Would becoming crowned king of a pub be something of a dubious honour? Presumably, it requires consuming a potentially unhealthy amount of alcohol, or barroom brawling to the top of the ladder, or something along those lines. In Pub Kings from developer Pragmatic Play it could very well allude to both of those things and more. You see, Pub Kings is a Viking-themed slot which celebrates what Vikings (some of them, at least) probably did when they weren’t sailing across the sea to ransack villages or grab priceless artefacts from the clergy. That is, hoisting a few cold ones at the pub after a hard day of being some of the most feared warriors of the Middle Ages.
Pub Kings is no historical documentary, though. Instead, it’s a brightly lit game depicting an exceedingly pleasant part of Viking territory on an exceptionally nice day. The sun’s out, the skies are mainly clear, and a sturdy stone-built Viking Pub rests invitingly on top of a windswept crag. If you were already thirsty, then Pub Kings’ load screen, where a progress bar fills with bubbly amber fluid, might just tip you over the edge. Basically, a warm, feel-good vibe settled in like enjoying a favourite tipple on the weekend with friends when Pub Kings hit the screen. All in all, Pragmatic Play has designed one of the higher-spirited games we’ve reviewed for them in a while.
Prising open Pub Kings like a stubborn bottle cap, we come to its inner workings. Here you’ll find a highly volatile math model running the show, generating 96.08% return to player, or 96.05%, when buying free spins. Lower RTP models are available too, as typically is the case with Pragmatic. Bet selection varies from 20 p/c to £/€240 per spin, and if buying the bonus round, the cost is 100 times the stake.
Pub Kings is played on a 5×4 grid with 20 paylines. Wins pay from left to right and must start on the leftmost grid to do so. Ten pay symbols appear on the reels – 5 are lower value card ranks (10-A), and 5 are Viking character symbols as the high pays. Hitting a 5-symbol winning line gets you 5 to 15 times the bet when made up of royals or 25 to 150 times the bet when made up of picture symbols. Pub Kings does not have a wild symbol, but it does have a scatter, appearing on reels 1, 3, and 5.
Pub Kings: Slot Features
The scatter is not only needed to trigger free spins, but it is also used as part of the Random Awards feature. When exactly 2 scatters land on the reels, a random award from levels 1 to 5 may be won. The paytable says whenever 2 scatters hit, but in the demo, it was random rather than guaranteed to occur. When it does activate, the 2 scatters will pick a reel, and each reel has a different list of possible rewards:
When 3 scatters hit, players are awarded 10 free spins. During free spins, each of the 5 high pay symbols is associated with a reel. After each free spin, all instances of the high-pay symbols are collected on their associated reel. Collecting 6 of the same symbol enables Level 1 on the respective reel, and collecting 3 more of the same symbol from then on increases the Level up to 7.
At the end of the round, the symbol that has the most collected beers pays out the award it has accrued during the round. If there is a tie, the highest value is awarded. Free spins cannot be retriggered.
Pub Kings: Slot Verdict
Pragmatic Play has a reputation for firing off slots at a frightening rate of knots. Seriously, it sometimes feels like every other game we cross paths with comes from the Pragmatic Play production line. It could be tempting to say the studio is sacrificing quality for quantity, but the two traits aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. Pub Kings proves the point. While it’s not exactly a hugely complex game full of Gordian Knots that have to be prised open to grasp what’s going on, Pub Kings nevertheless supplies a set of clever features in both phases of play, giving the game pace as well as the ability to create a bit of nail-biting tension.
Nail-biting tension is more likely to occur in free spins, yet solid prizes in the base game from the Random Awards feature mean that when 2 scatters hit, should they activate, the process of selecting a reel and revealing a prize award might be quite exciting. But it’s in free spins where Pub Kings transforms into a real collector’s paradise. There’s a dual race going on here, between collecting as many high-pay symbols as possible to level up while scooping beers to see which reel will be the overall winner. You just never know who will win till the final spin. Until then, free spins can be a real back-and-forward tussle as characters level up and their rewards increase as the game pours its way towards a win cap of 5,000x the bet.
Whilst Pub Kings might lack the firepower and sophistication to make it a slot of vital importance, it was a fun game to test drive. There’s definite entertainment value to be had here for the right player in what was a joyous celebration of collection mechanics, Vikings, and sparkling amber liquid.
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