Sea of Thieves is an open-world pirate-themed adventure for Xbox One and Windows 10. Helmed by Rare - the British developer responsible for classics over the years such as Perfect Dark and Conker's Bad Fur Day - it was billed as the best game Rare has ever made. But, Sea of Thieves is anything but that. Behind its fantastic water effects, gorgeous lighting, and pitch perfect controls is a game sporting a litany of issues.
If you played any of the Sea of Thieves betas, you know what to expect, which is a complete lack of direction and handholding as you explore a world full of islands and water in your ship, with or without friends. Along the way you’ll realise that you’ll have to lower and raise the anchor, judge the direction of the wind to travel faster, be wary of any possible leaks and plug them with wooden planks, and of course, check the map from time to time to know if you’re getting lost.
There’s a somewhat mechanical, yet pleasing feeling to the process of ensuring each element is in place as you’re aboard the choppy waters. On terra firma, you’re treated to somewhat wobbly movement that makes firefights and swordplay clunky yet satisfying. Much like the beta, the moment to moment gameplay in terms of sailing and traversal are quite literally all the systems in the game.
Yes, Sea of Thieves is horrendously threadbare. After creating your pirate with a smattering of cosmetic options, the only other gameplay systems or mechanics are the core movement and sailing. Unlike other open-world shared experiences such as Destiny or The Division, there aren’t any layers such as class types, skill trees, or even a storyline to keep you going. In fact there’s little in way of world building either, with the game plainly stating that your goal is to be a legendary pirate in a world infested by skeletons, giant kraken, and of course other pirates, without ever explaining how such a place came to be.
Granted Rare has developed Sea of Thieves as a game where you concoct your own story and adventures with friends, but its approach to doing so is like constructing a playground without swings, see-saws, or jungle gyms. All you get is sand. Or in this case, a collection of islands and a vast amount of water between them.
You can take on quests or voyages as they’re known for three factions — Order of Souls, Merchant Alliance, and Gold Hoarders. These have you fighting skeletons, delivering parcels, and digging up treasure respectively. In order to undertake a voyage you’ll have to pay gold. The starting voyages for each faction is free and you get a generous amount of currency on completing one.
There’s little motivation to keep playing for a multitude of reasons. For one, there’s no overarching plot to keep you invested. Secondly, there’s no experience points or progression to be earned to help you obtain better skills, abilities, or perks since they don’t exist. Third, and perhaps the most painful of all — each voyage almost always requires you to make it back to the faction with a chest in hand. That’s not as easy as it sounds, as with other players present in-game at any given time, the chances of running into a group out to steal your loot is exceptionally high. This makes finishing voyages more cumbersome than they already are and, in our experience, borderline unplayable.
Aside from earning gold to get better versions of items (such as a shovel that lets you dig faster or or upgrading your ship with new figureheads, hulls, and sails) you already started off with, Sea of Thieves’ expects you to lean in heavily into its game world to keep playing. Except the game’s threadbare and you’d end up having explored everything Sea of Thieves has to offer within the first few hours at best.
It doesn’t help matters that Sea of Thieves is a Rs. 3,999 game ($60 in the US). Sure you can get it for less if you’ve subscribed to Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass subscription service (Rs. 699 a month, Rs. 4,194 for six months) but even with what content the game has right now, there’s little reason to download it.
At the moment, Sea of Thieves feels like a mock up house used by real estate agents to sell you on a property. It’s a polished prototype with promise and potential, but it’s so far removed from what the actuality is that you’re better off waiting. This might change if Microsoft and Rare decide to add more content to the, game but right now you shouldn’t bother.
Rating (out of 10): 5
Gadgets 360 played a review copy of Sea of Thieves on Xbox One X and Windows 10. The game retails at Rs. 3,999 in India and $60 in the US.
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