No, you’re not imagining it, King of Seas is definitely missing a ‘the’. But if Hideo Kojima can get away with calling a game ‘Death Stranding’, I can forgive this action-RPG’s grammatical quirks.
Besides which, based on the time-limited alpha demo I got my hands on, King of Seas could be a nautical gem. As an usurped naval princess, you’re tasked with discovering the identity of your father’s killers, delivering a heaping helping of vengeance. In theory.
In truth, the Monkey Island-esque opening is so over the top it’s blatantly obvious who was responsible. Instead, it’s the vengeance part that will occupy your time. Viewing the ocean from a top-down perspective, you guide your ship around procedurally generated seas, delivering cargo, pilfering wrecks and getting into fights with anyone who dares spill your grog.
You can avoid combat (the bulk of which takes place at sea), but sooner or later you’ll end facing off with an enemy. King of Seas‘ bird’s-eye view does make it look like it belongs in an arcade cabinet, the kind of game where the winner is the one who can slam the fire button fastest.
But as you play it, you realise that, even in alpha, King of Seas has more than a little depth. Ship-to-ship combat, like Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag before it, is a slow, strategic affair as you struggle to outmanoeuvre your opponent, switching ammo with the intent of targeting different parts of your enemy’s vessel and judging whether escape is the best option.
Outside of combat and piracy, trading is another viable source of income which, in turn, can be used to upgrade your ship. The demo did make things a little too easy when it came to acquiring new weapons, but I suspect the final game will force you to work for your upgrades.
There are a few other little touches that add to King of Seas‘ appeal. Taking control of your ship, for example, isn’t just a matter of pushing up or down on the controller; you’re given the choice as to whether you lower one, two or three sails. Yes, you’re basically choosing stop, slow, medium or full speed, but unfurling each sail manually had me grinning like an idiot.
There were times I resented the alpha’s time limit because, damnit, I wanted to immerse myself in King of Seas’ charming world. Just pottering around, trading port to port is fun in itself, even before you get into any battles. The icing on the cake is the great character art and daft dialogue that greets you at each interaction.
So far, King of Seas is an intriguing little aquatic actioner that, unless it’s unexpectedly steered aground, could be well worth your pieces of eight. You’ll have to hold on to your treasure until early 2021 when it’s scheduled to launch on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.