Not too long ago I made an article talking about my impressions of how Sea of Thieves will fare (no pun intended) once it’s released; to which I stated that the game might not live up to expectations.
Unfortunately, this seems true, at least for the most part.
Platform Reviewed: Xbox One
Platforms Available: Xbox One, PC
Release Date: March 20, 2018
This review is based on a review code provided by Microsoft.
Both Microsoft and Rare really showed that they’re capable of creating something truly amazing by giving us a world where you actually feel like a swashbuckling pirate. It’s just a shame that the experience is muddled with repetitiveness as well as a huge lack of content.
What’s sad is that this game by far has the best looking and realistic ocean waters I’ve ever experienced. Not only that but the mechanics of raising the anchor, dropping the sails and navigating your way through treacherous seas really makes you feel as if you were actually setting sail on a real-life pirate ship. This could have been something incredibly amazing but alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
First off, there’s a staggering lack of plot for a game this huge. Oh did I say lack of plot? I mean there isn’t any plot at all. The mere premise of being pirates and scavenging islands for ancient treasure would have been the perfect setup for an interesting story. Instead, we’re just thrown into the world without any narrative whatsoever.
I know most of you will argue that this is a good thing as real-life pirates set sail and create stories all on their own, but we’re not actual pirates are we? All we do is that we play as if we were like one so it would have been nice if the game gave us any semblance of a plot; that alone could have allowed us to immerse ourselves in the experience even further.
Heck, it would have been even better if it gave a brief tutorial from the beginning. Instead, it throws you straight into the adventure, expecting you to learn about the different actions and mechanics right from the get-go. This can be alienating for newcomers, especially if they happen to suddenly pair themselves up with a bunch of random people, only to get yelled at for not even knowing what button to press to eat a friggin banana!
Speaking of button pressing, I’ll give it that the controls in this game are mapped pretty well. The added function of allowing you to map different shortcuts for certain items through the options menu is also a big plus; cause you’ll never know when you might need that bucket to toss out water flooding in your sinking ship.
Oh, and about the items in this game? They’re good for what they are but very lacking. As a pirate, you’ll have to scavenge for things like cannonballs, bananas, and even wooden planks as they’re all very important tools for survival. Low on health? Eat a banana to get back into the action. Getting peppered by enemy cannon fire? Use your own ship’s cannons to fire out the cannonballs you’ve collected. See your ship collecting water? Use the wooden planks to repair those nasty leaks.
While this all sounds great, it would have been nice if these items had more variety to them. For instance, why just bananas? Why can’t we eat other food that would restore greater amounts of health or give us added benefits such as more damage? Why can’t we have something like meat or even berries to give a bit of diversity to what you can scavenge throughout the islands. Because I’m pretty sure even an actual pirate would embrace scurvy as if it were a long-lost lover if he had to eat a banana for the millionth time.
Although, items such as the musical instruments and the tankard are really entertaining as they can bring about the most fun out of any player. But for actual seafaring tools such as compasses and the map, they leave much to be desired. If you’re the type who enjoys plotting courses, then you’ll get a kick out of using both the map and the compass to manually pinpoint the locations that your ship needs to traverse to. If not? then good luck at yelling and arguing with your crewmates about which destination to head towards. It would have been nice to have a map that you can bring with you at all times, but I guess that’s asking for too much.
Another thing that you should take note of is that there are certain factions you can join at any given point in time as you play; those being the Gold Hoarder Faction, Order of Souls and the Merchant Alliance. Each of them has their own specific goals and quests that you can take up.
The Gold Hoarders require you to literally horde as much gold as you can by tracking down islands that contain buried treasure; the faction might even require you to solve a riddle to find said treasure. They at least make you feel like an actual pirate as one of the major requirements of being one is finding buried booty.
The Order of Souls has to be the simplest of the bunch. The only thing that they require you to do is to kill a bunch of enemies in exchange for weapons or gold; that’s as straightforward as you can get.
As for the Merchant Alliance? This might be the most boring and tedious out of the three as all you’re doing is traveling from island to island, outpost to outpost delivering things like supplies or animals all within a limited amount of time. But the worst part is if you have to deliver animals, you have to make sure that you get the right one, as well as seeing that it doesn’t die on the ship to hunger or friggin seasickness. Because if they die? You’ll have to do the daunting task of having to capture the right animal all over again. It would have been nice if you could eat them if they didn’t happen to make it, but no. You’ll just be sitting there, sighing because you have to go all the way back to pick up another pig, snake or chicken for the dang quest.
The rewards for completing these quests aren’t even that great. You get paid in gold, so what? Remember when I said that this game is lacking variety in the item department? Well, this problem also makes its way to both weapons and clothing. It makes currency in the game mean close to nothing as all it does is let you buy a bunch of skins; most of which aren’t even that good looking. You’d think that with the amount of gold you’d collect you’ll at least be able to you to buy sturdier or stronger weapons and clothing, but nope! All it does is change their appearance without any added benefits whatsoever, meaning that they’re all purely cosmetic. So doing and completing these quests feel pointless as there’s no sense of progression.
It would have been so nice to at least be able to buy better weapons as you’ll want to quickly plow through the enemies in this game after playing for around a few hours. The reason why I say this? It’s because combat gets boring really fast as there are very little enemies to fight.
To give you an idea as to what you can encounter in this game, here’s a short list:
- Skeletons (In different varieties such as Captain or Gold ones, but skeletons nonetheless.)
- Actual human players
- The Kraken
That’s it! That’s all you get to fight in this game. While actual enemy players can give you a run for your money and make things more interesting given the human dynamic, it’s still not as great as you would expect because you’ll soon find out that there’s little to no penalty for dying. You can literally die and respawn repeatedly during the middle of combat until either you or your enemies decide to just give up and walk away.
But what has to be the biggest disappointment is the Kraken. The first time you encounter this behemoth will undoubtedly get you and your crewmates to panic and/or feel the giddiness of the epic fight that’s about to ensue until you realize that the only thing you’re actually up against is just its tentacles and nothing else. If you dive into the water thinking that you might get a glimpse as to what it might look like? Then all you’ll see is complete and utter darkness. You can’t even see the Kraken in its entirety. Making you feel as if Rare did this just so they didn’t have to do the added work of making the model for the dang thing.
Oh, let’s talk about the fighting in this game for a quick moment. If you’re looking for deep combat mechanics that are easy to learn but hard to master? Then you’re better off playing something else as all you have to do is repeatedly slash your sword or shoot your pistol until an enemy drops dead. At least the ship battles and gun shooting has some form of skill input as you’ll actually have to steer the direction of the ship for better positioning and aim with the cannon or rifle accurately in order to hit targets. It’s fun the first few times, but it gets tiring and even annoying given how it’s the same thing over and over – Shoot, slash, shoot, slash, shoot, slash and the occasional wheel steering. And don’t say that shooting players from the cannons are an exception as while it may be funny, it usually costs you the life of a crewmate and possibly your entire ship.
Although I’ve been going on about this game’s problems, there is one thing that kept me going; that being the human interactivity via the multiplayer aspect. While trying to find the perfect and most entertaining crew by pairing up with a bunch of random players can only be done by pure chance, it’s so worth it if you manage to find them. What’s even better is if you have a couple of friends who have the game, then you can all form a crew of your own and mess around in any way you please. With the right people, the game can be a ton of fun.
But that’s where the major problem lies.
The game is only fun if you or the people you play with know how to make it fun. If you’re playing with friends who have an affinity for entertaining others or skilled enough to competently steer a ship or engage in combat, then you’ll undoubtedly have a good time. Oh, and this game definitely calls for using a microphone as utilizing the chat wheel is just tedious and pointless. It’s an open world pirate game so you want to be able to act out or hear others talk like an actual pirate.
If you hate playing with others and just want to play the game by yourself (although I don’t see why you would want to do this), then there is a single player option. You’ll probably spend only a couple of minutes in it as you’ll quickly see that playing this game alone is absolutely boring. Sea of Thieves was developed to be a multiplayer game where you build up a crew and explore the seas to obtain treasure, thrills, and most importantly, the sense of freedom. That, at least, is something I can wholeheartedly agree with.
I hate to say that this game left me feeling utterly disappointed. It was fun when you experience everything for the first time, but the novelty wears off way too quickly as the game feels very incomplete. It has so many things that should have made it amazing. You can literally see and feel the aspects that make the game work as well as what could have made people wanting more. But sadly, it lacks so much to the point where it feels like Microsoft forced Rare to rush the game right out of the door in the hopes that what it currently has is good enough to make quick sales. All that potential wasted like a beautiful galleon sinking to its watery grave.
If in the future there are patches that will give this game more content, then that’s all well and good. But for now? This game can only be described as “What could have been.”