Team 17 and 3D Clouds take a more simplistic approach and fun art style to the high seas in King of Seas.
Unfortunately, all the colour in the world doesn't prevent this nautical adventure from feeling repetitive and lacking in charm.
The Story of the Seas
Starting King of Seas is easy; you choose between a boy (Lucky) or a girl (Marylou). Regardless of which character is chosen, the storyline remains unchanged, so the tutorial begins. While on the first mission, the shifty-eyed first mate tells you to go to sleep, and you do because shifty-eyed first mates are always trustworthy.
While you were sleeping, apparently, someone took your ship and returned to the castle. They were able to sneak all of the way in and poison the king, who is your father. They were also able to leave and then bring your ship all the way back unnoticed. This is one reason why the story is so weird: you have to suspend all rational thinking to believe it.
When you awaken, your father's navy blames you, and without any form of trial or asking the shipmates who took the ship, they blow up your ship and you. Your first mate also ends up off the ship before it's taken down and leaves with the navy. Later, It seems that in some way, the blame for your father's death has been shifted to your sibling, the one you didn't choose.
But you are a pirate now, so none of their concerns concern you. You need to go do pirate things! The rest of the story plays out by sending you to do chores and errands. Bring this here, blow up that ship, now move that over there, buy this.
Overall, it's not terribly exciting, but it's just whimsical and breezy enough to kick off a series of Pirate-themed activities.
Arrr, other pirate things get old quickly
Do you know why Assassin's Creed: Black Flag had sea shanties? For players to listen to during lengthy voyages. In King of Seas, you spend the majority of your time in any mission or story sailing from one point to the other. The music in King of Seas does not immerse the player in the sailing aspect of King of Seas, it's just there.
I wanted to have fun sailing. On YouTube, I turned on my own shanties, but it seemed like I was just holding down a button and waiting to arrive anywhere I needed to go. When I arrived, I would proceed to the next point, and this is the same no matter what you do. There is not much difference between the main story and the side missions.
You'll also never leave your ship; it's a simple shopping screen whenever you go to an island.
Throughout the main storyline, players are tasked with filler missions that take time to complete depending on their level and gold reserves. You level up and build gold reserves by completing side missions. Both side and main missions involve moving from one place to another to fight or deliver something and then return home.
Prepare your cannons
King of Seas has a fun combat system. When I played it on both the highest and lowest difficulty levels, there was a noticeable difference. Fighting is not an easy task. You need to use clever manoeuvring, timing, and masterful sailing to win. The best times are spent during the ship battles.
After every battle, it's as if your whole ship needs a tune-up. A repair guy (carpenter) in your home base is free of charge and will give you minor upgrades for a fee. The more I invested in my ship, the better it could hold up against the fighting.
King of Seas' upgrades are very straightforward, just like upgrading weapons in any other game. They have a rating for how effective or defensive a magic part is, and players only have to choose the best one. They aren't expensive, and players can even upgrade their ships to be huge and menacing.
Every sailor needs a good map
While King of Seas features procedurally generated maps, King of Seas would have been better with a more deliberate approach.
While the big bad enemy base will always be at the centre of the map, your base and everything else will move with each new game. Cartographers will charge absurd amounts for the smallest piece of map information, but a map isn't essential if you already know where you're going.
The map itself is pretty small, and if players were able to go straight from one end to the other, it would probably take them only 5-7 minutes with the slowest ship. So there wasn't a need to randomly generate the map, and 3DClouds could have given it a lot more character if they made it themselves. Once you reach the edge of the map, the ship will turn around.
King of Seas feels random, which is good for the generated map, but not for the player since it becomes monotonous and boring after a half hour. There are random things the players can pick up and avoid. The items are worth stopping for and the rule of the sea says to pick up and lost boys.
There is a Kraken that will knock half the player's health out, which isn't fun at all. All this means is that the player needs to return to their base and fix their ship, then go back out. The game would have been better without this road bump, but I digress.
3DClouds' simple approach has left the final product feeling lacking in King of Seas. Yes, it is sort of fun, but it's not anywhere near as fun as it could have been. It would have been a much better game if they had spent more time building out the skeleton crew that exists here.
Review copy provided by the publisher
Reviewed on PS4 Pro