I’ll throw it out there, I didn’t really care much for Sea of Thieves before actually getting our game code from Microsoft and installing the game. I didn’t really follow the hype, nor did I spend time in any of the scale tests, however I feel that because of this I found I had a much better experience than those who’ve been waiting for the game since its announcement.
Sea of Thieves, for those who don’t know, is an open-world sandbox pirate game. There’s no story, no plot, no iconic characters, it’s simply just a big map with plenty of islands and treasure to find. It’s up to the player to make their own adventure and because of this the game is somewhat a blessing and a curse.
On one hand, diving into the game and being offered very little in terms of direction can be pretty frustrating. My first impressions of the game was pretty low, especially when I found myself doing mostly Merchant voyages which involved collecting chickens. However it wasn’t until I looked a little further and discovered the Mystic and the Gold dealer, that the game opened up a little more for me.
Much like similar create-your-own-adventure games, Sea of Thieves requires plenty of initiative in order to actually enjoy the game. Much like a pen and paper RPG, you create your position in the game and essentially assign yourself a role. Do you find that you’re a better navigator, or are you a dab hand at sailing the ship? During my voyages I seemed to take like a duck to water when it came to sailing – sure, docking wasn’t one of my strong suits, but luckily one of my crew mates was a dab-hand at repairing the damage to our ship, which was useful.
On the other hand, matchmaking can be more of a curse than anything. Apparently Rare spent a lot of time on making sure that players didn’t grief other players, but what they failed to fix was one or two of your crew mates being absolutely useless. The good news is that you’re able to vote to lock them in the brig, but then you’re down a crew mate as there’s no actual way to kick annoying and unhelpful players.
Griefing is actually a massive problem in Sea of Thievess, especially at outposts. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve been handing in loot only to come back to find some other crew filling my ship with holes. Sure, PvP is a part of the game and I’d be less annoyed if they were actually trying to steal my booty, but in most cases, they’re just sailing by and causing trouble.
Mild inconveniences aside, Sea of Thieves, is actually a really enjoyable game both with friends and solo. There’s nothing quite opening up the sails, hearing that whoosh of wind amongst the canvas of the sail, and embarking on an adventure. What’s more, the game is absolutely stunning and there are so many little details which make the game even better. Like with the musical instruments for example.
Usually in games if players can play music or make some sort of sounds, they’ll be doing it all at once and it’d sound a complete mess. In Sea of Thieves when more than one player starts playing music, they become an instant band with both instruments complementing each other. The more players join in, the bigger the sound becomes, it’s really quite impressive.
Even the littler things such as a peg leg making a thunk each time you take a step on the ship are impressive. There are so many little details in this game which make it incredibly charming.
One of the biggest complaints about Sea of Thieves that I’ve seen online is its lack of content, and sadly I have to agree. Progression in Sea of Thieves comes in the form of levels for each of the three core mechanics in the game; collecting treasure; killing skeleton captains; and delivering goods to the merchant. Each of these three also offer their own rewards based on how far players progress, however it takes a lot of grinding to actually get far enough for efforts to be worth it.
Much like any loot-based RPG Sea of Thieves has a massive grind. It’s a simple case of rinsing and repeating the same thing over and over. Begin a voyage, sail to an island, collect what’s required, sail back, deliver the loot, and repeat. As you progress these voyages get more complex and the rewards get much greater, but it can become stale after a couple of hours.
That being said, this is where the freedom to do whatever you wish becomes the biggest bonus. If you’re sick of doing the work, you can go in search of other players and literally become a pirate. One of the more memorable times with the game was when we were head-to-head with another Sloop. I was in charge of keeping on course, and my crew mate took to the cannons. After a short battle, we managed to kill the other captain and we made our move onto his ship.
Our initial intention was to lower his anchor and watch as his ship sink, that was until we spotted something golden on the lower deck. Turns out, he had a Captain’s Chest stowed away below. It was certainly a ride, especially when he and his ship respawned and began to give chase. Fortunately I was a much better captain and we got away scott-free and handed in our chest for a couple thousand gold.
It’s these little moments in Sea of Thieves which make the game worth it, however much like most of the complaints online, I struggle to see the game being worth the £40/50 asking price. £25-30 and I’d understand, but being a priced the same as a much larger AAA title, really makes it a hard sell. But maybe that’s why Microsoft decided to make it available on their Xbox Game Pass?
Overall, if you’ve got £7.99 to spare to grab the Xbox Game Pass, I’d probably recommend giving it a whirl for a month. It’s a gorgeous game and a hell of a lot of fun, however it can become very stale, very quickly. If the game were to have more content, or the ability to craft, or even personalise characters or ships more than just a handful of clothing / cosmetic options, then I’d definitely recommend it higher.
Who knows what the future holds.