, but trading is largely a more calm and quiet method to make some bank. Fortunately the single player campaign, though not exactly robust or deep, gives you plenty of side content to do as it introduces you slowly to trade, combat, looting/fishing, and exploration.
A few of the primary “issues” I had with King of Seas are largely superficial- on an Xbox One X pushing 4k it can get a bit choppy a times, but when playing it on a 1080p TV, I had no issue or stuttering throughout the dozen or so hours I played at that resolution. The biggest issue that I had, though, was with the menu wheel – it’s not the most accurate and there are far, far too many options on a single wheel. While it’s neat that the menu fits into the helm of a ship, there are a dozen or so options on the wheel so I was always accidentally selecting menu options (inventory, equipment, crew, cargo, missions, etc.) that I wasn’t intending to click on. It may have been better to make the menu wheel / helm have “embedded” categories- Perhaps a simple “Ship” option that would lead to Crew and Cargo, an Inventory screen that led to cargo and equipment, and a Logbook that opened to options, quests/missions, etc. that when you click on each category, you go to a submenu- it would greatly improve the experience.
The last real “issue” I had was with the wind- while it can very slightly affect your speed or motion while the sails are open, it just isn’t enough- I shouldn’t be able to have sails open pushing 15 knots into a headwind and on the flip side, if I turn the boat around so the wind is at my back and the sails fully unfurled, I should gain more speed- it would add a bit of realism which may not fit well into a more arcade-y action RPG sure, but it could also add a significant tactical element to the gameplay that is missing. Beyond those nitpicks, King of Seas is a wonderful, if simple, expedition into the open seas.
King of Seas more than earns its keep given its price-point (it comes in at a very respectable $25 USD on the Xbox/Microsoft store) as it is an enjoyable, casual gaming experience with combat that is easy to grasp, isn’t tedious, and has numerous diversions, from trading to resource gathering and exploration. Even with the minimal issues that I personally had with some of the design choices, King of Seas is still a wonderful and worthy title in the ever-growing pantheon of indie games that are sweeping the market in lieu of standout AAA-titles.Score: 7.25 / 10