The Sid Meier’s Pirates! franchise is generally regarded as some of the best pirate video games. The series was mostly focused on simulating the pirate life as players sailed around the Caribbean trading between ports and attacking ships to acquire loot. While the series was pretty popular, the last game released in the series was back in 2004. While I don’t think I ever played the original game, I do remember playing the 2004 version of the game and enjoying it quite a bit. While there have been a number of pirate games released since 2004, there aren’t a lot of games that have tried to recreate what fans enjoyed so much about Sid Meier’s Pirates!. This is what initially intrigued me about King of Seas as you can easily tell that the game was inspired by the Sid Meier’s Pirates! series. King of Seas does a good job recreating what people enjoyed about the Sid Meier’s Pirates! franchise even if this leads to some of its own problems.
King of Seas takes place in a world after pirates have been mostly wiped out. Due to their success, the islands in the region were put under the control of the King of Seas. The story takes place several generations later as you play as either the son or daughter of the current King of Seas. While on a mission for your father, a plan is hatched to murder the King of Seas and frame you for his death. In order to save yourself and find out what truly happened, you must team up with the few remaining pirates as you become the captain of your very own pirate ship.
If I were to describe King of Seas’ gameplay it somewhat feels like a pirate simulator. Most of the game is spent at sea where you sail your ship through the open seas. Sailing takes place in third person. Controlling your ship is pretty simple. One button opens your sails and another closes them. You have up to three sails that you can have opened at any one time. How many sails you have open along with the wind direction will determine how fast your ship will travel. The faster your ship moves the harder it will turn so you need to keep a good balance between speed and maneuverability.
Outside of sailing your ship there are two main mechanics to the game. The first is the trading mechanic. You can sail between ports to trade goods to make some extra gold. You can purchase goods in one port to sell for more at another port. Otherwise you will find goods scattered throughout the seas and islands or you can even loot the ships that you destroy in combat. You can then use the gold you acquire to purchase upgraded equipment for your ship as well as new ships entirely. Your ship has a number of different pieces of equipment which impact your offense, defense and provide other special effects.
The majority of the gameplay is based around the ship combat though. Most combat is optional as you will initiate it, but when you encounter certain ships they will attack you immediately. Your ship has three main resources of health shared between the sails, hull, and crew. Targeting each of these will have a different impact on an enemy’s ship. You can change your shot type to target different elements of a ship. When a ship’s hull reaches zero it will be destroyed. Between battles you can use repair kits or port cities to repair the damage done to your ship. The combat is pretty simple. One button controls the cannons on the left side of your ship and another button controls the right cannons. Cannons have a reload time so you need to do a good job positioning your ship to get off a shot and then maneuver away from the enemy while the cannons reload. In the game you can also unlock a number of magic abilities which can deal special damage to enemy ships. If you destroy an enemy ship you can loot it for its cargo. If your ship is destroyed you will be sent back to your home port. What you end up losing through death depends on what difficulty you choose.
I began this review talking about Sid Meier’s Pirates! mostly because I think it is a very apt comparison for King of Seas. It has been quite a few years since I last played the game, but from what I can remember it played quite a bit like King of Seas. It is clear that the developers took inspiration from the franchise. Those that are looking for a new game in this genre of pirate games should be intrigued by King of Seas as it probably has a lot to offer you. I personally had some mixed feelings about King of Seas. There are some things that I really liked, and there are other things that really could have been improved upon. Lets start with the positives.
First I think the game does a good job creating the feeling of playing as a pirate. The game’s visuals are pretty good and the world is apparently randomly generated each game. Thus it feels like you are exploring uncharted territories as you sail around the world. While the sailing can be a little slow at times, I found it to be quite satisfying. The game does a good job making it feel like you are sailing through the open seas. Sailing in the direction of the wind really makes you go considerably quicker. Unless you pay for a cartographer to reveal part of the map you are also kind of sailing into the unknown as you don’t know where there will be land until you get pretty close to it. There will be times where there isn’t much going on as you sail between ports, but this is also quite calming and relaxing.
As for the combat I thought it was pretty satisfying as well. The combat kind of feels like a mixture of arcade/action and realistic sea combat. Wind plays a pretty big role as well as your current speed. To avoid enemy attacks you need to move quickly, but this also makes it considerably harder to turn as well as accurately aim your weapons. You need to find the right balance between speed and maneuverability so you can successfully attack and avoid enemy attacks. As there is a somewhat significant delay to reloading your weapons, you need to carefully plan out your shots. While the combat feels a little arcade-y, it also requires quite a bit of strategy and skill. At times in the game the enemy ships will be considerably more powerful than you, so you need to do a good job dodging their attacks as well as being accurate with your own shots. This leads to the combat being pretty satisfying.
While the combat is pretty enjoyable, I will say that I found it to actually be kind of difficult. Maybe I am just not very good at ship to ship combat. I think part of this is that there are times in the game where you have to take down ships considerably more powerful than you unless you grind to increase your level. Part of it though is just because I don’t play a lot of games from this genre and thus I don’t really know the tactics for how to succeed in old naval combat. If you play a lot of these type of games though you may find the game considerably easier than I did. For those players the game actually has quite a few different difficulty settings including some where you lose your cargo and ship when it is destroyed. In a way this kind of feels like a permadeath mode as it will set you back a lot when you die.
While King of Seas can be fun at times, the biggest issue with the game is just the fact that the game becomes repetitive kind of quickly. After you are introduced to the main mechanics, nothing really changes in the game outside of you getting access to more powerful ships and having to fight more powerful ships. I think a lot of this has to do with the mission structure. Honestly there isn’t a whole lot of variety in the types of missions that you will complete throughout the game. Basically missions either boil down to destroying specific ships, or acquiring enough goods or gold and taking it to a specific port. This applies to both the main missions as well as the side missions. After the first two or so hours you have seen the basic framework of everything that the game has to offer.
This leads to the game relying on quite a bit of grinding. As a lot of the missions require you to obtain a certain number of items/gold, you spend quite a bit of time either trading goods between ports to make gold or just sinking ships and taking what you want. At the same time there is quite a bit of grinding just to power up your ship to take on the more powerful ships that you eventually have to deal with. While the gameplay is pretty fun, it does become repetitive after a while as you do the same things over and over again. King of Seas could have really used a little more variety in the gameplay. This is further exemplified by the game’s story as it is quite generic. The story in many ways feels like it was crafted around the fact that a lot of the missions feel like basic fetch quests. As you uncover the truth about what happened to your father, you are stuck dealing with a bunch of sink this ship or get these goods quests in order to gather intel.
The final issue that I had with the game is simply that the trading mechanic in the game is pretty pointless in my opinion. Basically each city has a good that it produces a lot of and one that it produces little of. Basically you should buy the highly produced good from a city and sell the low produced good. Otherwise it isn’t really worth buying or selling any of the other goods. On top of this unless you personally keep track of how much you pay for a good, it is hard to tell if you are really making much profit trading goods. The main thing that kills the trading though is the simple fact that you are much better off just picking up the goods scattered around the ocean/islands as well as trying to sink ships and take their cargo. You can make money much quicker this way, and it honestly is considerably more enjoyable. If you were looking forward to the trading aspect of the game, you likely will be disappointed by what King of Seas has to offer.
At the end of the day I had mixed feelings about King of Seas as it does some things well and other things could have used some work. It is pretty obvious that the game took a lot of inspiration from games such as the Sid Meier’s Pirates! series. Fans of that series will find a lot to enjoy in King of Seas. I think the game does a lot of things pretty well. It does a good job giving you a sense of sailing the open seas during pirate times. Sailing can be a little slow at times, but is is also kind of relaxing. While the ship combat was kind of difficult in my opinion, I also thought it was pretty fun. It does a good job mixing action mechanics with realistic sailing. The biggest problem with the game is that while the game has quite a bit of content, it gets kind of repetitive after a while. There is a lot of grinding in the game as most of the missions either entail sinking a certain ship or delivering a type of good to a certain location. This gets a little dull after a while which isn’t helped by the trading mechanics feeling kind of pointless most of the time.
Ultimately my recommendation for King of Seas depends on how interested you are in the pirate theme. If you only have a passing interest in the theme, I would probably pass on the game. If you are a big fan of the Sid Meier’s Pirates! franchise or are really interested in this type of pirate game, I think it is probably worth checking out King of Seas.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank 3DClouds, and
Team17 for the review copy of King of Seas used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.