Sea of Thieves – An Online Pirate Adventure
One of the biggest talking points of last year’s E3, the annual gaming event where developers show off their upcoming wares (hard and soft) was newly released open-world/sea, action/adventure, RPG pirate game Sea of Thieves.
Everyone was excited about this game since not only did it look spectacular, it had been far too long since we all had a good swash-buckling adventure, Sid Meier’s “Pirates!” being the last one worth mentioning.
Sea of Thieves, the highly anticipated online pirate game from Rare is shaping up to look like one of the best games of 2018.
Here I will outline my Sea of Thieves review based upon the visuals of the game, the control system, the game’s story/gameplay and additional content as well as the pros and cons of the game, since no game is perfect.
The Visuals – Beauty in Simplicity
Microsoft’s first exclusive game of 2018 is stunning in its visual presentation, which is probably the first thing you will notice.
As you wake up in a seedy tavern (presumably after a night of debauchery)surrounded by others, the style of the game is immediately clear. From the visuals alone, you get a real sense of exactly how this game is going to play out, from the humour to the action.
Straight away you will see other players and NPCs, comically drawn and textured so as to look real but not quite. All the nuance of detail is present on characters’ faces and about their bodies, with make-up, scars, tattoos, buckles and adornments all on display in countless variation.
The cartoonish, cell-shaded artwork is almost comic book-esque, and the use of high quality lighting and shadow effects really set the tone; as the candles flicker and the fire roars you can almost feel the heat on your face. It’s almost reminiscent of Skyrim’s beautiful tavern long-houses.
A cosy tavern is all well and good, however, for this online pirate game this is only a glimpse of the visual style, the real beauty of this game is yet to come.
When you first head outside the tavern, you are presented by a stunning scene of docks, palm trees, pirates and of course the sea; over which the sun is setting, just being able to make out the feint orange glow through the grey sea clouds which have gathered over the island, the look and sound of tidal waves ever present as they cast and ebb on the sandy beach.
Story/Gameplay – Something for Everyone; Crew or Solo?
While Sea of Thieves (due to being a strictly online pirate game) doesn’t actually have a main story arc, the game consists of quests and voyages which you can get from quest-givers that you must complete in order to increase your reputation as a legendary pirate, which is done by finalising various mentioned quests and voyages.
The system works in that the more quests and voyages you complete, the more opportunities for greater treasures will be presented to you, with some of the greatest quests having to be discovered, encouraging exploration of the sea and the world, which I have to mention is huge.
There are uncharted areas, unpredictable battles with players and NPCs, riddles to solve and even legendary sea monsters to defeat.
It is vital that you learn how to sail before heading out. Running a ship can be as easy or as difficult as you want it to be depending on the size of the vessel and whether you are solo or with a crew. Larger ships for example require a full crew; sails need to controlled, the wheel needs to be helmed and cannons require firing, all at the same time. The PvP battles of this online pirate game are intense and satisfying but ultimately necessary because the game forces you to defend yourself; if you get killed you may lose items.
In true pirate style, obtain a map, grab a compass and head out for the “X” which marks the spot. Treasure hunting will send you out on to the high seas to distant lands so you need to constantly be wary and always looking through the telescope to spy other players who might be seeking to do you harm. You need to be careful though as other players can actually rob you of your treasure before quest completion. While roaming around there are random smaller treasures to be found such as gold stashes (which we noticed after spotting a flock of seagulls), and items such as ammunition and rations, all of which can help sustain a longer voyage.
Treasure seeking quests are typically given by the “Gold Hoarders”, one of three companies in Sea of Thieves.
There are other quest types in this epic online pirate game:
- Riddle Map: set out to find a treasure chest based upon clues on a document you have which are sequentially given to you as you progress through the riddle. These are typically not too difficult and usually begin with travelling to an island and following on from there.
- Bounty Map: The “Order of Souls” may ask you to seek out legendary and long-dead pirate skeleton captains and bring back their skulls for a reward. These quests/voyages are a little more difficult than others as they require combat, so if your combat skills aren’t quite that good, you may want to sit these out until you are ready.
- Quest for Trade Goods: get a mandate from the “Merchant Alliance” for commodities which you can find while out on your travels and you will be paid upon delivery. One of the first being a request to find some chickens. This was basically an introductory quest, not being too difficult, but familiarising the player with the basics of questing and voyaging in this online pirate game.
- Solo Questing: you can of course explore at will in Sea of Thieves, free-roaming the world at your leisure. As in most open world RPG games you may find some of the most interesting things when you go off the beaten path. There are many treasures to be found which will randomly spawn in various locations on the map. However, if you are a solo player like me, you are limited; some quests and voyages require a crew and being alone you can only handle a small boat and not a galleon so you may be more easily targeted. The smaller boats are more agile however they cannot sustain a lot of damage and have limited defensive capabilities.
Controls System – Keep Your Cannons True
- Land Based Combat: skirmishes are performed via a multi-tap combo system which at first is a little clunky, but after a couple of fights seems to feel very natural to the style of game. Building momentum is key, while also blocking and dodging before going in for a final lunge. When you get to grips with this system it plays out very satisfactorily and is more effective than I initially thought it would be.
- Naval Combat: battles at sea aren’t as complex as you might think. Cannons obviously need to be loaded but firing them is a simple as aim and fire. When firing, it is a lot of fun trying to hit the enemy hull at the right spot so as to have their ship take on water and start to sink, which can be very satisfying. It is also possible to board enemy ships and take them out in true pirate style.
Pros and Cons – No Game is Perfect
Sea of Thieves Hits the Spot when it Comes to Pirates
- Excellent customisation options for your character giving you the opportunity to really create a character you can identify with.
- Strong visuals which match the game perfectly. Beautiful sunsets and sunrises over the sea and distant islands, gives you a feeling of a real open world where anything is possible.
- A very authentic pirate feel with obvious attention to detail. Fans of pirate myth and stories will feel right at home as there are plenty of hints, Easter eggs and references.
- Satisfying combat system that doesn’t feel too complex once you have had a couple of battles.
- Seemingly countless quests to complete and vast world to explore. Get out there and become a legend!
The Game is Excellent but Technical Issues are Present
- The game kind of forces you to play in groups, which is a real let-down as not everyone, myself included actually likes to play with other people.
- To play on PC you still need to sign up to Xbox Game Pass: 14 day free trial then £7.99 per month and you still have to buy the game. It is supposed to be free for Xbox Game Pass holders but the option is (as of yet) not there.
- No hints and tips while doing the introduction quest.
- There can be some sparse areas and islands which can make the game feel a little bit empty at times, but I suspect that this will improve with time.
Dive in to the Briny Depths and Uncover a Gem Well Worth the Wait
Sea of Thieves is an epic online pirate game which a true joy to play and is unlike anything else currently available.
The customisations, varying quests, battles and duels are incredibly fun and the game mechanics don’t seem to get old. From the initial opening of the game it is clear that this is going to be something special and when you first board your boat after being charged with a quest, the excitement of getting on to the sea is something I have never before experienced in a game.
The quests and voyages can sometimes feel a tad repetitive since they usually start out the same or have the same outcome but the moments in between are exciting and fun to play, but this is nothing new in online games.
All in all, Sea of Thieves offers an excellent and ambitious online pirate game but falls short of the “Wow!” factor, although it comes very, very close. Some initial server issues and NPC sparsity are not the only issues with this game but they are the biggest and I have every faith that these will be resolved very soon.
If you are looking for something fresh then this is the place to start as there is nothing else available that is like Sea of Thieves.
So, get the eye patch on, the parrot on your shoulder and neck a bottle of grog. If there’s one game which is sure to unleash your inner pirate it is this epic online pirate game.
The CXG Verdict: 7 out of 10
Thank you for reading and have fun exploring.
Michael, Editor/Owner – ChartX Games.
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Michael is the sole writer and owner at chartxgames.com.
Many thought that his youth (and adulthood) playing video games was a waste of time but here he is writing about them for a living.
Michael has a background in IT and enjoys (apart from video games) building and repairing PC’s, digital artwork (Photoshop, 3DS Max) and has interests in too many subjects to mention.