Monday, June 7, 2021

King of Seas (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC) Review

After SuperPhillip Central's weekend celebration, commemorating 13 years of SPC, we now turn towards what will be our 1,000th review in just two more reviews! But, let's not make haste, as we have King of Seas on deck for the review treatment. This high seas action-adventure game is all about pirating, plundering, and possibly whatever else your heart desires! Does King of Seas sink or swim? Let's find out with the SPC review.

King of Zzzs

Yo-ho-ho! A pirate's life for me! Combine Sid Meier's Pirates with some of Rare's Sea of Thieves, and you have a small sampling of what 3DClouds and Team17's King of Seas has in store for its prospective pirates on its procedurally generated seas. Unfortunately, a strong start to this adventure is followed by a massive grind and giant annoyances that send this top-down perspective pirate game sinking to the bottom of the briny deep.

King of Seas starts off promising enough, offering a tale of revenge and redemption as your character's father, the king, is murdered, and your name is number one on the list of suspects. The royal armada sinks your ship after a tutorial mission, leaving the scene promptly after assuming you went down with the ship. Unfortunately for them but fortunately for you, you're taken under the tutelage of a band of pirates who decide to help you in your quest to clear your name and find the person or persons responsible for the murder of your father.

Your ship is yours to customize as you "sea" fit, so outfit away and set sail!

You start off your newfound pirate life with a ship that the pirate boss gives you, and you're able to outfit it with a wide arrange of equipment to boost its stats and abilities, such as hulls, decks, sails, crew, cannons, and more. You can either find new equipment from plundering sunken vessels, destroying ships for their goods, salvaging it from the bottom of the sea, or even simply purchasing it from one of many port towns around the world. As the game sports a procedurally generated world, no two adventures on the high seas are ever alike.

Ahoy, captain! A sunken vessel to loot for booty!

But, quickly you soon will discover that the pirate life in King of Seas is less of a thrill and much more of a grind. This isn't just relegated to the never-ending supply of simple side quests, such as sinking a certain ship, delivering goods to another port, or escorting ships to safety as they slowly sail behind you. No, this is true of the main campaign missions as well. An early one requires you to earn 20,000 Gold in order to purchase a new ship. Fine enough, but this essentially requires the aforementioned tedious and rote side quests, many of which have no rhyme or reason for their difficulty ratings. One mission requires you to deliver a package to another port, and that is somehow worth the same amount of experience as having to destroy a particular ship that can sink you in two hits.

The "no rhyme or reason" rule applies to more than just side quests. It's beyond my understanding how damage is equated in King of Seas' naval battles, too. Sometimes an enemy who is the same level as you will sink you in a few shots while other times it will take seven or eight. The fact that battles are relatively basic and amount to circling around one another, waiting for your ship's cannons to be pointed at the enemy in order to damage them, didn't instill any pleasure either. Additionally--and as I found out the hard way--other ships level up with you throughout your journey, so the only real reason to accumulate experience is for earning new perks and abilities.

Skirmishes on the seas can sometimes show some moments of excitement. Sometimes.

Furthermore, death in King of Seas--or at least getting your boat destroyed--results in you being transported all the way back to the pirate base. Generally, this is located far away from any other notable location in the game. Thus, having the "pleasure and privilege" of sailing halfway across the world map just for a chance to possibly succeed at a mission, only to fail, sink, and get sent all the way back to the pirate base is less than fulfilling and more than frustrating. I felt I was wasting my time with the game when I was sunk, as not only is combat boring and tedious, but failing and being transported back to the WAY-out-of-the-way base isn't too motivating. Quite the opposite, in fact. The lack of any fast travel options is further disappointing.

It also doesn't help that your ship initially sails at a glacial pace, even with full sails up. Contending with the wind is simply obnoxious, as I found it generally going in the opposite direction I needed to head. Now, controlling your ship, whether it be a Sloop, a Frigate, or what have you, is an enjoyable enough process. You use the front bumpers of the controller to raise and lower your sails. Up to three sails can be raised for maximum speed, and the left bumper lowers them, so you can turn and corner more easily. The back triggers access the cannons, with LT firing the left cannons and RT firing the right. Through slowing your ship to a stop by lowering all of your ship's sails, you can use medical packs on your ship to heal it--but only if it's at a dead stop without any enemies around. Otherwise, you'll be a sitting duck with foes around you, as you desperately try to heal, and your ship will end up being at a literal dead stop.

One of many port towns within the procedurally generated world of King of Seas.

King of Seas isn't smooth sailing in its presentation, either. The Nintendo Switch version, which was the build of the game I played for review, has some choppy frame-rate issues, not just in sea skirmishes with enemy ships, but also just normal sailing as well. Another issue I have with the game's presentation is that the font for ship names and other aspects of the game are just way too tiny. It's difficult to read them at least on the Switch's handheld screen, and even on a TV, they're just unacceptably small. Meanwhile, on a more positive note, I did enjoy the music while sailing the seas and doing battles with other boats. It has your typical, heroic, swashbuckling sound to the themes, and I appreciated the melodies and feel of each piece presented to my aural cavities. 

Between the groan-worthy grind that is the campaign and utterly uninspired side quests, and tons of time wasted within its slow sailing, lack of fast travel, and punishing deaths, King of Seas is a lot of floundered potential. The base of the game is inspired with regard to controlling your ship and presents some excellent ideas, but the game's economy, glacial sailing speed, and campaign woes all lead to a game that capsizes not too long after the adventure starts to unfold.

[SPC Says: C-]

A code was received by SPC from the publisher for the purpose of writing this review.

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