When I was a kid, I never really wanted to be a pirate. Surprisingly, the majority of my aspirations lay in being a mad scientist or a spiky-haired lawyer. As I got older, my fascination with the swashbuckling adventurers of the sea grew a little. Unfortunately, I can’t say it’s ever truly grown on me. That was until I saw the vibrantly wonderful King of Seas appear before me. My fascination with sailing the high seas had grown exponentially, and my desire to finally don the tricorne hat consumed me. Unfortunately, having played King of Seas, I can’t say that fascination has been maintained. Alas, I may have to surrender the hat once and for all.
“The naval combat in King of Seas is incredibly immersive and engrossing.”
King of Seas is a visually stunning simulation of seafaring antics. My first impressions of it were that it successfully managed to replicate the act of navigating the high seas in a cumbersome, lumbering sloop. That impression was never really tarnished, and in fact, I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of King of Seas. Sailing around the procedurally generated world is incredibly satisfying. It’s less so because of the exploration element of sailing, but more that it controls so smoothly and so elegantly. It captures the essence of setting forth on a grand adventure without overburdening you with overly complex mechanics.
Similarly, the naval combat in King of Seas is incredibly immersive and engrossing. As you sail around, you’ll encounter various ships, belonging either to a neutral faction or an enemy faction. You can engage them in combat simply by shooting at them. However, it has to be a direct hit for them to register that you’re trying to destroy their livelihood.
Fighting can be rather intense, and utilising your various sails to manoeuvre at the correct speed can be the difference between life and death. It requires a genuine degree of tactics and allows for experienced sailors to take out a much higher levelled ship with their pitiful sloop. Additionally, fighting alongside allies, who also happen to be roaming around, creates an even greater sense of immersion and fun. It can lead to these huge naval battles that feel epic in scale and scope.
“Navigation boiled down to moving a little before heading back into the map menu. This became a tediously frustrating experience that completely ruined my immersion.”
Unfortunately, while this gameplay is extremely enjoyable for the first few hours, it quickly grows repetitive. There is little depth to help elevate it at a later stage. As you progress, you unlock new ships and can customise them with various parts. I found this to be mostly a numbers game, with the obvious solution to just be to pick whatever piece of equipment had the most green numbers.
You can also upgrade your skills, such as your navigation speed. However, once again, these are just a simple numbers game, with each upgrade giving you marginal boosts to a percentage. It never feels particularly satisfying to increase in level or unlock a new skill point, as all it contributes towards is an invisible number getting progressively higher.
King of Seas’ story lacks the ambition and scope I was hoping for too. While it is certainly engrossing and features gorgeous artwork and witty writing, it often fell to the wayside. This is exacerbated by the fact that you’ll spend so much time just sailing around trying to find the next objective. This leads us to one of King of Seas’ biggest problems.
Numerous features exist within King of Seas that feel oddly underused. For example, there’s no minimap or way of seeing your objective. Ultimately, you’re reliant on your map to work your way around. However, your map is completely blank and must be filled in by cartographers. Essentially, navigation boiled down to moving a little before heading back into the map menu to double-check I was going the right way. This became a tediously frustrating experience that completely ruined my immersion.
“Most of the features in King of Seas are reserved for the background and as such aren’t inherently noticeable when playing.”
Another issue I found was that there was little to no consequence for dying. I was initially playing on one of the easier difficulties, which lets you retain your inventory upon death. But even when I played on some of the higher difficulties, I found the consequences to be little more than minor irritations. The only real disadvantage to dying is that you’re teleported back to the main hub area. Unfortunately, this means you are forced to trek back through the same areas you’ve just been through. It actively deterred me from engaging in combat outside of main mission encounters, especially as repairs can be quite expensive.
King of Seas also promises a slew of other features, such as merchants, who actively changed their routes based on how much you bothered them. The issue is that most of these features are reserved for the background and as such aren’t inherently noticeable when playing. That’s not to diminish the impressiveness of such a mechanic. However, I never really felt its presence while playing.
King of Seas also features side quests alongside the main story content, as well as the emergent gameplay that can come about from just sailing. Unfortunately, once again, these features don’t have a lot of depth to them, and as such, I generally stayed away.
“This is by no means a terrible game. It just fails to live up to the swashbuckling adventures that it promises.”
There is certainly a lot to like about King of Seas. For one, it is a visually stunning video game with incredibly immersive gameplay. The sailing controls phenomenally well, and the combat feels genuinely challenging and fun. Unfortunately, there is just too much dragging it down to keep it afloat. The lack of meaningful depth outside of a basic numbers game means that customisation and upgrades feel limited in scope.
While the story can be fun at times, it ultimately feels like an afterthought. Even small details such as the lack of music as you’re actually sailing around make the entire experience feel a little undercooked. While King of Seas is by no means a terrible game, it certainly fails to live up to the swashbuckling adventures that it promises.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PC, code was provided by the developer.