Review: King Of Seas
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
Publisher: Team 17
When I started playing King of Seas I had mixed feelings about what to expect from the game. On the one hand, as a huge fan of pirates I was already dreaming of building my ship, gathering a crew and setting sail for an adventure full of amazing sunny islands, lost treasures, fierce battles against the navy and, of course, tons of rum consumed after the last successful boarding; on the other hand, I was still hurt by a terrible delusion of Sea of Thieves but I decided to approach this title without prejudices and full of curiosity. After the first hour of gameplay, I was so hyped for the different possibilities King of Seas was giving me to accomplish the first long quest of the game, gathering enough gold to buy a bigger and powerful ship.
But let’s take a step back to talk more in general about the game first.
The story is pretty simple but offers the perfect setting for our adventure. We play as the son/daughter (you get to choose gender) of the current King and, after a quest which works as a tutorial, we are thrown in the middle of the action. Returning from visiting a nearby island, we find out that the King has been mysteriously murdered and person accused is our protagonist! After a daring escape, we manage to reach a safe place, Eagle’s Den, the last pirate island of the kingdom. Here, with the help of Captain Morgen, the ruler of the island, we start our pirate career to take back our place and especially, solving the mystery behind the King's murder. After this introductory section, the game opens up giving the player all the freedom a pirate can think of; main story quests are quite generic (raid a certain number of ships, gather enough gold, reach a certain level and so on) and it’s totally up to the player to decide how to accomplish them. Just to give an example, gold coins can be collected in numerous ways; players can accomplish secondary quests (usually they require to deliver a parcel from an island to another, sink specific targets or sink different types of ships and, as a reward, gold, xp points and equipment for the ship are given); they can trade goods (there is even a dynamic economic system, which will be described more in the following section); explore abandoned islands and the seven seas looking for lost treasures or, last but not least, traditional pirate raids against merchants or navy ships.
Gameplay mechanics are those typical for RPG games; each ship has its stats and they can be upgraded by finding new components, 4 types of active abilities can be used during battles for dealing more damages, increase the ship’s speed and more. Along with these abilities, there are passive skills that influence overall statistics regardless of the ship selected. The islands that constitute the game world are randomly generated at the beginning of each new game; they will appear on the map only after you have visited the cartographer (there is a location around each island and he will ask you to buy his maps).
Settlements on islands are the most relevant locations in the game. Here in fact it’s possible to repair and customize our ship; we can deposit goods and ship components in the bank, and they will be available in every other bank of the world; taverns are useful for hiring new crewmates and to accept secondary missions; the most intriguing feature of the settlements is represented by markets and their dynamic economy. Long story short, each market produces a great amount of a good (which will be sold for a lower price compared to other markets) and has a scarcity of other goods (which would cost more than in other villages) and we can influence the prices of the goods buying and selling them in different places; for example, we can buy a lot of rum in a place where it’s common and sell it for a higher price in a market where rum is scarce. The dynamic of prices is deeper than expected because prices vary not only between different markets but also within them; selling or buying a good will modify its price too. I was positively surprised by this game aspect because it is a good touch of realism and also is a powerful way to gain money pretty fast and without raiding ships.
During the exploration the top-down camera is completely fixed and there is a compass which helps us to sail in the right direction and gives us the direction and the strengths of the wind. The world map is pretty useless at the beginning because without having the maps of the islands, the world map is just blank. Movement and combat systems, even though they’re really easy to learn, they require a bit of experience to be perfectly managed. The last interesting game feature is the conquer system; after a specific mission in the main story, we’ll have the possibility to raid islands (destroying their forts) and claim them under our pirate flag. Owning islands introduces the governor house in the village menu (we can spend money to increase the island defences, reduce the prices of the goods and fill the tavern with more recruit-able men.
As for the artistic side, King of Seas looks and sounds fantastic. The character and menu art is very well done even if more character variety would have created better-defined characters, and the graphic style suits the tone of the game, with highly stylized and exceedingly colourful ships and islands, which works well with the cartoonish look of the hand-drawn parts. The sea effects are also well done, which is nice considering that the sea is what you spend 90% of your time staring at during gameplay. The day/night cycle and the dynamic weather conditions add that variability useful for a successful pirate game. Moreover, dynamic weather conditions have a great impact on the gameplay; for example, when it’s raining heavily, the hull of the ship is constantly damaged and the speed of the ship are reduced.
Playing Kings of Seas was an awesome experience. Upgrading my ship, exploring the whole map and becoming a fierce pirate was entertaining; the main plot is effective in giving you a nice setting and the gameplay features work well through the whole game. I played King of Seas in hard mode and the difficulty curve, even if too steep in a couple of situations, is well balanced.
Thinking about the negative aspects of the game is not easy because I had a lot of fun while playing it. First of all, the fixed top-down camera can sometimes be a problem. In some battles, the camera can be a problem since you have left and right cannons and you have to keep circling around enemies to attack and avoid damage, it can be hard to distinguish which cannon is which; a 360° free rotating camera would have added a more cinematic effect and helped the player in focusing better on the objectives. The rhythm of the game is consistently well balanced but I feel like the developers maybe rushed a bit during the last part of the story. You spend 2/3 of the game being free to act as you like, reach your goals how you like, but then the last few missions are not only stricter in terms of approach but they are also interconnected, preventing you from repairing or upgrading the ship between these missions; this style-change, however, doesn’t affect the overall game pace, which remains action-packed all the time.
The last minor issue is about the description of the ship's statistics; in the menu you have one general page that lists all the values and the names but ship components in shops have 3 main statistics highlighted (attack, defence, magic) but this is not sufficient to know the effect of the item on your ship. To find out, you have to equip it and check through the general menu the impact of the new component. The creation of a shortcut or a clearer ship interface would have saved me a lot of time spent in going back and forth from one menu to another.
Overall, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the game and I can’t wait to get back there and finish to conquer all the seven seas. I’d recommend this game to all RPG and pirate fans; King of Seas will give you many hours of fun exploration, frenetic action and new adventures at every corner.