(Writer’s note: this review of King of Seas shall abstain from all pirate puns. The commodification of pirate-based humour is a cultural blight and the worst thing to happen to that distinguished [if somewhat antiquated] career path since Johnny Depp.)
King of Seas is a great title but a bold claim: among so many pirate videogames could this truly be brazen enough to claim dominion? With the legendary Lucasarts and even the bloated juggernaut that is Assassin’s Creed having a stab at nautical adventuring how does this attempt hold up? On a grading scale, unfortunately, this is more of a King of C’s.
To give due credit the adventure starts promisingly. Choosing from two characters you’re launched into a quick intro in which you’re accused of murdering your father, the king. This is mercifully short and quickly you’re given free reign to begin sailing the seas. You dictate the speed of your craft by how many sails you choose to raise but the ship always feels fairly sluggish. Perhaps this an accurate portrayal of a ship but it makes for unsatisfactory movement. Combined with so many fetch quests this is a hard pill to swallow. The procedurally generated world offers a variety to your adventure but has the side-effect of preventing the world from being truly memorable.
The combat thankfully offers more complexity. With a firm focus on positioning your ship for maximum damage with your cannons, there’s more than a stab of Black Flag’s naval combat here for seasoned buccaneers. As the game leans into the mysticism of the seas you unlock magical attacks that further spice up these encounters, a Kraken tentacle assault being a favourite.
Visually there’s a charming simplicity to the world, focusing on simple geometry and primary colours. This makes for a great handheld experience if you’re on the Switch. The characters are lovingly rendered with a caricature-like quality, truly memorable designs. Unfortunately, the Switch version doesn’t offer such a smooth ride, chugging along rather than providing smooth sailing. As a potential Wind Waker substitute it can only compete graphically sadly.
Unfortunately, the repetitive nature of the quests and the frustratingly slow travel times become truly overwhelming. While the story has its charms it would have definitely been stronger as a single specifically crafted experience. The randomly generated worlds create a chasm of experiences between players. Sometimes charted waters are preferable to uncharted. The wide myriad of combat upgrades are enjoyable but patience will wear thin with repetition.