Rare's pirate adventure Sea of Thieves took the world by storm, and for good reason, the first-person open world game is truly fantastic. But following its success, we've also been fortunate enough to receive another open world pirate game, this time playing from a top down perspective where you simply control a sea-faring vessel cruising around and causing trouble on the deep blue seas. This swashbuckling adventure is called King of Seas and is developed by 3DClouds, and I've recently spent a while exploring what the title has to offer and have to come to a varied conclusion.
Before I get to that, what is King of Seas? This action RPG sees you play as either the son/daughter of the King of Seas (a ruler of the oceans if you will). The game puts you in the shoes of one of these characters right as your father, the King, is murdered on his throne, with blame being placed on you. After narrowly surviving having your boat sunk by the royal naval forces, you are picked up by a pirate, and are introduced to an alternative way of life that is substantially different to being of royal blood. Presumed dead and no longer bound by the law, you have to grow in strength in the procedurally generated world to uncover who really killed your father, all whilst making hoards of gold to further distinguish yourself as a truly feared pirate.
And how do you become notorious? Well, alike Sea of Thieves, the world is really your oyster, and the method you use to become stronger is up to you. For example, you might fancy yourself as a trader, and spend time travelling the seven seas amassing goods to trade in ports, perhaps even buying goods from somewhere and selling them elsewhere for more gold. Alternatively, you could just embrace your pirate nature and become a scourge of the seas, sinking ships left, right, and centre to be able to loot the wreckage for gear and goods.
For the most part, this style of gameplay works well. Having the option to play as you see fit is a fine touch, but the lack of direction can more often than not be of great hindrance, and that can largely be attributed to the open, procedurally generated world design of King of Seas. The map itself is the ocean, and for those of you who haven't seen a picture of the Earth, it's kind of big, with very few places of interest dotted about. This is the precise issue I have with this game: It can be really boring, especially during the early stages of just travelling around the map, commandeering a flimsy sloop whose combat abilities are a fraction of what Man-O-War or frigates bring to the table.
The progression of the game, tied to upgrading or buying a new vessel is the main point of interest really, as the exploration, combat, and narrative are sub-points to becoming more notorious and deadly. You won't be able to face the big naval ships and won't stand a chance visiting a Navy port unless you have the firepower and protection of a later-game vessel, which means you'll be spending a large portion of your time feasting on merchant ships and completing trading quests to be able to become stronger. Essentially, it's a food chain, where you start as a small fry, and work your way up to becoming a fearsome apex predator.
Despite having pretty dull pacing that struggled to keep me engaged during the first few hours, I will say that this game is fun when you have a ship capable of taming the seven seas. And, it looks pretty damn great, which is a factor that's absolutely crucial considering there's a lot (and I mean a lot) of down time that's tied to just sailing to and from locations, across its world that really does feel rather empty a lot of the time.
Considering I played on PC, I was a little let down with how the mouse and keyboard controls are implemented, in that there is no mouse support at all - everything is played via a keyboard, but since the game explicitly explains that it is best played via a "game pad", there's not a whole lot to knock there.
I don't inherently believe that King of Seas is a bad game. But, there are clear issues with what it offers. The pacing and grindy progression is abhorrent at times and makes it very challenging to stay engaged in what it offers. On the other hand, the world looks great, and the many options to customise your vessel do provide at least one reason to slog through the grind of becoming a more capable, notorious pirate. If you have a wealth of time to kill, and enjoy the pirate setting, then King of Seas will be right up your street, but those of you, alike myself, who like a little more action to keep you engaged will struggle to stay captivated by this one for long enough to start reaching the good stuff near the end.