Sea Of Thieves Is An Empty Playground

Image: Microsoft

Casting an eye over the internet, the general response to Sea of Thieves is underwhelming. The content is lacking. There's no real sense of progression. The combat is janky.

Sea of Thieves wasn't meant to be about the game. It was meant to be about what you do with other people in the game. Is that enough?

I want to enjoy Sea of Thieves. I really do.

The idea of becoming a legendary pirate as you seeking fortune and glory on the high seas with your friends appeals to the child in me that sings along to Muppet Treasure Island.

There are moments in Sea of Thieves when the stars align and something truly enjoyable happens. So far all of those moments have come from other players, not from any set content that Rare has baked into the game.

During the final beta of Sea of Thieves I was sailing on my lonesome on a small sloop. Seeking treasure at the behest of the Gold Hoarders I approached an island. So did another sloop.

I opened fire on my counterpart. There was no reason to do it, it just felt like a thing to do. Many things in Sea of Thieves are just things to do.

There was no response. No action on deck. Nothing. Maybe he was friendly?

I made my way to land, hoping to find my treasure and talk to the guy whose ship I had just attempted to scuttle. Nobody was there. I assumed they had logged off. So I dug up the treasure chest and returned to my ship.

At least, I tried to return to my ship.

Jerkface McGee had tricked me. When I opened fire on his ship, he had jumped off and attempted to board mine. As I distracted myself with buried treasure, he stole my ship and started to sail away.

Luckily there's a way to return to your ship if you're too far away. A siren appeared and offered to transport me back to my stolen sloop. My treasure was forfeited but at least I was back on my ship.

I was greeted by a shot from a blunderbuss that blasted me overboard. Oh dear. This wasn't over.

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When I first played Sea of Thieves, I was apprehensive. It didn't grab me at all. But, after taking on voyage after voyage - alone or with friends and strangers - I’ve now spent so many hours sailing on the sea that, when I close my eyes, I can still hear the water crashing.

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Another siren appeared. This time I was ready to fight. So was Jerkface McGee. He effortlessly killed me and I was sent to the ferry of the damned, Sea of Thieves temporary plane of existence for dead pirates.

Round three went no better. I returned to my ship to find it empty. As I searched the tiny ship to see where he was hiding, Jerkface McGee dropped from the crows nest and slaughtered me again. Back to the ferry.

This whole experience should've been infuriating yet it was so intrinsically about what Rare was trying to achieve with Sea of Thieves that I was enjoying every moment. The game is about finding ways to interact with players, to tell stories and have adventures.

Jerkface McGee obviously agreed with this sentiment. The next time that I returned to my ship, he was standing at the front of my ship with his hurdy-gurdy playing me a shanty.

So I knocked him off with my blunderbuss and reclaimed my ship. We waved goodbye as he disappeared in the waves.

Victorious and with nothing to show for it, I logged off.

Image: Microsoft

There's not much progress in Sea of Thieves. You can do quests for factions to earn rewards and higher tier quests. In turn, these higher tier quests unlock greater rewards and even more quests. The stakes are low unless you attach sentiment to what's happening.

Setting forth on voyages is clunky. Fighting skeletons feels sluggish and unresponsive. There have been constant server problems since the game launched. I've even experienced bugs where my weapons simply did not load into the game, making me unable to fight unless I restarted.

Even the game's legendary Kraken encounter is little more than disembodied tentacles.

Image: Microsoft

Rare wants players to make their own adventures. To use Sea of Thieves as a playground where fun things happen to those that make them happen. I don't know if that's enough. As much fun as I've had in the moments where Sea of Thieves has delivered, I'm struggling to think of anything that makes those moments unique to Sea of Thieves.

My wife and I fought over hats in Lego: Indiana Jones and laughed as I failed to cross bridges time and time again. The first time I reached the summit in Journey is imprinted in my memory because of the other player that I experienced it with. My life is full of these moments.

From PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds to Mario Kart, multiplayer games are about the stories that players create with each other. I don't know if providing another platform is enough. There needs to be a solid game on top of that platform. One that players will want to come back to.

Rare plans to keep updating Sea of Thieves for some time. Maybe the game will become a rollicking adventure. It's not there yet.


Comments

    Adam Wells shot first.

      Some say that pirates steal and should be feared and hated
      I say we're victims of bad press; it's all exaggerated
      We'd never stab you in the back, we'd never lie or cheat
      We're just about the nicest guys you'd ever want to meet!

        Hey, ho, ho
        It's one for all for one
        And we'll share-and-share-alike with you and love you like a son
        We're gentlemen of fortune and that's what we're proud to be
        And when you're a professional pirate

    I'm starting to feel that the most likely scenario for this game will be similar to No Man's Sky.

    Under delivering at launch, causing most people to drop it. A small dedicated following will stick with it. Rare will continue to support it, allowing it to turn into the game people want. It'll get re-evaluated in around a year to a much warmer reception.

    The biggest difference is Sea of Thieves hasn't set itself up as something it's not as much as No Man's Sky.

      The biggest difference is Sea of Thieves hasn't set itself up as something it's not as much as No Man's Sky.
      That and the devs are actually still communicating - they're being vague but it's better than nothing.

      I genuinely hope they get it up to snuff. It could be a great game, and the water looks absolutely beautiful. But it feels a bit like they spent 5 years just polishing some really simple mechanics and some nice ocean effects. :/
      I know it must be hard running a small dev team, but when they chose to sell it for $80 and allowed Microsoft to champion them, the expectation was raised. Now, they have to rise to meet the bar. I'll happily come back when they do.

    Nothing unexpected. I knew it since the closed beta. People just hyped it up for no reason...yeah play with ur friends and do what ?!?!

    Man, that's a shame.

    I don't have an X-box but I was intrigued by this title. I seriously thought it might kick the narrative that X-box has a disappointing exclusive line-up.

      Can one exclusive do that? Sony has had single months that have destroyed an entire year for Microsoft. Hopefully they're investing heavily now for a good 2020. To be competitive they need a good exclusive every quarter.

      Last edited 22/03/18 1:50 pm

        True, but one killer app would have gone a long way.

        Like, just the fact that PS4 has Bloodborne almost entirely justifies it for me and for a lot of people.

          Yeah thats true, especially with the super low prices the console can be had for. I wonder where it'll come from though? Forza isn't enough. I feel sorry for the Phil guy, seems like a good dude.

    Played for 25 minutes and then ended up quite unwell. I was rather sim sick for a while

      You mean sea sick yeah?

        Simulated sea sick =P

          As a fellow sufferer i feel your pain. Real boat, real car whilst reading etc no probs. Videogame = trouble.

            Oh, i get everything. My brain just hates me.
            Apparently it is weird to get sim, motion and sea sick.

    After playing it at a mates house I see why the devs were so coy during the Ama, the game is No Mans Sky 2.0. The game is a tech demo and nothing more and it shouldn't be surprising, none of the good old staff from Rare are there anymore. What a joke for the price.

      "The game is No Mans Sky 2.0"

      Very accurate. The water in the game looks great though!

        Gorgeous water, it is a shame it was only offered to PUBG's garbo devs. I feel like the tech would look great in titles with a better scope.

          So, my squad and I were talking about the lack of good water in PUBG and wish it was like Sea of Thieves. never knew that it could have happened!

          Are PUBG devs actually devs? Hoping a game more similar to PUBG than Fortnite will come out soon and actually do a good job of the BR format.

            They are free to play mobile developers... so no.

      Ironically the good old staff went on to make the not-too-well-received Yooka Laylee so I guess there's no real winning.

      I enjoyed playing it last night through gamepass for a little but it really is a whole lot of nothing, and for $99 AUD? They've got to be kidding themselves. I'd feel ripped off if I paid $20.

    What I saw of the beta made me think it was lacking, lost interest in it immediately. Happy I didn't get hyped and expect 10 times more stuff in the release compared to beta as many other seem to have expected...

    Beta means 90% complete etc...when you get to play one assume that's all the game is other than minor bug fixes and you won't be disappointed.

      “It’s just beta guys, it’ll better for release.”

      One of the bigger myths in gaming.

    I absolutely love the thought of 2-4 players sailing the open seas, lootin' and plunderin', but something tells me that'd wear thin quickly with what there is. I'll give it a look into in 6-12 months, I feel like it needs more time to add things that make the world worth exploring for a long period of time.

    I just hope there's enough of a community if/when I decide to give it a go. Either that or they opt for some kind of "free play weekend" which I can see happening in a few months.

    As someone who was part of the pioneer program it was crap at the start and the finale product is nothing more then a polished turd which is so hart breaking

    My "most powerful console of all time" plays Blu-ray and occasionally Monster Hunter World. What a joke, MS have fucked up this entire console generation.

      Agreed. Having a cool console is useless without cool games to play on it. MS tried to lure people with AAA third-party games by selling the X as the most powerful console (maybe to follow in Sony's footsteps after the PS4 Pro) but I think the ship had sailed. PS4 has the mind-share and MS is seen as try-hard rather than cool. For MS to reverse the slide, it needs to get exclusives. No other way except steep price cuts, and even that would probably not work without at least some exclusives coming out at the same time, similar to what Sony did with the PS3 in the second half of last generation.

      I love new tech, and am a bit of a graphics whore on consoles. So I've been trying to rationalize purchasing an Xbox One X since they launched.

      Was hoping sea of thieves was the reason. Nope.....I'll stick with my One S.

      What a crap game.

    When a game costs $100 it needs to be a lot more than an empty playground

    Woa this sounds like EXACTLY what i did to someone yesterday. I... I think it was me....I kept ringing the bell on the sloop too if that was your ship.

      Sorry Olibru McGee, that happened to me during the final beta.

    Just needs to be cross platformed with ps4, that will make it better, xboxers and ps4’ers can duke it out on the high seas.

    The following sums up Sea of Thieves perfectly.

    I discovered an uncharted island last night. Swam around it and found a hidden cave underneath it. Swam through up and under the cave which opened into a secret little air pocket thing. "Pirates have been here..." I tell myself as I see some barrels etc.

    As it turns out......nope.......no one has been here. The area was completely empty. I dug every square inch of sand looking for a chest that would surely be there. Nope.

    This is Sea of Thieves. So much potential, but lacking so much content it's literally a joke at this point.

    ...and they have a sneaky no refund policy on this game. They have it on other games, just not this one. Pretty illegal in Aus.

    edit: I was able to call microsoft store on 1800267785 and get a refund easily enough. It was just the online method that does not allow you.

    Last edited 24/03/18 2:33 pm

    I’m agreeing with the whole No Man’s Sky sentiment. It’s a beautiful concept and the framework is there. Sailing is fun, the sea looks stunning, loads of personality, but not even close to finished.

    It’s also tapping into that fantasy. Flying a ship through space, sailing the high seas and battling other pirates. This truly is the Xbox’s No Man’s Sky

    Last edited 24/03/18 10:52 pm

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