Cannonballs, tropical islands and scruffy-looking characters with golden earrings. If these things are music to your ears, then the upcoming action role playing game King of Seas, developed by Italian indie studio 3DClouds, might just be the laid-back pirate adventure for you. It revolves around cartoonish characters, comical dialogues and the ability to explore a procedurally-generated world as the captain of a pirate ship. Having played a preview version of the game, I was pleasantly surprised by the game's light-heartedness, which I think could appeal to anyone looking for an easy-going adventure game.
King of Seas is set in a tropical world full of islands and ancient ruins. Long ago, the Kingdom of the Seven Seas won a decisive war and banished all pirates to the edges of the known world. The Kingdom is all about maintaining order and securing trade, while the scattered pirates who remain live by their own pirate laws. The characters populating this world are funny-looking and cartoonish in appearance, while the game world is crafted in a rather cute 3D style that reminds me of the Warcraft series.
In the opening parts of the game, the ruling king is assassinated through a mysterious voodoo ritual. As the player, you take on the role of the falsely accused son or daughter of the murdered king. After being left for dead by rebellious royal warships who sank your ship, you're saved by a comical pirate duo who transport you to the only remaining pirate hideout. From here you start out as the captain of an unimpressive little pirate ship, eager to find out who murdered your father.
Most of the game is spent from a top-down view on your pirate ship. Using keyboard controls, you can move your ship around freely. Ports can be visited for upgrades, quests, and for buying goods. Each island also has a carpenter for repairs or a bank for deposits, for example. The game's controls on PC are a bit awkward at first as there's no mouse support (at least in the preview version), meaning you're using only the keyboard for navigating the menus and ship controls.
I quickly found myself casually following the main storyline and just going out to explore the game map in between. There's a lot of freedom to go where you please. From your home base you can sail to nearby islands, picking up random loot that's floating around to upgrade your ship. For example, you can pick up drifting sailors on small rafts to complement your crew. Or loot wrecks for valuable upgrades, such as new sails, enchanted voodoo bows or bigger cannons. Whatever you pick up and add to your ship is also added cosmetically, meaning there's a lot of potential for ship customisation. Additionally, there's a relatively straightforward economy inside the game, which allows you to buy and sell goods, sailing between different ports in order to make a profit.
The storyline in King of Seas unfolds mostly through short dialogues between the player and all sorts of pirates and merchants you interact with. The dialogues are quite entertaining and not too long or predictable. They remind me somewhat of the hilarious dialogues in the classic The Secret of Monkey Island series. There's a variety of characters in the places you visit, such as a outrageously muscular carpenter, nerdy cartographers and mouthy baboons who run the banks in every port. They ask you to do assignments or tell you about new developments in the storyline.
It's not all just chatting and chilling out of course, you're also a pirate! In King of Seas, you can attack and loot randomly appearing ships from other factions or complete piracy-oriented missions. The combat system isn't too complicated, but it suffices. Combat happens by circling around enemy ships, firing broadsides and dodging incoming ones. Using the arrow keys you can fire either broadside, with the option to choose between three different types of ammo. I must say that I didn't really see the point of firing cannonballs that targeted enemy sails or crew, because the only way to actually sink enemies is to use cannonballs that target the hull directly. It could be that I'm missing out on some possibilities here, though. Additionally, you can install special powers on the ship such as a flamethrower.
In any case, I find the combat to be quite entertaining. Playing at the easiest difficulty, I find it easily manageable. When I encountered a high-level ghost ship, it did take me a lot of manoeuvring and carefully placed shots to emerge victorious, meaning there's a good balance of challenge involved. Because you're starting out with a lightly armed ship, taking on bigger enemies such as pirate hunters is a bad idea, at least initially.
The main storyline involves several types of missions, for example escorting a ship and fighting off attackers, or an objective to loot and sink three merchant ships. I think the missions suit the overall freedom and pace of the game well. I'm not sure how much influence the player has on the storyline and how much replayability the game offers in this regard, as the preview I've been playing only allows for limited playtime. However, the game map in King of Seas is procedurally generated. This means that every time you start a new game, you'll be playing on a new map with new islands and locations. This means exploration is a big part of every game you play. The storyline will stay the same, though.
Overall, the game is quite relaxing to play. That's also partly because of the charming graphical style and the game's light-hearted soundtrack. The music works well at invoking a tropical and care-free atmosphere when you're cruising around the seas. The houses and ships look adorable and the world map has plenty of detail. There is also weather effects and a day-and-night cycle in the game and when the sun sets, you can see little lanterns turn on aboard your ship. In my experience, these different elements just work well together to create a relaxing atmosphere in the game that invites you to keep playing.
Based on my preview experience, King of Seas is a game to watch if you're after a relaxed gaming experience or an accessible adventure - even if you're normally not into the RPG or pirate genre. The game's visuals, soundtrack and gameplay tie in well together. Even though the controls without mouse support on PC are a bit awkward at first, this fades quickly. I'm not sure how long and diverse the game's storyline is going to be, considering the limited playtime I had available, but the procedurally produced game map indicates a certain degree of replayability in this regard. As for when we can expect to see more, King of Seas is set to release in early 2021 on Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.