Wot I Think: Sea of Thieves

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On the one hand, Sea of Thieves is a game so empty that recommending it feels like a dereliction of duty. On the other hand, I just chased down a man who killed me and threw a bucket of my own grog-induced vomit over him by way of revenge.

It’s the small things like that that can make Sea of Thieves triumphant, which is just as well, seeing as there’s just an empty mass of very pretty water where the big things should be.

The most generous possible assessment of Sea of Thieves is that it’s a robust and attractive infrastructure within which to have a good time with other people. The least generous possible assessment of Sea of Thieves is that’s a glorified proof of concept demo with a gaping hole where a videogame should be. Both are valid. Hell, I feel both ways about Sea of Thieves, often simultaneously. I’ve had some of my most memorable gaming times in recent memory while out on its azure oceans, but I’ve also frequently questioned why I would spend even one more minute is its listless, often laughably empty world.

Let’s start at the beginning, which is to define the nature of this sea-beast. Sea of Thieves is a game about being a pirate in a sort of Pixar-vision Caribbean, occupied only by other players, NPC skeletons and a handful of scripted shopkeepers. It has one toe in the waters of MMO and another in sailing simulators, adding up to a freeform cocktail of low-pressure questing and high-pressure PVP.

Despite the presence of shopkeeper and quest-giver NPCs who will optionally offer banal smuggling anecdotes with all the dead-eyed enthusiasm of a WH Smiths employee asking if you’re interested in a large bar of Galaxy chocolate for a pound, it is not a story game in any way, shape or form.

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Hell, even my references to quests are over-egging SOT’s unhurried pudding. There are a handful of looping activities you can do in order to earn coin you can then spend on primarily visual upgrades to your pirate character and their ship, but any sense of purpose comes solely from you and your comrades. My point being, this is very much a game in which you get out what you put in. It feels absurd to be comparing a first-party Microsoft game, whose primary purpose is to sell lots of Xbox Ones, to state-of-zen games such as Proteus or Euro Truck Simulator, but this is essentially what Rare have made here – if, at least, you’re being generous towards it. If you’re not, you might well question why Microsoft could charge sixty bones for something that, though glossy, seems to be fundamentally unfinished.

Again, both are valid responses. The fundamental issue with Sea of Thieves is that, outside of the constant random factor of working with (or against) other people, it only presents a handful of things to do, and you’ll have experienced all of them within a few hours of starting out. Thus, it lives or dies on whether you see them as the foundations for unpredictable experiences with friends or strangers, or as Kill 10 Rats ad nauseum. Again, it is both of those things. It is, honestly, it really, really is.

If I sound like I’m sat so firmly on the fence that there’s a white picket sticking out my nostril when I repeatedly say that, I can only offer my sincere reassurance that I myself feel both things about this game simultaneously. I’m disappointed in it but I adore much of my time with it. I can’t stop playing it, but I can’t stop telling people about everything that’s wrong with it.

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‘Quests’ in Sea of Thieves fall almost exclusively into one of three categories:

1) go to an island and dig up a treasure chest.
2) go to an island and kill a skeleton.
3) go to an island and kidnap a pig or chicken.

There is no fluff, no lore, no jokes, no pay-off, no nothing other than a randomly-generated quest name like ‘the treasure of Brian Pirate’ or ‘the measly crew of Ian Skeleton’, and unfortunately the thin gags I’ve used there are ten times better than the ones actually employed by the game. You sail to the place, you get the identical chest, kill the identical skeleton or kidnap the identical farm animal, then you head back to a town, turn in the chest, skull or beleaguered creature, earn gold and reputation that eventually enables you to buy aesthetic upgrades or access to more lucrative chest/skeleton/kidnap missions.

No matter which side of the ‘ambient escapism/inadequate nothingness’ divide I happen to be standing on at any given moment, one thing my torn mind is absolutely sure about is that Sea of Thieves’ most disappointing pratfall is to do almost nothing of interest with its mission destinations. These are always islands, and these islands are always empty apart from chickens, pigs, skeletons if it’s a skeleton-mission and a smattering of incidental environmental art such as firepits and broken chests that you can’t interact with in any way.

Right now, still only a week into proceedings, I still feel a simmering hope that this next island will contain something to surprise me, but by this time next week that aspiration will be as dead as Captain Dave Pelvic Bone, or whoever the identical skeleton-before-last I fought was.

This is the lamest thing to say in almost any situation unless you’re talking to someone while destitute on your deathbed, but essential to getting anything out this to game is to enjoy the journey rather than the destination. I have had sea voyages that will quite likely be burned into my memory for the rest of my days, even though I struggle to recall anything particular that happened during them.

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What I do remember, with a surge of warmth and pride and inappropriately immediate nostalgia, is how I felt during them. Me and two or three crew-mates, sometimes people I knew, sometimes perfect (and I do mean perfect) strangers, out at sea, performing our nautical duties. Hoist the mainsail, reload the starboard cannons, frantically bail water from below deck, raise the anchor, man the crow’s nest, all that good stuff. A tiny beehive of activity, one’s first experiences of which will be confusion and swiftly self-sunken ships, but which soon enough will blossom into wordless collaboration.

An old friend of mine spent her gap year sailing, and she spoke often and intoxicatingly of her desire to return to it, to a time in which life seemed to make sense, defined as it was by the rules of looking after a ship, and of switching from frenzied activity to endless downtime, of the promise of new destinations and the bittersweet tang of friends left behind. I have always wanted to be the kind of person who could and would do something like that, but I know that I am too much of a complainer, too much of a creature of home, and I would suffer.

Sea of Thieves, clearly, cannot recreate the cold and the loneliness and hard manual labour, but like my beloved American Truck Simulator before it, it emulates the fantasy rather than the reality. It indulges me in an impossible dream of a humdrum day made painless. Dropping anchor and adjusting sails is easy, one-button stuff – it takes time, yes, and Sea of Thieves is remarkably unforthcoming in terms of shortcuts to anything, but the rules are simple.

The rules are also very poorly explained, which I do think is a failing, but on the other hand there is a sense of satisfication from teasing it all out yourself. Things like: turn the lanterns off when you’re sailing at night, or you’ll be spotted. Things like: ‘park’ your boat side-on to an island so you can fire yourself to shore from a cannon. Things like: use the wind. Yes, it’s quite true that there are a small handful of things to ‘do’ in Sea of Thives, but it’s also the case that, due to how much you learn by playing it, your twentieth hour with it is very different to your first hour with it. Competency makes it a different game. For a while, anyway.

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Better yet, it folds people into it. People who will laugh and cheer, or bungle a sail adjustment or fire themselves into the sea out of a cannon, or drink so much grog that they throw up, at which point they grab their bucket, vomit into it and then throw that vomit over their friend. People who stab Captain Dave Pelvic Bone in the pelvic bone just as he’s about to take your head off, or people who will wordlessly reach for their own accordions and start playing along with me when I take out my accordion.

People who will see me returning to shore with bounty in my hand and try to chase me down, only to end up being munched by a shark as they swim after me. People who sail right by my crew’s ship, offering one solemn wave as they do. People who unleash three cannons at us on sight. People who left their hold full of booty unguarded while they ran to an island’s interior, allowing us to make off with the lot unnoticed.

Not the people who camp at ports and kill every newcomer. Not the people who screech obscenities or try to kick you from their group if you try to do anything other than gank other players. Not the people who whinge endlessly in chat about how insulted they are by this $60 game. Yes, you have just cause, but jeez, why ruin it for those who are getting something out of it? But the rough must always come with the smooth. Sea of Thieves is a backdrop for adventure, presented with an overly-nonchalant shrug, and as such that means people are as free to indulge their worst instincts as they are their best.

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This, for me, is almost a longer term problem than a mere lack of ‘content’ – how, if the playerbase grows and remains (though the opposite is probably more likely), can Sea of Thieves reconcile those players having a lovely time noodling about with those players who get off on making life hell for everyone else? The answer, clearly, is “c’mon, it’s pirates!”, but that doesn’t answer the looming question of what kind of game Sea of Thieves needs to be in order to stay alive.

And so to content: the crews of friends who keep to themselves need something else to do once mastering sail and wheel becomes routine, with no new jokes to be made and once every sea shanty has been heard a hundred times. The PVP fiends need an ultimate purpose to their relentless ganking, something beyond the occasional chance of finding a chest or valuable skull in the hold of a raided ship. The solo players, on their brutal, lonely odysseys, likely need some sense of narrative, as opposed to merely the pursuit of a differently-coloured telescope. We all of us need a world with more in it than Sea of Thieves has.

This is a shell of game. It is an uncommonly beautiful shell which allows, and in fact silently encourages, wonderful experiences with friends or friends you haven’t met yet, but its missions, its rewards and its lifeless islands are such that there is simply no way that can last more than a little while.

Rare unquestionably need to apply new meat to these beautiful bones. I’ve enjoyed the ambience of Sea of Thieves so much that I want it to be something that stays in my life for a long time to come, but, in its current state, I know that is impossible. There is a platform for wonderful things here, but if Rare don’t build new things atop it PDQ, it will soon crumble forever.

Sea Of Thieves is out now for Windows 10 via the Microsoft store for $60.

53 Comments

  1. EatingDirt says:

    A sandbox game that forgot the sand.

    • Kunstbanause says:

      It‘s very similar to Spintires actually. You play as much as it makes fun and that’s how it should be?!

    • Rince says:

      And the box. And the game.

  2. clownst0pper says:

    A game entirely devoid of content, still asking for £50, is a scandal. Just because it has minor amounts of emergent gameplay, and is briefly fun with friends, shouldn’t in any way forgive it for being a cash-in.

    • Walsh says:

      How can you reasonably think this is a cash-in when it’s obviously a labor of love that isn’t fully baked?

      This game had very long alpha and beta feedback periods, with developers who regularly interacted with the community. It seemed like it had an arbitrary release date.

      • Guvornatwo says:

        At this stage it’s more an investment in your friends than in the game itself, as well as the game’s desire to have fun by exploring it’s systems for having fun. Which I am 100% ok with, but I can understand if some people can’t get on board with, especially for £50

      • Zelos says:

        Having followed SoT very closely for a very long period of time, I don’t think this game was rushed to release. I also don’t think it was a cash grab or anything of the sort.

        I think that the devs simply didn’t see any of these faults. Seriously; they had no clue. At least not in any public-facing way. They legitimately believed that their silly little “goof off with your friends” simulator was enough. There was no plan for SoT to ever be meaningfully more than what it is now.

      • aircool says:

        I do believe that they made it pretty clear what you’re getting into. A framework upon which a game can grow. Sure, in 12 months time it may be worth £50 to those who are currently put off by the cost, but for those early adopters, they’ll have had 12 months to build up a reputation and enough awesome gear to show the newbies just how awesome they are.

        Don’t doubt the value of bragging rights. People these days want to look the part. Sure, it may have started with hats for Team Fortress 2, but just check out the outrage when people miss a time limited costume in Overwatch, or how people will quite happily spend %20 of the base cost of this game on a new mount, or some super-awesome-extra-black-assassin armour.

        Sure, in most games, we think we get Legendary items for their stats, but not really. If we’re truthful, it’s about bragging and looking the bollocks!

      • Shadow says:

        It’s hard not to reasonably consider SoT a cash-in if you take into account the fact the devs severely gimped the playerbase’s potential with the Win10/Store exclusivity, which I’m sure Microsoft paid for handsomely, and then slapped a 60-dollar pricetag on it.

        That’s a lot of up-front cash from conscious financial decisions. Expect new content at your own peril, especially if the player count begins to plummet sooner than later due to the emptiness and hostility of the environment.

        • wackazoa says:

          “account the fact the devs severely gimped the playerbase’s potential with the Win10/Store exclusivity, which I’m sure Microsoft paid for handsomely, and then slapped a 60-dollar pricetag on it.”

          This game was funded by Microsoft. Much like how Sony funds Uncharted, Last of Us, God of War, or even Bloodborne.

          If Microsoft doesn’t give Rare the money the game might never be made. It’s not gimped in any way that isn’t normal. Me thinks you have misunderstood this.

    • poliovaccine says:

      I get being cynical as a consumer, but this reeeally doesn’t seem like that. I’d say it’s a “cash-in” in the sense that products for sale cost money, yeah. Though it’s a funny sort of supreme confidence in the devs to imagine the only reason they didn’t make it absolutely perfect was on purpose.

    • woodsey says:

      That price is fucking scandalous, holy hell.

      That’s full console price (although I see the Xbone version is £40 on Amazon) for a PC version, which are historically cheaper by default because there’s no license fee to pay to the console manufacturer, on a first-party MS game, meaning there’s no license fee to begin with.

      And I hear they’re adding micro-transactions in soon.

      • BooleanBob says:

        Yeah. You can say it’s a labour of love and not a cash in, but it’s a game with early access levels of content and f2p post-purchase monetisation wrapped up in a AAA price tag.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft took a look at how it was going at some point during development and realised the player base wouldn’t stick around long enough to make it a good source of recurring revenue, so they decided to go for a pump and dump by going full saturation with the marketing and getting their money up front.

        • aircool says:

          Still, it’s not like No Man’s Sky which was £50, had little content and had a half arsed, bloody awful game engine.

          No Man’s Sky was expensive and just shit. At least SoT has a solid game engine, looks terrific and doesn’t crash all the time. Speaking of crashes, at least you can crash your ship in SoT, unlike NMS.

          Ok, the NMS comparison is a weak argument, but people are willing to pay the asking price for games they’re interested in. I was shocked at the price, but watched several hours of youtube videos which convinced me to pre-order. I’m more than happy with the game, but I can see how the game will be divisive.

          • Someoldguy says:

            NMS was £40 if you insisted on buying it in the most expensive way possible (undiscounted, straight from the steam storefront) and a lot cheaper if you looked elsewhere. The gameplay of visiting planets, investigating artifacts and bases, mining, trading and moving on to a new planet with different survival challenges may have been driven by an ultimately shallow storyline but it was a lot more involved than this. The one thing this has going for it (for better and for worse) is the interaction with other people.

    • Yetas says:

      It’s only £50 if you buy it. You can get a gamer pass subscription on the Xbox and Windows 10 for £8 for the month, and that’ll get you access to it. They even offer a free 2-week trial, so two weeks of Sea of Thieves is basically free. That’s how I’m playing it.

      It’s definitely worth it for £8 for a month. I don’t think it has enough appeal to last longer than that anyway, but there’s some good fun to be had in that time if you’ve got mates who are playing it too.

    • theWillennium says:

      While it’s fair to criticize the game for lacking content in the conventional sense, there’s an enormous amount of work and love in this.

  3. Kowie says:

    Its a good game but way way over priced, it should have sold at at least half its price then sold cosmetics as a way to keep money coming in to help pay for adding more content.

  4. aircool says:

    I actually suffered some of the ganking that people are talking about this morning whilst out on my own. There were some 2-man Sloops sailing around the area of the ports waiting for people to come back and unload. They’d then just ram them. Once they’d rammed you, you’ve pretty much lost. You can fight back, but with their ship intact, they’ll just respawn. It’s a losing battle.

    However, I was by myself and solo sailing really is ‘hard’ mode. Later in the afternoon, I joined up with some people from the guild I had joined at took off to a Skeleton Fort. There were two other Galleon’s making their way to the fort and the subsequent battles raged for a good half hour. That was terrific fun and not in the slightest bit frustrating. But after hearing the stories of ships just waiting to gank crews that have just completed the Fort, I can see where the problems are arising.

    Apart from that, I really, really love this game. It is worth every penny (although the xbox app needs to be shot). The sea, the sky, the weather… the shaders are just terrific. There’s a lot of people who’ve been waiting for a game just like this.

    The best analogy I can think of is that playing solo is like staying at home and drinking by yourself, whereas being part of a crew is like having a brilliant night out with loads of people…

  5. poliovaccine says:

    No clue why, but for some reason I was expecting this game to let you group-fight a Kraken. It doesn’t sound like that’s real, though… maybe I daydreamed it, or it’s another game I’m thinking of. In any case, if they’re looking for more content to add, that’d be my first vote. Oh, and let one mute loner like me play as the Kraken.

    • Janichsan says:

      Oh, you absolutely can. There really is a Kraken in the game.

      • rickenbacker says:

        Well, there are tentacles. The Kraken isn’t finished, so it’s just tentacles with nothing below the surface. Which kind of sums up the entire game, really.

        I just wish I could stop playing it – it’s so damn FUN to do just about anything in it, no matter how hollow the experience.

  6. racccoon says:

    I must admit I did enjoy the game throughout beta, it did have its blanks, I believed they would filled on launch. Seeing videos from buyers & freebie youtubers I really see they left it alone. It seems like a bad choice, as the content needs a lot more to keep excitement. During my lapse of not playing during beta I never really missed it. I did think it was good game that had potential, which it turns out has gone down that track of all these games we end up having to say, has potential but.
    Hey someone is enjoying it! & good luck to them! I think its a 20 buck game. :)

    • rickenbacker says:

      Having covered the games industry as a journalist for over 20 years, I knew they weren’t going to add more stuff. But, oddly, I still find myself vaguely disappointed that they didn’t. Why couldn’t this be the exception that proved the rule?

  7. ogopogo says:

    What baffles me about this title is the barriers to entry that seem to demographically guarantee… oh lets call it a “volatile” playerbase.

    The latest steam survey puts its userbase at ~25% Windows 10 — this is probably a little higher than the general PC using population, but whatever, safe to say 75% of all PC players can’t even install Keef of Thieves ATM. The 25% that can skew more affluent as a group, naturally.

    Now filter that thru the weird $60 price point and look at the likeliest buyers right now. I’ll bet you $60 it’s 1) tweeninsh kids w/ money to burn 2) younger adults (mostly guys judging from voice chat) detached from pressing enough economic concerns that they might drop $60 on a somewhat iffy title. There’s obviously plenty of folks outside those two groups playing the game, but the pop. weighs heavier that direction.

    Now for some reason or another players in those two demos tend to get *extra* killy and grudgy in PvP friendly systems, at least in my experience. But Sea o’ Thieves has this “look” that’s like, hey, I can chillax on a boat with my online buddies (like in the relatively tranquil GTAO) but with pirates! Or I can search for treasure on the high seas w/ my kids, that’d be fun. Yeah it’s a shooty action title, but those other things seem possible too, at first glance.

    The devs can make whatever game they want but I don’t think the promo material was totally clear how seriously, almost purely PvP they intended(?) the game to become. The way in which the game is being priced & sold currently guarantees a sorta “RIP AND TEAR, RaaarRGH!!” player population. Maybe they really want to keep the olds outta this one, get that MOBA crowd? Such a pity, the bones of the game seem like they could support something greater. Here’s hoping MS decides to take it in a more robust direction.

    On a positive note Ylands seems to have roughly competitive content with Sea of Thieves now, which is just flabbergasting. Would recommend that people with piratey needs also consider Ylands. Especially if you just want to potter around with some buddies or play solo, there’s just a lot more to do– lots of sand already and now with the NPC updates they’re laying in more box.

    • doodler says:

      The game is free right now for 15 days with the gamepass so those demographics are likely very skewed.

    • aepervius says:

      Latest number put windows 10 at 28% so 25% is a little lower than general population (which match my expectation as gamer are used to see OS upgrade go awry and don’t usually want to lose a few day backing up games and savegame). Otherwise I agree with you.

      • Nolenthar says:

        Since the inception of PUBG, steam surveys has been heavily skewed in favour of China. Windows 10 population in the western world is much higher, especially among modern gaming pcs (if you own a dx12 compatible GPU, you tend to want to be able to play dx12 titles). Surveys prior to PUBG had win10 around 51%

    • aircool says:

      In my experience, the older you are, the easier it is to drop £50 on a game. £50 isn’t quite spare change rattling around under your sofa cushions, but it certainly falls into the ‘pocket money’ bracket.

      • necurbanapauperem says:

        And the harder it is to get enough friends together regularly to play it. If I could pay maybe £5 for a week’s access, I likely would, play and move on. I’d put £20 to it for unlimited play. Then I’d still bitch and moan for having to buy from the windows store because £20 is a bit too much to deal with that…

        • Slazer says:

          You can get Xbox gamepass trial for 14 days and play it for free on PC, that’s what I’m doing

    • Vilos Cohaagen says:

      I love Ylands, it is fun to chill in and the scenarios are great. I really like the low poly aesthetic too. I’m happy being pirate-looking in it while building and sailing my boat.

  8. Singularity says:

    I really enjoyed the five or six hours of this game that I played, that being said I’m definitely done with it. No story, same old starting grind the whole way through, it really is just a very polished tech demo maybe worth $10. That being said, I’m hopeful that they will actually add content now that its out there, it would truly be a great game if it had a story. I won’t hold my breath though.

  9. Evan_ says:

    I hereby want to thank Microsoft and Rare for saving my 60 bucks by -not- having a Steam version at launch.

    MS store exclusivity turned out to be a good thing. Who’d have thought?

  10. RichSG says:

    “who will optionally offer banal smuggling anecdotes with all the dead-eyed enthusiasm of a WH Smiths employee asking if you’re interested in a large bar of Galaxy chocolate for a pound”

    I literally Lol’d at this! Great stuff.

  11. Jack_Empty says:

    Such a lovely sea! Shame it’s mounted into a ‘streaming fodder’ game. I’m sure it’ll be great watching your fav bunch of dude-bro’s pown a 1 man sloop. I’ve lost 2 of my crew to ‘this doesn’t feel very piratey’ and the length of sea engagements means those that like the PVP hit feel a bit starved of dopamine. Personally I’m a tad shite at one on one killing, I feel I’m no good at adjusting to the wobbly framerate that seems to set in once I’m swinging at an enemy pirate. Or I could be that if you get too close, you seem to step through the opponent and they turn invisible when merged? Like I say, I’m not a great pirate.

  12. MarkR says:

    I think you’ve captured the truth of this game Alec.

    I played 2 beta weekends and had many similar thoughts but hoped the full release would have added much more content. SoT looks great, especially the sea, and there is the basis of a good game here. On the other hand there is just so little to do and a lack of any real reason to do it, some cosmetic trinkets are just not enough of a draw for me. The gameplay is so early World of Warcraft, go there, get that, return. I maintain this game was designed with some form of pay to win mechanic that had to be removed after the Star Wars fiasco.

    However with a group of friends it does have those moments of greatness you describe, communicating well and working together especially in the sea and for battles. If only there was the level of challenge of a modern MMO where teams are required to work together to some end. The possibilities are endless and yet currently missing.

    The most fun we’ve had so far is playing this game as a family on PC and Xbox One. Kids really do love this game. It is superb for teaching map reading, navigation, teamwork and problem solving skills and the sailing mechanics are easy to learn. It is one step up from the Lego games. Judging when to drop the anchor for perfect parking has induced a lot of laughter.

    I’m not sure if this is a case of what could have been or what the game might become. It could still go either way.

    I haven’t been persuaded to part with any money yet either with the 2 week free Game Pass trial. SoT will have to improve a lot for me to buy the game.

  13. Blowfeld81 says:

    This is one of the games I want to love, but I know it will take at least a year until it can be in a state where we grow out of a very shallow relationship phase and start something deep and meaningful.

  14. Winstons says:

    This review is bang on the money and very accurate.

    The game itself is criminally empty of actual content. To call this a finished game is an insult to gamers, and to charge £50 for it is disgusting. I very rarely feel like I’ve wasted money or feel the need to comment as such, but you expect better from a triple AAA title with a ‘Microsoft’ label stuck on it.

    Having said that, I have had moments of intense fun and actually sailing your little sloop around, and learning how, is wonderful. But everything else is so empty, so hollow, so bare bones, I cannot recommend it.

    The game is a reflection of early 21st century social media – pretty, apparently full of content, but ultimately shallow, petty and intellectual devoid of any depth.

  15. Caiman says:

    I basically got this for free with the 14 day trial Game Pass, something I’d not touched until now because there’d never been any reason. SoT is the perfect reason. And yes, I think I may have been disappointed had I bought this full price, but then again I’m not sure because I’m enjoying myself immensely, and I’m only playing solo in a small sloop. The thrill comes from sailing, Rare absolutely nailed the feeling of being on a small ship, they nailed the waves, they nailed the sound, they nailed the motion, it’s just an amazing technical achievement which transports me each and every time I log in. Throw the occasional pirate ship into the mix, which adds the appropriate tension (particularly as a solo sailor) and much, much fun can be had. I only play short sessions, maybe an hour each, but each one has been unique and different.

    I’m not sure how long this will last, because indeed there’s bugger all to do outside of the above, but so far the sheer thrill of being out on the water, adjusting sails, checking the map, sitting on the bow and watching the sunset, all that makes it worthwhile.

  16. Arglebargle says:

    Sounds just awful on several levels.

    The reports on the playerbase are exactly why no one at my house will play any games with PvP enabled. While I can deal with grind, pointless grind just leads to a quick end. I think I’ll shortcut that by not playing and saving my $60.

  17. Kamestos says:

    I love pirates and all, but very low-content, griefer’s paradise, $60 and Windows Store ? It’s a really hard sell.

  18. Wednesday says:

    I really don’t buy the whole “but it’s pirates” excuse for the game being a relentless gankfest.

    Yes, pirates were a violent lot, and I’m sure they contained within their ranks a fair share of the mad and the evil, but it wasn’t some endless psychopath’s birthday party.

    • Shadow says:

      Real pirates were inconvenienced by the fact real death (and ship destruction) is final and keeping a vessel undamaged and running wasn’t a trivial task.

      So unlike the reportedly typical SoT ganker, they had little motivation to attack every ship in sight, regardless of cargo.

  19. rickenbacker says:

    Now, I love playing this game, and find it very soothing to simply pootle along between various islands, collecting booty and avoiding the griefing gangs that roam the map in an eternal gank-wank. And when I get a few friends to go along, we have adventures that will stay with us forever.

    But my god does it echo in here. It’s like they forgot to put anything in this utterly beautiful and brilliant box! I sincerely hope that this will turn out to be like the Bohemia games of old, which were completely unplayable when released, but turned totally awesome after a few months of patching. But, alas, I don’t think it will be.

    I fear for this delightful larva’s life – the lack of content and the toxic griefer community is probably going to kill it before it ever turns into the stunning butterfly it by all rights should be.

    The problem, of course, is that this isn’t a promising, £10 early access title. People have paid $60/£50/€65 for this beautiful shell. And no matter how much fun I’m having on the virtual sea, I don’t think it’ll last until they can patch in some actual gamey bits. And when Rare and Microsoft see player numbers dropping like the proverbial brick, in a game they’ve already made all the money they are going to make on, they’re more likely to pull the plug than to try and save it.

  20. noodlecake says:

    It has pretty looking sea at least

  21. Untruth says:

    I think this review is bang on. I agree with (almost) everyone else saying that this is definitely NOT a cash in.

    Playing with friends is hilarious. The boat is complex enough to be difficult but simple and tactile enough to know what you’re doing quickly. Visibility sucks, but it adds to the fun of it – running up high to the crow’s nest when the waves are choppy to see the horizon is a blast. It’s almost a shame it’s not a couch coop game (for obvious technical reasons) because it’s a great game to play with someone less “gamer”; you don’t need to know how to play an FPS to know how to navigate a boat, and that’s the magic of it for me.

    However, the ‘content’ is criminally bad, but does not feel criminally considered. It feels like one of those games the developers had so much fun (maybe) making that they didn’t step back and think “is this sustainable?”. I only had to do one chicken mission to know I didn’t want to catch any more chickens EVER AGAIN.

    One of the problems with the quests if you’re grinding is that going to find gold is easy, fun, and simple; why would I go chase chickens around? There doesn’t feel to be a risk/return reward. It doesn’t even seem to have that dynamic of, say, Crazy Taxi, where you can choose the appropriate risk you take and the story is different because of that. That you can cite an old, repetitive game that does repetition better says a lot…

    …on the flip side after last year’s Zelda mind blower, and a good month of playing Subnautica in depth, I couldn’t believe the game didn’t meet in the middle somewhere – why can’t I go catch some fish, why can’t I find the occasional gold underwater, why can’t I pick different things from trees?! Why is it all so structured? I think “MMO” is the answer, but the lack of these nice components only helps it fail harder at the mission that Zelda got right (“the journey should be as good as the destination, even if you’re just chasing lizards”).

    Weirdly I’ve had NO PVP in 4 hours of playing so far. I haven’t seen anyone. I’m beginning to think my router is broken.

    So, Crazy Taxi at sea.

  22. starflight2020 says:

    Thanks to gamepass I’ve installed this on two PCs and and one xbox, and my three daughters and I are able to run a 3-crew galleon. It’s been a joy for them and me to yell across the house at everyone else, “hoist the sails to half-mast!” or “load the starboard cannons!”

    We just love sailing around.

    We’ll get bored of it eventually.

    But for $10 it’s a steal.

    More broadly though, I can’t help but think that a similarly sized team in a similar amount of dev time created Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Or one guy by himself in the same amount of time made Stardew Valley.

    My tinfoil theory is that Sea of Thieves is what it looks like when Rare phones in a game. It’s like a last-minute term paper with really good ideas but no real research. It’s like they only did enough to not get fired by Microsoft, and their enough is still better than most other people’s best attempt.

    The Kraken is a good metaphor for the game. It’s super fun and scary and surprising when you get picked up like a toy. But then you get thrown in the water and there is body. It’s just tentacles and you can see the polygons because there is no actual kraken. And then you respawn and move on.

    All the islands are like the pirate rapture just happened. Fires still burning, kegs still full. but no actual pirates. The voices for the NPCs sound like Rare pulled in their janitor and asked them to record a voice, because some exec at MS was like “why aren’t there voices.”

    It’s really quite strange that this game exists, because if it were anyone besides Rare, and Rare working for Microsoft, this game would either be worse, or be better. It can only exist in this state because somehow Microsoft can’t fire Rare or apply enough pressure to get more from them, but Rare can’t do any worse than they did, so you end up with whatever Sea of Thieves is.

  23. Shiloh says:

    It’s one of those games designed for streaming on YouTube and Twitch – bros shouting “this is amazing!” and laughing hysterically as they sink yet another n00b who didn’t git gud fast enough.

  24. Szhival says:

    For the same price you can have two copies of Pulsar: Lost Colony which is quite similar in gameplay ideas, or almost two copies of Vermintide II

  25. Premium User Badge

    Lo says:

    This is beautifully written! Also informative and interesting but, most strikingly, poetic!

  26. Stevostin says:

    Can’t find it on Steam. Why are we even discussing this? It doesn’t exist.

    (I am fine with games sold on the publisher’s website but if it’s sold through a gaming app, there can be no avoiding steam bc it’s practical. It’s essential to discourage big idiots to boycott Steam for their own private lawn. At least nut until they provide significant services steam doesn’t which none do. As flawed as it is Steam is still miles ahead in term of features for the users. So it’s just the big wigs who gets nothing in the direction of big corp trying to capture us in their own jail. No thanks.)