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Sea Of Thieves

Platform(s): PC, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Rare
Release Date: March 20, 2018


Xbox One Review - 'Sea of Thieves'

by Adam Pavlacka on April 5, 2018 @ 1:15 a.m. PDT

Sea of Thieves is an immersive, shared-world adventure game filled with pirates, unexpected dangers and loot for the taking.

Buy Sea of Thieves

Sea of Thieves had a few hiccups during its first week, but even with the rough start, more than two million players have already given it a go. It's easy to see why, given how exciting Sea of Thieves sounds when described. If you get a good group of friends together to play, it can be plenty of fun. Unfortunately, after the initial rush wears off, you quickly realize that there isn't a whole lot of depth beyond the shiny surface of these waves.

Sea of Thieves promises to let you live the life of a pirate. You take command of your own boat. You can run trade missions. You can search for buried treasure. You can fight skeleton armies. You can fight other players, both in person, and on the open ocean. You can sail the high seas, ride out a vicious storm, and try to survive the Kraken. Then you do that again. And again. And again.

It's not the type of content that is disappointing with Sea of Thieves, but the lack of content. What you're doing doesn't really change. There isn't a story or any real campaign to play through. The world of Sea of Thieves is just a sandbox for you to play in. There's nothing wrong with sandboxes when they're done well and have plenty of variety. The Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row franchises sold like hotcakes because of the freedom to explore. Sea of Thieves doesn't have that freedom, as there isn't much you can do outside of the core set of mission types.

There is also a disappointing lack of persistence in Sea of Thieves. Whenever you log out of the game, you lose any active mission and any consumable items you are carrying in inventory. This is true even if you log out while docked in port. The next time you fire up Sea of Thieves, you could even be in a different port. The consumable issue is more of an annoyance than a major issue, but it does mean you have to remember to stock up on bananas (health), cannonballs (ammo for your ship), and wood planks (repair items) before leaving town.

Oh, there's one more hurdle for first-time players. You have to figure out how to play without any sort of instructions. Sea of Thieves has a minimal UI, which is a plus, but it doesn't come with a tutorial or manual of any sort. Instead, the game just leaves you to figure it out on the fly. Yes, it adds to the overall play time, but honestly, it's not a positive. There is no reason to omit a basic manual or a tutorial section in the game.

Where Sea of Thieves shines is when you're playing with a group of friends who you know well. Having multiple people manning a ship and working together as you sail into a storm, recover treasure from an island, or get into a fight with another ship, is an absolute high. Watching other pirates abandon ship just before it slips below the waves is a feeling of true accomplishment and teamwork because you know you made it happen as a group. Voice chat is essential here, as it allows for easy coordination. Playing with random pick-up groups isn't quite the same, as you have no guarantee that other players will want to work together.

In many ways, Sea of Thieves has the same underlying gameplay problem as Evolve; it has amazing moments if everything is perfect, but it stumbles quickly when someone isn't pulling their weight.

You can play Sea of Thieves as a solo player, but that just means doing all of the ship work yourself. You can choose between a small ship (sloop) and a large ship (galleon), and while the sloop is intended for solo play, the poor server connection issues have occasionally caused us to end up on the galleon all by our lonesome — and it's impossible to manage a galleon with a crew of one. There are no AI players for you to recruit, so plan on running around on your ship to set the sails, raise the anchor, and steer her away from the dock in order to leave port. Little things, like the fact that the sail on the sloop blocks most of your view, felt realistic when you had a teammate on watch, feel like an unnecessary hindrance when playing solo. It's all doable, but Sea of Thieves very much feels like a game that was designed, and balanced, for multiplayer, with solo play added as an afterthought.

Gameplay aside, Sea of Thieves has to be given credit for its looks. The Xbox One X has an edge over the standard Xbox One, but the visual style used by the game shines on both consoles. Water simulation is fantastic, to the point that I wouldn't be surprised if the chop from one of the storms results in some players feeling queasy.

Audio is also on point, with the game making solid use of position. This is extremely important when in a naval battle, as you're often going to hear a cannon fire before you see the cannonball coming at your boat. The environmental audio is enough to make you feel like you really are sailing the Caribbean.

Don't sit there and admire the view for too long. Perhaps because of the server issues that the game has been having, Sea of Thieves has a pretty aggressive idle timeout. I found this out when I decided to kick back on a sandy beach, view the sunset, and listen to the waves. Before I knew it, I had been disconnected from the server.

From a customization perspective, there's very little that you can do to make your ship stand out from the crowd, especially since there are only two ships that you can select. The only things that you can customize are the decals on your sails and the figurehead on the prow of the ship. It seems like a missed opportunity to allow players to customize the captain's quarters and the cargo hold.

In the end, Sea of Thieves feels more like a promising Early Access title, than a full-priced $60 AAA game. If this had shipped as a $30 game, it would be a much better value. Interestingly enough, that's one of the reasons why it's also an ideal game for Game Pass. If you're playing Sea of Thieves for "free" as part of your subscription, the lack of depth isn't as big a deal.

If you have a regular crew to play with and you can get the game at a discount, Sea of Thieves offers some memorable experiences. If you're flying solo or thinking about paying full price, the rough edges should be enough to make you reconsider boarding this particular boat.

Score: 6.0/10

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