Sea of Thieves is the newest addition to Xbox One’s rather small library of exclusives. This sandbox pirate adventure shows potential of the once great Rare studio, but also highlights the biggest problems of the gaming industry. Simple and accessible, Sea of Thieves is a fun experience, but sadly it is much more wide than it is deep. So, Sea of Thieves … is it worth a buy?

Character… selection?

Sea of Thieves surprisingly does not include a custom character creation system. Instead, you get a roster of eight pirates to choose from, without any way to alter them. This seems quite bizarre in a multiplayer-only game, especially when the characters you get to choose are procedurally generated. There are no perks or any advantages of choosing one character over another, and you can easily change the roster of pirates with a single press of a button. There is no real justification of why we weren’t given a character creation. In-game character customization is not great either, and not particularly relevant since you’ll forget what your pirate even looks like within the first 15 minutes.

Crew or no crew, that is the question

Once you have chosen your pirate you get to choose your ship. You have two options: Galleon or Sloop.

Galleon is big and well equipped, yet it requires a larger crew to operate.

Sloop is a smaller ship, more fragile and not as well equipped, but it can be operated by small crew or even one person.

When choosing a ship, the most important question is this: do you want to play with other people or not? Playing with people is recommended, as even a sloop requires quite a bit of work which could be too much for one person. If you don’t have a group of friends interested in playing this game, or don’t feel like voice chatting with randoms online, it’s better to play solo.

Counter to what many people say, sailing the seas solo is quite fun. It is tougher and more lonesome but if you wanna feel like Kevin Costner in Waterworld, you can. You may crash into islands few times before learning the mastery of multitasking, but once you do, sailing will become very satisfying.

Gameplay

Talking about sailing, let’s take a look at the gameplay. Sea of Thieves plays like most FPS games. Combat is very bare bones, though it gets the work done. If playing on PC, a controller is recommended as some keyboard and mouse controls are bit awkward.

Ship controls on the other hand are quite complex. Apart from steering the boat you need to pay attention to sails, anchor, and cannons which becomes tricky especially when playing solo. Also whenever you hit a rock or get hit by a cannonball you have to manually fix holes in your ship with wooden planks, and get rid of the water by using the bucket. That is if you don’t want to sink.

Arrrrrrr-t!

If you sink you’re at least going to have a great view since Sea of Thieves is a beautiful game. Water is just amazing and the trees and plants are very detailed and well textured. Some man-made structures such as ladders seem to have lower quality textures, yet it’s nothing that breaks the immersion.

Your hands though, are appalling, and look like they belong on PS2 rather than the most powerful console in the world. It wouldn’t be that bad if hands weren’t the only part of your character you have to look at constantly! This really ruins the gorgeous view of the sea. How nobody at Rare noticed this issue is a mystery.   

So what exactly do you do in Sea of Thieves?

This is a good question especially that you aren’t given any clues at the start. You wake up on an island with a nice tavern and few shops. From there you are left to your own devices. You can jump on your ship and just explore the vast seas, yet it is much more beneficial (and interesting) to accept missions from one of three factions situated on the island. Each faction have their own unique type of quests.

Gold Hoarders are all about good, old fashion treasure hunting. If you like to read maps, sail and dig around for treasure chests, this is a faction you’ll prefer.   

Merchant Alliance is your fetch quest faction. Their missions are always about collection and delivery of items. These mission require a lot of exploration as the items required are often very specific. Since items on the islands change each time you log in, be prepared for hours of running around with cage in your hands, searching for specifically coloured birds.  

Order of Souls are more interested in skulls. Their missions usually consist of killing large amounts of skeletons, undead captains, and recovering skulls for some dark magic purposes. Being more focused on combat, these quests can be tough yet awards can be worth it.

Progression… where are you?

Talking about awards, lets take a look at progression, or lack thereof. The biggest problem with Sea of Thieves is that it does not reward you well for your time. Equipment and weapons are purely cosmetic which is a big issue in a game with so little depth. Rare have stated that they want to keep the game skilled-based. However, when you can master all the game mechanics in less than two hours, it doesn’t really work. This shows that Rare is stuck in the past, even when tackling a modern game idea, and it will surely impact the longevity of the game.  

Content… what’s that?

Content is another glaring issue that Sea of Thieves has. Apart from faction missions there is not much to do. It really resembles the No Man’s Sky situation from 2016; this game is just unfinished. Though many “games as a service” seem to come out with little content, this game does not even have a bare minimum of content required to really be able to call it a complete game. It’s barely worth $30, let alone the $60 Microsoft wants for it.

Many people defending this game say that this is an experience about player interaction. Even if is true, this game still should be fun on its own merits to be considered a good game.

Conclusion: Is it worth it?

Sea of Thieves can be a fun experience but it is not a great game. Sandbox games should give you enough tools for you to make your own fun, yet sadly this games does not provide. It is a nice shiny plate yet there is not that much on it. It is certainly not worth the price tag.

For those of you interested in the game, it’s best to check it out for free using the Xbox Game Pass 14-day trial. It works both on Xbox and PC and it gives you more than enough time to see all the game has to offer.