Is Sea of Thieves Any Good?

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I really didn’t want to like Sea of Thieves, I really didn’t.

Not that I like to admit bias, but prior to playing this game I had seen the reviews, and they weren’t pretty. And I was honestly a bit disappointed, I had been rooting for this game since I saw it last year, I thought it was a novel concept and if done well it could be a really fun experience. Heck, Rare was developing it, and people love Rare…or rather they used to back in the Banjo Kazooie days. So, here we are now a year later, the game is out, people hate it, and the only thing left to do is play it. So let me be the one to tell you,

I was wrong about this game.

When you first boot up Sea of Thieves, you’re greeted with marvelously cartoonish splash screens and art, you see the Rare logo stand proud as the intro plays, and then you’re taken to the character select screen. You can choose from a small variety of character models, and what you choose will be the pirate you play as for all eternity unless you delete it and all your progress and want to start from scratch.

After that you’re taken to the screen you see every time you start up the game after that, where you get to choose how you want to sail. You have a choice between sailing a Sloop, which is a smaller ship with one set of sails that you can sail on your own or with a friend, and a Galleon, a larger ship which is almost impossible to sail on your own (believe me, I’ve tried), but when you team up with a few other players it makes for an excellent exercise in teamwork. That is if you can actually find people who don’t quit the game immediately upon your arrival. Which is a problem I’ve encountered frequently upon playing the game. A bulk of my playtime has been played solo, wandering the seas in search of treasure in a Sloop. Mind you, it’s not a terrible experience, and kind of fun at first while you’re racing around the ship changing the sails and heaving yourself against the wheel trying not to crash on those rocks. But eventually, you find that you’d like to have something to do, a goal, a point if you will. 

But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s take a step back and talk about the game mechanics.

The sailing is cool

Mechanically, sailing a ship feels really good. The Sloop is smaller and thus allows for more versatile movement skittering across the waves, and the Galleon barrels through the sea majestically with all of its firepower and ability to take more damage. Whichever ship you’re sailing, you feel like you’re actually sailing a ship. Every time you take the ship out, it’s an adventure, you wind the anchor up, let down the sails and change the angle to match the wind, and you’re off.

 

The water physics are pretty awesome and your ship tilts every which way depending on their direction. Really, it’s at that point where you’re busting through the waves that you start to see that this game is kind of a really decent sailing simulator. It’s not easy from the get-go, it takes some time to get used to the controls and it’s a challenge the first few times you get to an island and you have to slow down, steer parallel to the coast, and wait for the right time to drop the anchor. I’ve certainly destroyed a few ships my first few times, but once you get the hang of it you can hop from island to island with some level of ease.

Combat…not so much

This topic leaves me a little disappointed. I’m not speaking for ship combat, which is just angling your ship the right way and firing the cannons, but the person to person combat kind of really blows. In terms of weapons, you can carry up to two weapons, ranging from a cutlass, a pistol, a blunderbuss, and a sniper rifle.

The gunplay is just that, gunplay. It’s not anything special, and I didn’t really expect it to be. It’s the melee combat with the cutlass that leaves me wishing that they just took a page from Skyrim, since every time you swing the sword it feels really stiff. The swordplay is set up like a combo system, typically when you’re fighting anything like a skeleton or even another player, you have to aim directly for them and then you can swing up to three times before you have the recovery time where you can’t swing anymore. And even when you swing your sword once, you have that little lag in the recovery time and then you’re left mashing the right trigger until your sword decides to do something again. It’s almost to the level of turn-based combat which it really shouldn’t be. Needless to say, it’s really frustrating when you’re fighting an enemy and you use up your swing and then they get you when they shouldn’t. Of course, you have blocking and the charge shot when you hold down the left and right triggers respectively, but it just doesn’t feel…well…finished.

Voyages can be fun

Going into the game, I was expecting the voyages to be the standard “X marks the spot” system, but they actually did get a little creative about it. Sure, there are voyages that do just have an X on a map, but there are a variety of voyages you can take, ranging from killing the skeleton of a lost pirate lord and bringing back his skull, to a set of riddles which have you wandering all over the island until you have the next clue. Those specific ones are fun because you have to actually think about what you’re doing, and the clues are riddle-like in fashion and vague enough that you still know what to do, but it makes you feel smart for figuring them out.

That being said, after enough of them you feel like you’re just doing the same things over and over again. Go out to an island, track down a skeleton or a chest or a place on the island, grab the treasure, bring it back without being looted. And what do you get for your trouble? Gold. What can you spend this gold on? Cosmetics. And that’s the part that kind of gets me, and that also brings us to my next point.

Cosmetics are good, I guess

Cosmetics in a game aren’t bad. In fact, the cosmetics in this game, in particular, aren’t too terrible either. You have a decent amount of customization when it gets to your ship and your outfits, you can even change the art on the side of your ship, change the sail design, you can make your ship your own. However, when you get to customize your weapons and equipment, you have about two minor design changes before you get to the golden skins, which I don’t even know why you wouldn’t want to have those to begin with.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’d like some customization in the weapon stats. Even just an option where you can get an upgraded cutlass or gun, no tiers, just one upgrade, I would be happy with that. It would give me more of an incentive to play the game other than to just rank up and get a golden shovel or whatever.

Conclusion

I started out by saying that this game turns pretty boring if you’re by yourself. And really, that’s the mistake a lot of people make while playing this game. Sea of Thieves is not meant to be played alone, rather, it’s meant to be played with your friends, or even just random people you get matched with.

The content in this game is not something that you particularly want to grind out, it’s not that sort of game. Like this guy I was roaming around with on a Sloop told me the other day, this game is more of a party game than anything else. When you have a crew roaming around in a Galleon digging up treasure and plundering ships, you’re sailing the seven seas and you all gather around and play your instruments to the tune of Flight of the Valkyries, this game is meant to make you feel like a pirate. You can’t have fun with this game if you don’t want to have fun with it. Like you’ve probably heard many times before, it’s not about the end of the journey, it’s about the journey itself. And once you realize that, you’ll start to enjoy the game for what it truly is.

That being said, this game is far from a masterpiece, and I happen to agree with the current reviews out there. This game is kind of lackluster, through all it’s cool graphics and sailing physics, this game just needs more. More what? More anything. More to do, more to gain, more voyages to go on, more islands in the water, maybe even more ships to sail.

But the game can still be fun. And that’s what counts.