Sea of Thieves was in development for quite a while and I was lucky enough to be a part of the play test sessions and provide the developers with feedback throughout so that they could hopefully improve the game so that it could reach its potential come release day. So did Sea of thieves reach it’s Potential? It’s a tricky one to answer. The short version is no but if you want the slightly longer version then read on. When we got our first look at Sea of Thieves it made an instant impression. the Art style, the possibilities were such that even the most pessimistic of us started to get excited. Finally a new IP exclusive to the Microsoft Platform. Forza, Gears, Halo have all been done to death and it’s not controversial to say that Microsoft had an exclusive problem. Crackdown was missing in action and still is to this day and the only other Microsoft IP that really had us interested was State of Decay 2, so there was and still is a lot riding on the success of Sea of Thieves for both Microsoft and Rare.
I’ve been a big fan of Rare since the good old Snake Rattle N Roll days and whilst they aren’t the same team that they once were I felt confident that they could deliver a refreshing game that captured gamers imagination. Throughout the play test phases the game impressed with its visuals and the physics that have delivered some of the best looking water that I’ve seen in any game, ever. The game world is lush and colourful and there’s just so many moments that you’ll want to capture in a screenshot. One of the biggest concerns that came out of the play test sessions was content followed closely by PvP.
Sea of Thieves offers just 3 mission types. You can dig up lost treasure for the Gold Hoarders; you capture chickens, pigs, and snakes for the Merchant Alliance; or you can kill powerful skeletons for the Order of Souls and well that’s about it. It doesn’t take long to tire of these mission types and where the start of you game might be filled with laughter and antics things quickly quiet down when the realisation sets in that this is what you’ll be doing for weeks, possibly months. With so much time being spent developing Sea of Thieves its staggering that such little content was put into the game. Now I can confirm that Rare is and has been working on post release content for some time but it begs the question, why wasn’t more put into the release version and why didn’t Rare address their testers concerns? The possibilities are endless. Fishing for example is perhaps the most obvious activity that could have been added. AI ships doing cargo runs would have also been nice to see so that you can do some actual pirating. There’s just so many things that they could have done that haven’t been done it just makes the game feel like it’s still in Early access. There’s no real point to progression, the gold coins don’t really have any value to them after all 90% of the time you can’t see your character. every mission plays out the exact same way meaning that once you’ve done each one of the 3 quests then that’s your lot basically.
I’ve found myself playing with a group of friends, with the wife and on my own and each time I’ve had fun, for a while although the game is best played with groups of 4 players. I do wonder if they should separate galleon crews from sloop crews ( different servers) as I just don’t think they’ve struck the right balance when it come to PvP. Time and again I’ve been sunk by a fully crewed galleon in my little sloop only to find I respawn with them immediately taking aim at my little ship or I’ve been able to quickly get back to them fully stocked whilst they repair and sink them. Neither scenario is fun or engaging but that increasingly seems how encounters are playing out. Hand to hand combat is Clumsy and limited in scope too and there really should have been more than just skeleton bad guys. Even the Kraken felt like a bit of a let down as it seems to have no actual body and just disappears when you defeat it, or more likely it gets bored and slopes off to do something else.
I could go on all day listing the good and bad points but the important thing to take away is that yes Sea of Thieves is beautiful, impressive with its physics but there isn’t really anything to do and Microsoft are seriously taking the piss with that price tag, its a blatant attempt to get you to sign up to game pass. The possibilities were endless but for some reason the imagination used when designing the game didn’t extend to the actual content and that’s a shame. Xbox gamers have been looking and waiting for that killer exclusive for too long now and it sadly seems like that wait is going to continue. Whether State of Decay 2 is going to be enough we’ll have to wait and see but E3 has never looked more essential to Microsoft and they owe it to their player base to deliver some new top quality first party exclusives (and not just multiple ways of saying exclusive).
Conclusion: A beautiful game that impresses with its water and art style but lacks any depth or scope whilst being ridiculously priced by Microsoft. Still lots of laughs to be had whilst you wait for the inevitable updates.