Oh to be a mighty Pirate, sailing the seven seas taking what you can and giving nothing back. There are a number of ways that gamers can indulge this fantastical dream on the high seas with a couple of obvious ones springing to mind giving very different Pirate Experiences in Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag and of course, Sea of Thieves. A new contender to the throne however comes in the form of King of Seas by 3DClouds and TEAM 17, a very different experience is set to hoist the colours and shiver some timbers!
Now that I have run out of corny pirate’isms, I have to say that I have had my eye on King of Seas for some time now since its announcement towards the end of 2020. As an avid player and year one Pirate Legend in Seas of Thieves, I have been looking for a new fresh way to continue my fascination of the Pirate world. Where King of Seas manage to carve its own position in this genre makes it stand out next to the well-established Sea of Thieves, and gives an experience I found both challenging and rewarding the more into the world I dived.
In the world of King of Seas, Pirates once ruled the seven seas and Voodoo magic was everywhere until the Navy chased and hunted down the Pirates, forcing them to flee to the very outskirts of the seas they once ruled. The Navy than created a grand Kingdom of the Seven Seas and made sure to keep the threat of Pirates and use of Voodoo magic away from the world. Now Centuries later, betrayal and conspiracies will lead to the assassination of the current Ruler whilst his children are off testing their own worth on the seas, upon returning they are ambushed and the blame of high treason and murder is put on them. Believed dead in their sunken ship, they are rescued by some Pirate survivors and go on a mission to clear their names, find out who murdered their father and reclaim the throne itself!!
King of Seas is an Action Role playing game set in a deadly procedurally generated pirate world with the player choosing the play either as Marylou, the daughter of the King and someone who would rather go out partying all night than learning to be a Princess or Luky, the Prince who also likes to spend time away from royal duties to learn to use his pistol. Once chosen, the game will see the player taking one of the siblings on their journey to become a true Pirate. I absolutely love the story that is threaded throughout everything you will end up doing in the game’s campaign as it serves t both guide you in the world but also to slowly open the world up further and further as you progress more into this strange world. Being a procedurally generated world, each new game you start will be different to any previous ones with island and port locations being very different each time making sure that no two games will be the same.
Gameplay will have you running your own ship, starting off with the always sturdy and reliable sloop, small and nifty, it has only three canons and a tiny hull but it’s the best way to start off a pirate career. This career will have you mainly following some main quests and as you do, more of the story will be revealed and the world opened. What, how and when you decide to follow the main story quests is entirely up to the player as there is thankfully no forced timed completion style main quests. In fact, quite the opposite is true as the main quests simply train the player in the various elements that make up running your own pirate ship starting off with a focus on ship combat which thankfully the Sloop is the first starting ship to practice on.
The two main elements which remain the shame no matter the type of ship you are using, which I will come to a bit later on, are controlling the ship on the seas and managing that ship. Controlling the ship is extremely natura and intuitive for a console controller, each ship has canons on both sides with RT for right side canons and LT for left side canons. Sails are controlled with the bumpers as RB lowers the sails for more speed whilst LB raises them to help sharp turning and slowing down. Ships can also have special abilities thanks to some cheeky Voodoo magic spells and differ from ship type to ship type but believe me, once you have summoned a giant shark attack to slow down and damage an enemy ship or launch a massive firework display that damages all ships around yours, well it just never stops being fun. Damage is measured in three ways; sail damage, hull damage and crew damage. Sustain too much damage to the sails and you may not be sailing anywhere, take too much to the hull and you will sink, both are fairly obvious but it is the crew damage that might surprise you the most. Lose too much or all of your crew and you may find your ship performing rather terribly, less canons being fired when you need them most!
Managing your ship and choosing which quests and jobs to take on, takes up a lot of time. Managing your ship is vital as you can customise many areas and all come together to reflect how strong your ship will be on the seas. Different types of Crew, sails, hull and canons will all have an impact on how well and frankly how long you will survive out there. Different types will boost or add elements such as hull strength and sail strength or boosting cargo space and crew spaces. Some will be simple ship upgrades and others will have more magical boosted elements for your ship and all can be purchased at the various ports you can dock at across the seas from the carpenters. You can sell any you do not need for important gold for buying new upgrades or investing in that all important better ship type. Starting with the sloop you can then move up the Flute class, which is more designed as a trading ship with a larger hull than the sloop but slower at sailing. The Brigantine is next followed by the Frigate, which is the fastest of all the ships and ready for battle with 12 canons per side but makes for a poor trading ship with its tiny hull size where as the Galleon is the largest both in number of canons and comparable hull size for cargo. How you want to play be it out there fighting other ships or utilising the worlds full on real trading economy, buying good to sell for increased prices depending on the port you take them to just allows so much freedom.
Pair that with visiting the local port tavern to pick up side jobs which can vary from taking out a specific target to delivering a package or cargo to a destination or providing escort security for another ship, all give such freedom of choice to do and make of the this world whatever it is you want from it and because the main story quests do not force you into anything once they have helped you unlock the ability to buy another ship, any ship you own remains at the Pirate main port allowing you to return and switch to any type of ship you own, still equipped as you left it, means you can tailor the experience to your liking every time you fire the game up. I relish this so much in a such a game because you can get lost in just doing jobs for people to earn the gold to get that next class of ship as well as spending time in the world trying to upgrade to have the best version of the ship you have by defeating other ships, searching ship wrecks and finding discarded loot on the seas. Eventually you can even start fishing to sell your catch for extra gold.
All the systems in play are so beautifully crafted as well to be deep and as rich as you want them to be, for example the combat is always fun either when defending your ship or when you just go and be the best Pirate you can by attacking other ships but there is a price to pay if you get it wrong. Pick the wrong ship at the wrong time in the wrong place and you might find the nearest port security boats will come after you or become infamous enough and Pirate Hunter ships will attack you on sight. A 1v1 ship battle is fairly easy to handle depending on your ship build but when a number of ships attack, do you stay or run, something that will be determined by the ship build you have and which special abilities you have to either help in a group fight or help you get out of there to fight another day.
It is truly staggering just how much there is do in the world that pairing the main story and abundance of side activity to take on, there is a mountain of hours of gameplay with King of the Seas. There are different difficulties as well which up the rewards but also the risk so starting with Ship’s boy, Gunner, Captain which serve as your “Easy, Normal and Hard” modes when you start out increase the risk deliciously well. On Ship’s boy for example if you are sunk you do not lose any cargo or equipment and simple respawn at the Pirates home port in a fresh ship with a fresh crew ready to try again. Move up the difficulties and there is a price for losing your ship especially if you bought it as you can lose anything that is equipped so will need to rebuild your ship build or even lose the ship itself meaning having to replace it as well at great cost. There are two ultimate modes which are locked until you complete the story in Corsair and King of Seas which is the toughest of all the modes as it also features a perma death penalty!
Visually I love how the art style just brings the world to life helped by a fantastic musical sore that does a great job of making you want to watch Pirates of the Caribbean all over again. Reviewing this pre-release build did have some issues for me, there were times in the later stages of my playthrough that the game would start to slow down and even freeze forcing me to restart the game and I did get one annoying audio bug of my ship sounding like it was sinking when it wasn’t which again meant another restart to clear it. But there are some wonderful little details such as when you stop to loot a ship wreck, the little animation of crew members jumping from your ship to the ship wreck always makes me smile. I am having such a incredible time with King of Seas that I will be putting many more hours into it to try and build the best fleet I can and working towards conquering all the seas before me. If you are a fan of Sea of Thieves than this will compliment it even though it is a very different Pirate experience but this is one you will want to invest your time in because it really just so rewarding on every level.
So fill your tankard with Grogg and hoist the colours, there is mighty Pirating to be done, YO HO me hearties YO HO, GARRR!