Every now and then certain themes within entertainment media have a resurgence of interest that leads to a pile on effect with more games and movies of that type. In the early 2000s we had Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, Eragon and Harry Potter all along for the fantasy ride. Zombie movies and games became all the rage in the early 2010s spearheaded by The Walking Dead, and games such as DayZ and Call of Duty Zombies becoming massively popular at the time. It goes without saying that superhero movies have dominated cinema for the last few years but it just goes to show how one successful movie can change the shape of media. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl came out in 2003 and was massively successful for Disney and was followed with several sequels. The latter 2 films were less well received and despite an Assassins Creed game taking place during the golden era of Privateering, the pirates fad mostly faded by the mid 2010s.
However there were still some that tried their own hand at pirate games and media with Rarewares own ‘Sea of Thieves’ – a multiplayer pirates game for Xbox which had a troubled launch, but held a solid fan base, so much so that during the last E3 there was more DLC content with the addition of a Pirates of the Caribbean theme. Skull & Bones got announced by Ubisoft in 2017, and no doubt inspired by their own Assassins Creed Black Flag, although we haven’t heard anything from it since. And now we have “King of Seas” an action RPG set in an ever expanding world where you fight to take back what was taken from you, using your own ship and your power of will to explore the vast ocean.
King of Seas is unlike other pirate games I’ve seen in that it takes itself way less seriously. The animations and art style of all very cartoony and vibrant and doesn’t become overbearing with dark themes or violence. Characters are varied in design and sometimes a bit wacky looking whilst the ocean and portside towns are colourful and simply designed. This isn’t a dig at King of Seas, but more to compliment how its kept as much of the game within this simple, yet oddly charming art style. It could be easy for me to talk about the graphics but this isn’t a game that went all out to impress with graphics and went for a simpler artistic approach to how they wanted to present the game. I could be picky and say that the character designs sometimes feel a bit too cartoonish, but at the same time I feel this isn’t a game suited for my age group. The story itself is nothing special, but serves more of a way that pushes your character into pirating in the first place. It does the job, and although it not being too interesting – again, this isn’t my demographic.
Combat is one of the key parts of King of Thieves and it works, but that’s sort of the problem. Depending on where you are on the map you will mostly likely be attacked on site from other pirate ships or navy ships and the combat doesn’t tend to differ too much with each engagement. Meet, fire, loop around in a circle, repeat. The problem stems from the games top down view and doesn’t do much to make the combat entirely fun. It sometimes feels like pot luck due to how the canons fire and how slow they can be. That said the game does give you a number of special abilities and different types of ammo to negate this which can make combat a bit more interesting, especially when engaging multiple ships, but the choice to do a top down game makes this type of combat a bit laborious at times. That been said it does work well for that King of Seas does best – exploration and upgrades. One of the major selling points of King of Seas is it’s freedom to explore and find upgrades and supplies, to further improve your ship and make an easier run of the great ocean.
Attacking other ships and exploring the map is the best way to earn yourself supplies, which in turn can be sold at one of the many port towns for profit, which can then be spent on upgrades – abilities or cosmetic – and I really appreciate a game that lets you make your own custom vehicles as it adds your own flare and a more personal experience. As the game goes on you’ll discover more forts to plunder and ports to sell your goods too. One thing I do really like is the fluctuation of the prices of certain goods. One thing that might be really expensive could be cheaper elsewhere, so you can take advantage of this by buying low one place, and selling high elsewhere, something that reminds of the old Sid Miers Pirates! game back in the day. This also encourages exploration and a lot of replay value for those into that sort of thing
King of Seas is a new take at what tends to be a more mature orientated type of game. The simple yet vibrant graphics and gameplay lend a lot to why this could be a great game. However for me it’s just too simple and at times a bit boring. The map is huge but you’ll often find yourself sailing through vast open areas with not much to see or do, what worse is accidently sailing into uncharted waters of high levels where one hit can take you down. The market system and the ability to create your own custom ship are great assets, but it doesn’t do much when the key gameplay isn’t that engaging to begin with. Furthermore I reviewed the Ps4 version and this doesn’t seem like the type of game you should play on a TV. If it were the Switch version I’d be more forgiving as it seems more suited for 20-30 mins of pirate adventuring while you sit in bed. Powering up the Ps4 to play what could be accomplished on a tablet seems underwhelming and further takes me out of the game. Is it a bad game? No, it’s a very solid, decent game that I no doubt think has an audience, but that audience isn’t me, and nor do I think this is the console for it either. If you are interested in this game, get it on Switch, and maybe wait for a price drop.