Out now on Xbox One and the Xbox Series X|S, King of Seas is a pirate adventure developed by 3DClouds and published by Team17. Team17 have previously been behind many of the most popular indie games to come to market, including the Overcooked! series and Golf with Your Friends. This sets pretty high expectations for King of Seas.
The premise of King of Seas is pretty straightforward. You choose between either a male or female version of the main protagonist with a premise as old as time. You’ve just come of age and it’s time for you to set off on a mission to serve king and country – code for, make a delivery. But while away, the king, who so happens to be your father, is assassinated! When you return home you are accused of the crime yourself, and immediately sentenced to be executed. Your ship is sunk and you are claimed by the sea, or so everyone thinks.
You awake to find that pirates have rescued you on behalf of their code of honor, and from here the game can truly begin. The mechanics of King of Seas are simple; as a pirate you sail around procedurally generated areas while fighting ships, picking up loot, or even completing jobs for the merchants at various ports. The main story continues on with you completing missions to work towards finding out who assassinated your father so you can bring them to justice.
However, King of Seas’ main missions, as well as its side missions, contain one central theme. Grind. Almost every mission you complete is a fetch quest of some sort, whether it’s sailing to and from a random island, gathering x amount of a resource to hand off at another port, or earning enough money to pay off another character. There are some combat missions but they aren’t much more exciting than what can be done by just sailing around and fighting enemies normally. This goes for both main story missions as well as the jobs you can pick up from the various ports. The worst offense I came across was when a story mission made me grind levels to continue.
Beyond the missions, even some of the basic mechanics are much more tedious than they need to be. For example, the map is incredibly large and the procedurally generated areas are cool to explore and see. But you need to visit a cartographer to get each area added to your main map. This means that in order to fill out the entire map you need to travel to a few dozen cartographers, cycle through their dialogue, and then pay to get the area added to your map. The effort doesn’t justify the payout, especially in areas that you don’t spend a lot of time in.
In spite of my griping though, King of Seas does two crucial things well, the ship combat and the ship upgrade system. The left and right triggers allow you to fire the cannons on either the left or right side of the ship, while the bumpers control the raising and lowering of your three sails. When all three sails are up, the ship moves faster but is harder to control; the opposite is true when only one or two sails are raised. There is also a wind direction that will work with or against you depending on which way your ship is pointing. This all comes together to build out a straightforward but relatively complex system for navigating both inside and outside of battle.
The ship upgrade system is also thoroughly built-out. The sails, deck, crew, cannons and more all can be upgraded with various items you find while sailing around and looting. Each item has different benefits and the sheer variety of them allows for a very customizable playing experience. There are also five different types of ships, each providing different pros and cons, like more maneuverability, storage space, or cannons.
Not only are the ships extremely customizable, but there is also a fairly large selection of perks that you can pick up that do all sorts of things. You can increase damage for long or short range attacks, improve maneuverability for all ships, increase experience gain, or even get some perks that let you do more specialized things like regenerate health over time. It’s all very well built-out.
Overall and the combat and sailing mechanics of King of Seas are what work, and whilst things feel a little slow at times, that’s never too much bother. But the story and missions are sorely lacking and there never feels like there is much point in your actions; beyond the grinding. I don’t want to write off King of Seas as a bad game because I know there are plenty of gamers who genuinely enjoy these kinds of games, but it hasn’t been the right fit for me.
King of Seas is now available from the Xbox Store for Xbox Series X and Xbox One