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.
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.
This is how I fell in love with Sea of Thieves.
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.
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.
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.