It’s summertime, and being the king ain’t easy… the king of crabs, that is! King of Crabs is an easy-breezy PvP MMO that apparently hit early access back in 2020 from developers Robot Squid and Spilt Milk Studios, the latter of which was responsible for MMO Lazarus, which sunsetted in 2019. I continue to argue that everything between 2019 and 2021 is a giant lump of “really, that long ago?” to “oh yeah that was a lifetime ago.” I have a faint recollection of seeing gifs and screenshots of this game on Reddit and the like but never looked into it closer. Regardless, I’ve only just now discovered the game in earnest, and since I haven’t played it, then it’s new to me!
With the summer just beginning, my gaming opportunities are very sporadic. I might have a few nights free enough to game, but then I might have a week straight of IRL plans with real-life people (disgusting, I know). I get dragged to these birthdays, BBQs, and concerts to mingle, and being anti-social isn’t excuse enough to stay home, so having a game to play that is light and easy but still enjoyable for the duration of play is a boon. Plus I’ve just realized King of Crabs is on mobile, so now I’ve got something to help me pass the time too.
A simple but engaging little game
King of Crabs is an extremely simple battle royale-esque title. The summary of the game is very literally in the title: You’re a little crab, and you want to eat and smash things until you become big enough to be the king of crabs.
I believe each match can hold up to 30 or 50 players at a time, but I don’t think the matches ever end. It appears that players constantly hop in and out of a match as they die. So while the goal is to become the king, it’s not a title you’ll likely hold onto for too long.
For all its simplicity, though, it’s pretty fun! You simply roam around the ground by either clicking where you want to go or holding your mouse towards that direction. As you walk into creatures and objects, you’ll automatically begin to attack them. If you kill them, you can then eat and pick up the pieces left behind, growing as you do so.
There is an odd microtransaction-y life mechanic, though. I’m not sure whether it caps out at any number of lives or not, but you do unlock (or purchase) lives to keep playing after you die. Fortunately, it scales exponentially, so even if players do pay for more lives, it’ll become restrictive quickly. I’m guessing the game matches you up with similar ranked players, so perhaps that’s why I haven’t felt like it’s too detrimental to the experience. I’ve become king a couple times, and I usually get within the top five or so usually as well. Perhaps at the higher ranks, players do buy in more, and a free player like me can’t compete. I’m not sure.
There are even a set of quests. It’s becoming pretty normal to find these in BR and other arena-type games. They’re basically just a set of generic dailies like kill 10 blue crabs. It’s not complex, but it does give you a small goal to try and achieve each day.
Now, where it gets silly and fun is in the weapons. I mean, come on, you know you’re intrigued by seeing a crab holding a sword and shield. You only have to stand on the items for a brief moment to equip them. Each weapon has a limited number of uses, so you’ll constantly be running around and looking for new weapons to replenish those you’ve used up. You aren’t limited to melee weapons; you’ll find some ranged ones as well, which are extremely powerful.
In addition to the gear you also have an energy bar, which lets you sprint, and an active ability. Each crab type, which is essentially your class, has a unique ability. The base crab has a super boost move, another can squirt out some sticky goo, and one can even use a temporary freeze ability – as crabs are well known to do.
Now, I wouldn’t have been surprised if that were the sum total of the game’s character advancements, but it actually goes a step further. For each crab type, you are able to level up and earn skill points that you can assign to a few different attributes. Then, there is a separate set of points that you can assign to passive abilities. For example, one is that food has faster growth effects. These seem to be account-wide and apply to all your crabs.
See, I can tell you’re a bit surprised. You didn’t expect there to be even that much going on in a game about fighting crabs.
PvP and PvE modes for crab smashing
That’s right, you can compete in a chill PvE game mode if you aren’t the player-killing type, but personally, I’m always here for the fight. In fact, when you first open the game, it walks you through a brief tutorial and then immediately dumps you into a PvE round. However, the game doesn’t explicitly tell you that you’re in a PvE arena, so I kept trying to smash other players to no avail. I was real worried that this was a bizarre BR with no direct PvP. Fortunately, that’s not the case!
Click “Play” from the main screen and then you’ll be able to choose between the two modes. Curiously enough, when I first played there was a third mode that simply said “YARR!” which was to be unlocked at rank Silver 2, but it’s no longer there. I did sync my Steam copy with my phone, so I’m wondering if that had something to do with it. Guess it’s impossible to know.
Regardless, the PvP mode plays exactly like the PvE one, with the only difference being that if you click into another player, you’ll fight. It’s a fun time. I’ve had a few rounds where I was basically running for my life the whole time and others where I found a nice safe spot to farm until I was large enough to bully others.
It’s free-to-play, but boy do they put the microtransactions in your face!
As you can already guess, this game has a ton of things to buy into. There’s all the standard BR gunk: a battle pass, premium currency, cosmetics, and so much more. The cosmetics are pretty silly, though, as you can get all sorts of hats for your crab and even some shoes. The hats provide some passive bonuses too, as well as different skins for your crab.
Some of the items to purchase do roll into the pay-to-win category, sadly. I mentioned the lives above, which are probably the worst offenders, but purchasing pets is a contender too. I didn’t mention the pets before since I don’t have any yet, but they offer some passive bonuses. The dragonfly will heal you when you’re low on HP, the toucan drops exploding eggs, and the moth shoots moth balls, naturally. Very cute and cool, but if they can be purchased only with premium currency, they’d certainly fall into the pay-to-win category. You do earn various currencies through play, but I can’t tell yet whether it’s fast enough to be a valid option for buying these perks or not.
Regardless, King of Crabs is a fun way to pass a little bit of time. Now that I’ve synced it up on my phone too, I’ll even be able to play it while I’m on the go. I can’t imagine it being a game that sticks around long-term, but it’s cute and fun for now.