It’s an odd twist of the modern games industry that there are very few adventure games that don’t fit the conventional third-person model. Perhaps its due to the advancement of technology – the 8-bit and 16-bit eras had limitations which meant developers had to be more creative – or perhaps it’s simply due to sales numbers. Whatever the case may be, it’s been some time since we’ve had a title that bases it’s entire raison d’etre not on slaying, but on sailing. King of Seas makes efforts to change that.
King of Seas is an adventure. It’s wrapped up in a story and evolving real-time combat but ultimately, it’s a game about how you venture out to sea. You’ll manage your ship(s) and progress through increasingly difficult missions, but what happens in between is entirely up to you.
The game offers a multitude of difficulty settings which can affect your rewards for success/failure, but also two different playable characters. By-and-large the only real difference between the two is the story, but it adds a nice layer of replayability to the game. Regardless of which character you choose, King of Seas provides a coming of age story with enough twists-and-turns to keep your interest, but it’s in the gameplay where you’ll be investing most of your time.
The core gameplay loop is a short bit of text-delivered story, acquire a new mission, set sail for new destination. However, while sailing there’s a lot of other activities to encounter. You can find survivors, go fishing, collect rare loot or – more often than not – run into the authorities.
Any King of Seas review should acknowledge that this is an action-RPG. However, it’s most certainly not in the fashion you would be expecting. Yes you will improve your ship and learn new abilities as you progress, but this is not Diablo at sea. You can’t get by simply wandering in range of enemies and attacking. You’ll need to work hard to learn the basics of combat; manoeuvring is often as important as the precision of your attacks.
Thankfully the game gives you many options for navigation. Speed is controlled by the wind, and how many sails you deploy to take advantage of it. You can upgrade sails throughout the game, and most likely will your first choice when acquiring more gold. There are numerous other options too, of course. From aesthetic changes to cannons with special effects.
On the subject of cannons, you have three different basic ammo types depending on that which you wish to target. Do you wreck a ship’s sails to slow it down? Or go straight for the the hull? Maybe you want to take out some crew members, lowering it’s attack power. While in theory players should learn to regularly switch between these types to maximise their combat efficiency, it’s more likely they’ll quickly pick a favourite tactic for each scenario and stick with it. At least until they buy an upgrade, or fail.
Failure in combat is not the end, but depending on the difficulty chosen it can be punishing. Easier difficulties allow you to keep acquired booty, but harder levels will steal from your supplies.
King of Seas has a lot going for it. You can play in many different ways depending on your mood. Are you going to take it slow, searching for treasure and completing fetch quests? Or take the fight straight to the enemy in a more action-orientated approach? It’s a unique game in its genre – and in modern gaming as a whole – but because of this you’re either going to love it or hate it. If you’ve read this far into this King of Seas review, our guess is you’ll be in the former camp.