The ocean is a great setting for video games. Since Sid Meier's Pirates!, people have been settings games on the open sea. It's possibly the sense of freedom and adventure, and possibly it's the romanticization that sea-travel gets in media. It's most likely because rendering a bunch of blue is probably a lot less difficult than designing a world to run around in. Enter King of Seas, an action-RPG set on the open ocean which puts you in charge of a ship and basically tells you to go nuts and have some nautical adventures.
As a huge fan of pirates, I was pretty stoked to be given a chance to play a 45-minute preview build of King of Seas recently. Despite the name of the game, you can pick from either a female or male protagonist which is a nice touch. I suppose 'Monarch of Seas' doesn't have as nice of a ring to it. So after picking my lady pirate, I being the opening of the game, which starts with a brief tutorial setting out the main gameplay that you'll be doing for most of the game, at least, as far as I can tell from a 45-minute gameplay preview.
As you might expect from a game called King of Seas, your primary gameplay revolves around captaining a ship. It's all seen from a top-down perspective, and sort of reminds me of Overboard! (Shipwreckers! in the US). You sail around, firing your left and right broadsides at enemy ships to take them out. As it's an RPG, you have different stats that can go up and down and buy and equip better weapons and equipment to make your various pirate-y missions easier to get through.
My big gripe with King of Seas is that it's pretty painful to play. The top-down camera is completely fixed. Since you have left and right canons and have to keep circling to avoid damage, it isn't easy to track which canon is which. The map you're given is also completely useless. It can just about be used to navigate your way to any given mission marker, but other than it seems to hold very little information. Smaller islands aren't present at all, and there's no way of zooming in or moving the map around to make finding your way any easier.
It's these issues that made getting through the opening a bit of a chore. After your short gameplay tutorial, you're dumped onto a pirate island and have to do several more missions to spoon-feed you all of the various mechanics. I was looking forward to finally getting some of the freedom that the open sea promised me, but once I got that freedom, I regretted it. With not much direction beyond 'take out 3 merchant ships,' I set out to plunder and pillage and was immediately set upon by a pirate hunter.
'Nevermind!' I thought. 'They told me my ship was small and maneuverable, so I should be able just to outrun them.' 20 minutes later, when I had still failed to find any merchant ships but had been attacked by pirate hunters 9 times, I was ready to admit that maybe that pirate captain had lied to me about the whole 'small and maneuverable' thing. The camera can only zoom out so far, so it's pretty difficult to avoid conflict or actually to find ships to plunder, for that matter. I was about ready to give up at this stage, and honestly, I only had about 5 minutes of playtime left anyway.
It's not all bad, though. King of Seas looks and sounds pretty fantastic. The character and menu art is very well done, and the art style suits a light-hearted pirate adventure on the high seas. The graphics also work well for the tone of the game, as they're highly stylized and exceedingly colorful, which works again with the cartoonish look of the hand-drawn parts. The sea effects are also well done, which is nice considering that the sea is what you spend 90% of your time staring at during gameplay.
Other than the graphics, King of Seas doesn't have much to offer in its current state. The storyline is nothing special, and while the graphics are decent, the gameplay leaves a lot to be desired. With some tweaking to the camera and the map, there is a chance that this could actually become a decent pirate adventure RPG. As it stands, there is just too much competition in the genre to make me recommend the game to anyone. Having said that, there's still a chance for this game to make a comeback when it releases, so don't write it off just yet.
TechRaptor previewed King of Seas on PC Via Steam with a code provided by the developers.