King of Seas is a new pirate RPG for PC and consoles, but does it walk the steady walk of a confident pirate, or does it fall and fumble on the plank?
King of Seas shows its hand far too early and after a couple of hours, there’s not much else to see at sea…
King of Seas starts promising, setting up a story about a young lad or lass, depending on who you choose to play as, who has been banished from their home turf after being set up for a murder they didn’t commit. A life of piracy awaits the young outcast as they are rescued by an old hippie pirate and his mate who aid the youngster in setting out to clear their name and bring the real killer to justice. This is what drew me in during the preview, but I’m left wanting more in the full release.
It’s not that the story is bad or anything, it’s just so difficult to care when each story beat is separated by hours of monotonous gameplay and far too much grinding filler.
King of Seas is a game of grinding with its RPG-style levelling system, loot, rewards, and gear upgrades. There are side quests in addition to the main story missions, and I probably spent a lot more time doing these side-tasks than I did getting anywhere in the story, mainly due to the main narrative being locked away behind grindy progression that pushes you towards the side missions to unlock the main missions.
I’m no stranger to RPGs and I’ve nothing against a good grind, so long as it’s varied, exciting, and most of all, fun. Sadly that’s not the case here, and while the naval combat is quite cool, it wasn’t enough to make the long stretches of boredom worth it. An early story mission tasked me with sinking three merchant ships. Simple enough, only it took me upwards of 45 minutes because no matter which way I sailed, I came across every other kind of vessel. I was annoying but I shrugged it off as bad luck. Further on in the game, a side mission followed the same format and it was the same result: a very annoyed Chris.
It takes a long time to get anything done in King of Seas. Many of the main missions tasked me with going on long journeys across the map, mainly to deliver something, fight someone, or collect a certain amount of resources. Some missions even demanded that I spent extra time doing nothing but sailing by sending me across the map to several points. If a game is going to demand that I invest time in travelling around its world, I expect there to be some kind of reward. Take Grand Theft Auto V as an example – there are many instances where you’re sent on a long drive, but you get some character dialogue or exposition for your troubles. At the very least, you’ve got the radio tunes to bop along to. King of Seas gives you nothing except random encounters, not all of which are good. In fact, some are downright unfair and had me questioning just how “random” these were.
Giant squids can attack from the depth beneath and they always seemed to catch me when I was at my most vulnerable, meaning another cheap death and another journey that had to be started again. I didn’t like this randomness and it definitely felt like the game was out to get me, as paranoid as that sounds.
The combat, while quite simple, is enjoyable. The upgrades you get are random as you collect loot and booty from the ocean, shipwrecks, desert islands, and jobs that you pick up from the taverns at each port. It’s here at the ports that you can sell your wares or buy new stuff, because King of Seas has an economy, something the game is eager to show off early on in the adventure.
Each outpost differs in what it produces and what it pays for goods, which sounds about right and gives the economics of the game a bit of purpose. But there’s no way of knowing where sells what or for how much unless you actually pull up into port, dock your ship, and have a look at the market prices. The game wants you to shop around for the best deals and to get the most gold coins for your goods, but where’s the motivation? The necessary information? I’m sure as hell not writing that stuff down on a piece of paper for future reference, though if you are going to invest your time in King of Seas, it wouldn’t be a bad idea given that the game locks some progression behind massive in-game paywalls or ridiculous level-locked grinds.
I realise I’m painting a poor picture here but there is some good to King of Seas, it just depends on what you want from your games. If you want a long and drawn out game with plenty of grinding and levelling up, King of Seas could be your treasure. I’m just not that way inclined. I like a game that delivers a bit of substance and I appreciate when games respect my time. King of Seas does neither, and instead spends more time frustrating rather than entertaining.
King of Seas PS5, PS4 Review
- Overall - Not Bad - 5/105/10
King of Seas takes grinding too far in this simple but enjoyable sea-faring RPG. If you don’t mind spending hours chipping away at mundane tasks to make progress, more power to you. The naval gameplay is good but not enough to warrant the dozens of hours the game demands, and the story is, sadly, locked behind these painful barriers.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: PS4. Reviewed using PS5, PS4 Pro.