The Kingdom of the Seven Seas is won, the might of the Navy has crushed all but the last remnants of piracy and magic. But, when the king is murdered and you are framed for killing your own father; becoming a pirate may be your only hope to uncover the true killer and rule as the King of Seas.
King of Seas, a pirate simulator from the team over at 3DClouds and published by Team 17, returns players to a past littered with looting, dramatic sea battles, shanties and trading with a healthy measure of humour and its own unique take on the final days of piracy and voodoo.
After a short prologue setting both the backstory of your character and introducing you to life at sea you set out to make your name and take revenge on your father’s killers. Set in the Caribbean archipelago, King of Seas is a colourful affair; awash with a range of blues and greens across the oceans whilst sandbanks, tropical islands and dangerous rocks are scattered amongst the waves, hiding places for treasure, supplies and merchant ports.
Played from an almost bird’s eye view, players start out taking control of a sloop type vessel, a small yet nimble craft suited to hit and run type tactics but lacking the firepower of larger vessels. It doesn’t stay that way for long however as through a number of story missions, side quests, looting and trading it’s possible to purchase much larger ships to suit both the missions you undertake and your preferred playstyle. It’s not all about buying up the largest ship however, there’s also a fair amount of customisation available should you have the gold to spare. Most parts of a ship can be altered with either looted parts or via the carpenters available at the various ports.
Each component is ranked for hull health and damage and most are part of a wider theme or set so collecting them all offers better bonuses depending on the theme. Want to play as a glass cannon then go all out for damage stats, want to tank whilst freighting massive amounts of goods for trade then go for armour or hull health. You can mix and match as you like and sometimes the different parts mixed will offer a better look and feel to your ship.
Players utilise the left analogue stick to steer anticlockwise (left) and clockwise (right) with forward speed set by the Left and Right Bumpers by deploying the sails. Sails need wind though, and that is set in both strength and direction by the sandbox you play within and depicted at any time on the compass in the top right. Cannons are on the triggers with special abilities or weapons on the controller face buttons with a cooldown associated with each before it can be deployed again.
King of Seas feels a little like a throwback to the glory days of Elite, you have the option of being the best and most ruthless captain this side of the Bermuda triangle but if you don’t fancy all that death and destruction then you could concentrate instead on trading your way into the history books. Each port has a market where goods can be bought or sold. Some goods are in high demand depending on the location and as such prices fluctuate; in some instances drastically. Stock up on a low priced item that’s abundant in the area and make the journey to a port where it’s scarce and you can easily make a pretty profit.
That level of player choice makes for a few differing paths through the side meta but unfortunately eventually you need to battle or trade (depending on your poison) as you progress through the main storyline. If it’s successful enough for a follow up it would be great to see some further choice implemented in the story where players can choose paths to their strengths and branching options for merchant, pirate or other potential factions.
Offering a few difficulty levels from a very casual jaunt through the beautiful azure island waters to a permadeath mode where enemies hit hard and the seas are fairly unforgiving there’s some choice depending on your experience with the systems King of Seas has on offer. The weather system on offer changes the look and feel but other than the wind or light level it doesn’t change the difficulty and just enemy weapon damage, AI ship tactics and your own damage are scaled accordingly.
Very easy to pick up and play, King of Seas is deceptively addictive and it’s easy to burn an hour or two without starting out with that intention. The sandbox is simple but effective and the ship simulation is light and arcade-like with simple but effective controls but lacks the realism of naval warfare simulators. It’s hard not to be a pirate when King of Seas makes it fun to do so and it feels great to set out across the ocean on another mission with a bruckheimer-esque soundtrack belting out of the speakers as you chase down another frigate to loot.