King of Seas review for Xbox One, PS4, Switch

Platform: Xbox One
Also on: Switch, PC, PS4
Publisher: Team17
Developer: 3DClouds
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

I love the idea of King of Seas. You play as a young pirate, out to make your name and become the, uh, king of the seas. You sail the seas, plundering ships and building your ocean empire. There?s a certain romanticism that?s been attached to pirates, and King of Seas indulges that to the fullest extent.

The thing is, as I played, I realized something else: naval combat isn?t all that exciting. Or, at least, it doesn?t really do all that much for me, particularly in the way King of Seas does it. You sail the procedurally generated oceans looking for ships to loot, you circle around firing on them until they sink, then you pick up your treasure before hunting for your next victim.

I mean, I?m obviously simplifying things. Some ships are harder than others to sink, often to a significant degree, and you have to watch out for much more powerful escort ships. You have to dodge all kinds of hazards, particularly if you venture too close to an enemy settlement where hostile forces will fire on you from the shore. And, with the procedural generation aspect, you have to constantly account for an ever-shifting ocean.

Even with those allowances, though, the whole combat part of King of Seas — also known as ?pretty much the whole point of the game? — never really got all that interesting for me. There?s a gameplay loop here that makes itself evident very early on, and the game rarely deviates from it.

Still, I wouldn?t write off King of Seas entirely. Despite the fact that its core mechanic was kind of forgettable, the fact is, the package is still pretty pleasant. The story may not win any awards for originality, but it was still engaging enough to make you invested in the characters.

Further — and perhaps more importantly — sailing the seas is an incredibly soothing experience. You can easily get by in this game with just sailing around, enjoying the wide open spaces and getting lulled into a meditative state, and every so often picking off an easy ship when you stumble across one. That may not be the point of the game, but it certainly made my experience a pretty good one.

Does that mean I played King of Seas wrong? Probably. But I?ve always thought that one of the signs of a good game is that it allows you to play it your way — and there?s no denying King of Seas gives you freedom to do just that.

Team17 provided us with a King of Seas Xbox One code for review purposes.

Grade: B