Sea of Thieves Review: A Week and a Half on the High Seas
From the company that gave us Diddy Kong Racing and Goldeneye, comes Sea Of Thieves, a new online adventure game, capitalizing on everyone’s love of pirates. *Insert obligatory joke that references two pirate-y things, one positive and one negative, to illustrate whether this game is good or bad*. Let’s get into it, shall we.
It should be noted that I’m only going to touch on the most basics of the game. The initial discovery of the game is the best experience you are likely to have with it, so just enjoy the mystery, and discover the game for yourself (if you are interested in it).
What Is Sea of Thieves?
Sea of Thieves is Rare’s foray into online multi-player gaming for Microsoft Studios. The concept is that you jump on a ship, either by yourself or with three friends (or three randoms), and head out onto the ocean, doing quests, battling other online players (or working together with them), and hoping to find fame and fortune. The game has been in the works since 2014, with the intention being that Rare wanted to develop a game that supported a group narrative. Sea of Thieves is available on Xbox and Windows 10.
Sea of Thieves throws you into the fray, making you select a character, and then gives you a ship, and expects you to figure things out for yourself. There is no tutorial, or much of anything that explains what you should be doing, so it certainly helps to play with someone who has played before.
A Tale of Two Ships
There are two classes of ships that you have access to, and their availability come down to how big of a group you are playing with.
The Sloop is a ship made for one to two people, as it is small, and more easy to manage with a small group. It has a single sail, an easier to raise anchor, and only a small hull. It is much easier to maneuver, and faster than the Galleon.
This ship is for groups of three to four people, and is quite a bit bigger than the sloop. It has three sails, a heavy anchor, and a two level hull. It can take a heavier beating than the Sloop can, but it is difficult to sail on unless you have a group working together.
Whether you are on the sloop or the Galleon, the things that you will have to do are the same, though more intensive on the larger ship than on the smaller one. The basics of sailing are as follows:
Lower the sails
Angle the sails
Set course via the ship’s wheel
While the Sloop let’s you do these four things with relative ease, the Galleon takes some skill and organization to command properly. Thus, having a good crew is important for the gameplay.
Playing With Others
While it is enjoyable enough to sail the seas by yourself, enjoying the solitude of the ocean, Sea of Thieves is made to be played with others. Furthermore, it is a game made to be played while you are actually talking with other people, so if you are teaming up with friends or randoms, expect that they are expecting you to be mic-ed up and ready talk.
The reason why communication is so important in this game, is because when you are sailing one of these ships with other people, there are literally things that you have to discuss, in order to be successful at accomplishing quests. For example, when doing a quest, you first propose a quest in the captain’s quarters, and once a quest is decided upon, the crew will receive maps, and then have to plot a course on the ships map. While being on the Sloop allows you to see the map from the ship’s wheel, which makes plotting a course to a far away island easy, the Galleon does not provide such conveniences. The map of the Galleon is down in the hull, so if you were doing things all by yourself, you would have to run down to the map, find where you want to go, and then run back to the ship’s wheel in order to pilot your vessel in the right direction. You’ll find that experience makes doing this on your own easy enough, but it is way more convenient to just have someone else run down to the map, tell you where to go, and then steer the ship accordingly.
You’ll find that there are many conveniences that come with playing with others, that make the game more enjoyable. Personally, I find that individuals tend to just fall into certain roles, and while there have been the occasional Leroy Jenkins moments during some of my sessions, the majority of the time people are caught up with running the ship well, and if you have someone who is good at being the cap’n, things run fairly smooth.
The above is pretty much the basics of the gameplay. I could get into the arsenal that you have access to, the storing of goods on the ship, repairing the ship, ship vs ship warfare, properly finding and storing treasure, the villains that you encounter, etc, but going into too much detail with that stuff would ruin the sense of discovery that make the first few hours of the game the most interesting and engaging time that you will have playing it.
No story, you make your own. Thus, it helps to play with others.
Playing Well With Others
I can’t emphasize enough that playing with others is what makes this game fun. If you are an accomplished gamer, you are going to get into the grind of the game pretty fast. There isn’t any leveling up, or skill advancing, aside from gaining respect/notoriety from completing quests, so apart from being motivated by making your pirate look cool, with the purely cosmetic upgrades that you can get with the coin you make from selling your treasures, there isn’t much else to the game. That being said, there is a unique pleasure that comes with jumping into a game with others, knowing that they can pick the mechanics up quick enough, that they can be a strong ally, no matter the time that they’ve put into the game.
When I first loaded in, I had a buddy teach me the basics of the game, and we went out and did a couple quests. Then, just yesterday, I did the same for another buddy, who was able to catch on pretty quick. Because you can crossplay via Windows and Xbox, there is a lot of potential to recruit your pals to play with you. It is being able to play with your buddies that makes this game worth at least spending some time with it.
You’ll find quickly that there is a repetition to the game that you get into quite quickly. There isn’t much variety in the look of the islands, or the encounters that you will have with the NPC villains, but the human element that comes with playing with others, and encountering others, is what makes this game enjoyable. I mean, after a successful quest, my crew and I locked one of our buddies in the brig, then we got drunk, and puked into buckets, and threw our puke onto our prisoner. It’s shenanigans like this that make the game enjoyable (at least for a few hours).
You might even find that some hilarious real world shenanigans might happen. For example, when playing with two of my buddies, and a random, the random didn’t have a mic, so we locked them in the brig, and set sail without them. They stayed in the brig for a good fifteen minutes, and during that fifteen minutes, one of my buddies significant others berated him (which could be heard over their mic), quite seriously, regarding how mean we were being to the random we were playing with. When we ended up getting in a battle, and our galleon got cannonball-ed and sunk, drowning the random that we were playing with, my buddy’s significant other lost it on him, stating that it is what he would do “in real life”. Of course, laughs were had by all.
I feel like I’ve been a bit too much sunshine and shiny peg legs up until this point, so I wanted to jump into some criticisms.
Unless you are the type of player that is simply motivated to 100% because that is the type of player you are, it is likely that you will get bored with this. There are challenges that give the game an edge when you start playing, such as operating the ship, finding treasure and loot, and battling other players, but once you have a grasp on all of these things, and have figured out the little tricks to do everything well, the game loses a lot of its fun.
The world of Sea of Thieves feels empty right now. I prefer to not always be encountering other players, but if you play for a couple hours and never seen anyone, that is a problem. Much of the fun of the game comes from the tension of encountering other players, and losing all of the treasure that you may have spent hours collecting. If you see other ships on the horizon, than there is a threat, and that makes everything more fun. If you don’t see anyone during a session, than that tension isn’t there.
There seems to be a lot of missed potential with the game. They do seem to be doing updates, and listening to what players are saying, but I would say that if you are playing with your buddies, it is guaranteed that while you are playing you will come up with ideas that seem like no brainers for the game to have implemented from the beginning.
- Graphics: Nothing mind blowing, but the cartoony look is pleasing enough.
- Audio + OST: You yourself can play some decent songs on the accordion, and when wearing headphones, the sound of the world makes everything feel alive.
- Cost: The full game cost is absurd, and I urge you not to pay that for it. However, the Microsoft Game pass cost of $9.99 USD a month will let you try the game without much financial hit. You might even be eligible for a free trial, so you could try the game for nothing, which is definitely worth it.
- Bugs: Had myself and a couple others get booted from the game, which is annoying when you have acquired a ton of treasure that you wont get a piece of.
My Score: 6/10