If you follow console gaming in particular and new gaming technology in general, there’s a historical pattern of developers quickly trying to shoehorn the previous generations’ tech and games into the new stuff. For a lot of developers, VR is treated much the same way, where traditional games are shoved in, but the controls for looking around are now attached to your head instead of a mouse or right analog stick.
Heroes of the Seven Seas on the Gear VR is, unfortunately, a perfect example.
The whole presentation, especially the opening introduction to the story, feels heavily anime and manga influenced, which is amusing. The story is pretty simple: you’re a haughty pirate looking for a mysterious and powerful treasure, much to the dismay of the other pirates. The look of these story bits is straight up manga styled and fairly non-sensical, but it gets you out there to plunder and explore.
Most of Heroes of the Sevens Seas takes place on open waters, looting, shooting, and plundering any ships that cross your path. You’ll rescue floundering scurvy knaves and their sunken ships (by running them over with your boat, like one does) and find new pirate ports to buy and sell stuff. You’ll also be able to repair and upgrade your ship. You can even capture other ships instead of outright scuttling them, which is how you progress to bigger and better things.
Heroes of the Seven Seas requires a controller to play, which is an important distinction. The odd thing about that is I’m still actually not sure why, since it could mostly be played by looking at things and tapping the Gear VR’s touch pad. Steering the ship is certainly easier with a controller, but just doesn’t seem like it should be mandatory. The reliance on standard console gameplay here gives the game the feel of a quick game that wasn’t made with VR in mind.
The crux of the experience involves sailing the seas looking for things to blow up, just like a real-life pirate. You’ll steer the boat with the controller, but aim your broadsides and various weapons with your head. So, steer parallel to another ship, look at them, and unleash a volley of cannons. Ship combat in video games tends to devolve into a strange game of circle-strafing around your opponent while shooting and this is no exception.
Basically, you simply circle around the enemy, keeping them in aiming range, while hopefully staying out of their range. As a result, combat is shallow, but amusing enough. As things progress, you’ll be able to afford new and spicier weapons for your ship, but the general combat doesn’t really change much.
There are occasional ports where you can talk to the denizens of this pirate world. Some are shopkeepers, others port masters, and some are just general sailer schmoes. There are rowdy bars, dirty wenches you sadly can’t really interact with, and saucy sailors, but it all feels like set pieces for a failed Disney-like pirate attraction.
Adding to the suspicion that Heroes of the Seven Seas is perhaps a holdover game from an old console system, the graphics look like they’re from an early PlayStation 2 release. It’s all blocky 3D graphics with muddy textures and murky details. Hands look like weird slabs of meat and heads are made of so few polygons you can actually count them. The Gear VR has certainly proven it’s capable of some impressive graphics, but that’s certainly not the case here.
For all the criticisms you can level at Heroes of the Seven Seas, its reliance on the fact that blowing stuff up is fun doesn’t actually let it down. Blowing up stuff is fun. Even here. Using your head to aim cannons is fun. Whittling down an enemy ship’s health bar just to watch them burn and sink into the water–complete with incredibly primitive fire and explosion effects–is fun.
So, Heroes isn’t a total wash. It’s shallow, ugly, and uninspired, but the core gameplay is amusing enough to keep your head in the game for a few hours. If nothing else, Heroes of the Seven Seas shows just how much we’d like a really cutting edge VR pirate-themed game at some point in the future.
Heroes of the Seven Seas isn’t the worst Gear VR game we’ve played and there’s some basic fun with shooting and explosions to be had. Unfortunately, the rest of it is so lackluster and outright ugly that it’s hard to really find more to like beyond mindless cannon fire that gets old more quickly than we’d like.
Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrived at this score.
Jason D’Aprile is a freelance writer with work appearing in prominent publications such as Gamespot, Playboy, and many others.