It’s a pirate game, yes, but it lacks substantial gunpowder.
Sea of Thieves is a vast open adventure, one that gets you co-ordinating with fellow pirates to manoeuvre your darling ship on to the next treasure hunt, taking on other pirate ships and chugging down a lot of grog.
This is something that I soon got accustomed to, but it took a while to fully comprehend due to the lack of rewarding motive. After spending a good one week playing Sea of Thieves, this is what I have to say:
A motley crew
The game doesn’t hold your hand to teach you anything. Initially, I started out with two other people who were as clueless as I was. We had to figure out how the ship moved, what role each one of us played, and where to actually begin playing the game. The answers to all these questions are uncovered slowly as a part of the game’s experience.
The best experience I had was with a big ship and a crew of four. While the ship itself was the most interesting bit, if I held the wheel, others quickly lifted the anchor and set the sails to take advantage of the moving wind. In a game where one would be likely to contest for a designated role (a captain), Sea of Thieves hardly felt like it would make players fight over something so trivial.
Trivial? Yes, because the ship is a bigger part of the game. If the ship doesn’t move, you don’t move. Strangely enough, I was taking orders from my fellow crew members and barking a few to get the ship exactly where we wanted. It was no surprise that there was barely any conflict of thought between players because everyone was equally curious and adventurous. It’s all subjective but if you already have a gang, Sea of Thieves could be a welcome change over the traditional shooter games.
That said, if you’re planning to go into this pirate-y adventure alone, be wary. Though I came across genuine gamers, the other half of the servers are filled with people who take pleasure in griefing other players while many simply don’t have mics which render the entire experience of the game useless.
Running in circles
Ever heard of the phrase ‘it’s about the journey and not the destination’? Obviously you have, your Instagram feed is full of them. The objective here is to gather as much treasure as possible and trade it for, well, more maps for more treasure. It’s exciting at first but after a few more runs, it got to be very boring because that’s all there is to do.
Missions are given to you from three different factions and are available at any outpost. The Order of Souls lets you hunt down dead pirate skeletons and pirate captains, while Gold Hoarders gives you a treasure map or a riddle-based clue to a treasure chest which you exchange for gold. Meanwhile the Merchant Alliance requires you to catch and bring back animals like chickens and pigs. Yup, it is as boring as it sounds.
After docking our ship, we had to plan who would stay back in the ship and protect it from other pirates and also shield the crew from pesky sharks that sometimes lurk between the anchor point and the island. On the island, you’re welcomed by skeletons that know how to swing a sword. Luckily, they aren’t much of an effort to kill but I could see how a group of them can set you chasing if you’re holding a treasure chest to take to the ship.
Treasure hunts gradually get bigger and require more brain muscle than what you’d expect from a cartoonish-looking game. The riddles eventually get you scampering over the island to figure out where exactly to dig, the bigger the island, more difficult your hunt gets. Though a traditional treasure map with the X mark is easier than riddles sometimes.
Arrr you ready kids? Aye aye captain!
Teamspeak is an important part of the game. For instance, the player at the wheel cannot see the rocks straight ahead because of the large sails and hence the other team members must guide the captain through. During one instance, we were chasing an enemy ship and immediately needed to scurry around the ship to adjust the sails according to the wind direction, and also to repair any damages that were caused by enemy canon fire. It’s all very engaging and it’s not even slightly as boring as I made it sound.
When you’re not shooting cannonballs or yourself at the enemy ships (yes, you can very much sit inside a canon and fire yourself away), you can take a breather and soak in the cartoony environment that looks surprisingly nice. It gets better when the weather gets rough and causes problems of its own. For one, visibility takes a hit. You can barely see a thing. Plus the torrential downpour means you need to make a couple of trips down to the lower deck to empty out the water that’s filling in the hull. Even steering the ship gets difficult, not to mention the whole ship starts swaying like you’re actually stuck in a storm. I absolutely loved it. Rare have created one of the most beautiful looking games and the water graphics are simply mind blowing. We got a chance to push the full graphical potential of this game on our test rig with GTX 1080 doing the heavy lifting. And, it pays off! Just looking at the sea and the sunset is mesmerising.
Is it worth it jack?
So far, whatever I’ve said is can be experienced in less than four hours into the game. Sadly, that’s what makes most of Sea of Thieves, I am afraid there’s not much to do here. The gold you collect from treasure hunts and looting other pirates can be exchanged for cosmetic upgrades. Which is downright silly because for one - It’s a first person game, so you can’t see your own costume until you do an emote. Secondly the upgrades are so costly that they don’t really reflect the hours of grind you’ve put into it. It just doesn’t feel worth it.
There are only two ship models, a galleon and sloop. The galleon is a big ship with three to four players needed to get it going and a sloop can be handled by two, if not one player with ease. The problem is if you’re sailing about in a sloop, it becomes easier for bigger manned crews to plunder your loot and we don’t recommend going into the game without your pals.
The only enemies in the game are skeletons and a shark. That’s it! Where are the other dangers of the seas? Well, there’s a headless Kraken if you ask, but that’s boring too. It literally doesn’t have a head and if you jump in the sea, the game conveniently blacks out everything underwater so you can’t see anything about the Kraken apart from its tentacles from the deck of the ship. So disappointing.
Sea of Thieves is a great game at first, but play it a bit more and gradually it tends to be a fruitless treasure hunt. The treasures don’t offer much apart from a few coins that can be traded for clothes and accessories that only have an aesthetic appeal. That too is hilarious because it’s a first person game, so you can’t even see half of it on yourself.
The joy of exploring is shallow as well because the world is very dead and dry. I mean, it’s nice and bright to look at but where are the fishes? The dolphins? The scary sized whales? Just irritating sharks that are conveniently placed. Barely any NPCs to fill in gaps or to make things interesting as well.
The ship being the most enjoyable part of the game is brilliant but only if you have a bunch of friends itching for a pirate run. I really enjoyed the mechanics of the game, but it still needs a lot of polishing in terms of world building and proper reward system. There’s barely any difference between the Beta we played a few months ago and the finished game. The lack of content on launch is really heartbreaking from what could’ve potentially been a brilliant game.
Rare has mentioned that they’ll be adding more content soon and assuming that the game gets a big overhaul of content in time, I’ll be more than happy to return to plundering in a heartbeat, but for now Sea of Thieves is half-baked.
If you have a Xbox game pass then the game is available for free, but spending ₹3,999 is like shooting yourself in the foot. Better try your luck shooting others in Fortnite.