Sea Of Thieves Is No Fun By Yourself

Sea Of Thieves Is No Fun By Yourself
To sign up for our daily newsletter covering the latest news, features and reviews, head HERE. For a running feed of all our stories, follow us on Twitter HERE. Or you can bookmark the Kotaku Australia homepage to visit whenever you need a news fix.

Sea of Thieves is no place for the solo swashbuckler. Bereft of boisterous crewmates, strange thoughts enter the mind. Thoughts like, “Well this isn’t fun at all,” and “Hey, if I stand on a rock the skeletons can’t attack me.”

Sea of Thieves was built with multiplayer in mind. The idea that groups of players could band together and create their own narrative is at the heart of the game. Despite this, Rare has included the ability to enter the world as a lone player piloting a one-man sloop.

Since the game’s various beta testing events, players have been setting sail solo. Some find it difficult. Others say it’s relaxing. I found it mildly frustrating and quite boring.

Do not select this option.

Do not select this option.

The basic gameplay pattern of Sea of Thieves isn’t that complicated. Players go to an outpost and take a selection of three types of missions – treasure hunt, bounty hunting or trading. A treasure hunt involves sailing to an island, digging up a treasure chest and bringing it back to an outpost for a reward. Bounty hunting involves sailing to an island, killing skeletons until a named skeleton appears, killing it and bringing its skull back to the outpost for a reward. Trading involves gathering items and taking them back to the outpost for a reward.

These aren’t particularly diverse goals.

What makes the cycle of going places and getting things more compelling is other people. The person handling the map accidentally getting you lost. The pirate at the wheel not noticing a giant rock jutting out of the waves. The helmsman and whoever’s in charge of the anchor coordinating their efforts to perform the very cool anchor turn manoeuvre, in which the anchor is dropped rapidly while steering hard and then quickly raised, turning the vessel on a dime. Doubloon. Whatever.

None of that happens when playing solo. Navigating is madly dashing from the sloop’s wheel down to the map table to check heading, then running back upstairs to make sure the ship doesn’t crash. It’s slowing down far before reaching your destination to make sure you have time to trim the sails and drop the anchor. It’s a whole lot of this horrible first-person view, with no one to tell you what’s being obscured by that sail.

Driving a ship by oneself is more difficult than having a crew. It’s definitely more time-consuming to step away from the wheel every couple of minutes.

Once the solo player reaches whichever island they’re searching for resources, bounties or treasure, the going gets much easier. Laughably easy, really.

The game’s sole land-based enemy type, skeletons, are easy to outrun and even easier to outmaneuver. As I discovered early on in my solo career, skeletons cannot climb rocks. Ridges barely a foot or two off the ground completely stop the undead beasts, leaving the player free to stab or shoot them with impunity.

Look out below!

The only real danger to solo players, other than accidentally sinking their own ship or the odd Kraken, is other players.

Sea of Thieves is a shared world game, so running into other pirate crews is bound to happen. The most thrilling single-player moments I’ve had in the game so far happened when another player surprised me in local voice chat and shot me in the head while I was exploring a random island.

I’ve yet to encounter a player-killing crew while on my boat, but I imagine with me unable to steer and shoot at the same time, they’d make short work of me. At least it would be exciting.


  • Is this game living up to expectations? It seemed like people were excited about it, or at least the concept of it but so far it looks pretty lacklustre based on what I’ve read in the past few days.

  • Just turn around on a sloop and look down at the map table though, no need to run back and forth

    • Where’s that? I only had a brief time with the sloop in the beta, but tried looking for an equivalent to the galleon’s grate to look through and didn’t end up finding one.

      • Behind the anchor on the sloop you can look into the cabin and see the map table real easy.

        • Oh shit I just saw a gif of it. I was looking for some kind of hole in the floor, didn’t even think to look down over the back handrail. What is sense of geometry?

  • I reckon this game needs another year of development. I feel like it might be the kind of title that’ll add a lot of fun things down the line but it seems like it was pushed out the door with “we’ll be adding X feature later” in mind.

    • This. Got a free copy and spent a couple hours with it last night with some friend. Man… it just simply isn’t finished.
      Controls are unintuitive, mechanically unpolished, generally cumbersome – things as simple as navigating the ocean require a level of cooperation that is novel in principle but frustrating in practices. Steering a ship wth a sail blocking your vision completely simply sucks. I shouldn’t have to ask my brother if I’m careening into a rock.

      This will bomb, and is the ship that Rare will go down on.

        • I understand that, but it simply doesn’t translate as ‘fun’ in a video game.

          As a soldier I’d have to reach into my backpack for each magazine, but there’s a very good reason that part of reloading doesn’t make it into Battlefield.

          • I found it fun, because it meant everyone on the ship was contributing and not a “who’s gonna steer while the rest just sit here bored till we make land”. Each task on the ship is engaging and makes for fun communication with team members

    • The quickest way to piss off the captain of a ship is to call them the driver. So naturally that’s what everyone does. It’s a common navy joke.

          • Yeah, could be right. I always look at it that a ship goes out to sea, while a boat doesnt. Sloops CAN, but usually shouldnt, though Bermuda sloops (which I think SoT sloops are. Makes sense time-wise and setting-wise), were designed to go out to sea.

            Alternative is that a ship NEEDS a captain, while a boat doesnt. As the sloops in SoT can be controlled solo, that would preclude the need of a captain, and make them a boat. The difference between the two seems to have started with ships can carry a boat, while boats cant carry a ship mentality – boats were carried on the bigger vessel to the destination, then used.

            Main point though was that calling a ship a boat pisses sailors off, just like saying they drive them. It seems a small thing, but isnt to them.

          • There’s technically no proper definition for what makes the difference, but my grandfather (who served in the Royal Navy during WW2) used to tell me that a ship can carry a boat, but a boat can never carry a ship.

          • Yeah, that seems the traditional view. My grandfather was navy, as was my dad. I also flatted with some navy around 1999 or so, so got to hassle them a lot 🙂 Amazing how traditional they are as a group, and largely still are.

  • Can you party up with randoms? Don’t know anyone else who plays this and I still want to give it a go but not solo.

    • Yep, the party system seems to work pretty well. I’m on “GeminiWraith666” if you want to add me. We’re quite often full up with 4 people already, but hit me up anyway…you never know.

    • You deliberately have to move off the standard selections to go solo. It will matchmake if you just click through.

  • Rare lost their magic when they left Nintendo. Not sure why they can’t recreate that same character on Microsoft’s consoles, but it seems their glory days are long gone. Kind of sad considering the heights they reached with Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, Banjo Kazooie etc.

    • Everyone completely forgets about Viva Pinata which was an excellent game with a lot of that character. It’s just that it was a “kids game” in an era and on a platform where the “serious adults” wanted to play all their brown dudebro shooters.

      And I’m just going to throw this out there, but maybe they were never actually as good as people made them out to be, and only did well at their peak because they were making games with Nintendo oversight on a Nintendo platform? And in a lot of cases, the people nostalgic for that era of Rare games tend to have been kids back then too…

      • And I’m just going to throw this out there, but maybe they were never actually as good as people made them out to be, and only did well at their peak because they were making games with Nintendo oversight on a Nintendo platform?

        I dont think you can really say this considering their back catalogue. There are some of the best games ever to grace a console in thier list of games. Whether that was based on Nintendo oversight or not, they did exceptionally well during that run. We’re talking about Battletoads, the Donkey Kong Country series, Killer Instinct, Blast Corps, Goldeneye 007, Banjo-Kazooie, Jet Force Gemini, Perfect Dark, Conker’s Bad Fur Day and Star Fox Adventures, among others.

        More likely now the issue is they have limits they weren’t exposed to under Nintendo. They also could have had changes in staff that caused their games to drop in quality. Who knows what the situation is now. But lets not try and diminish what they did really really well.

        • See a huge chunk of the games you’re mentioning were developed with help from Nintendo to some degree. And again, a lot of their success is because they were the only major developer to put games of that type out on the N64, which had a large install base, impressionable players and not a lot of games to compete against. Whether a lot of those games would have done as well and raised their profile as high on another console is debatable. The fact that when they tried to continue some of these franchises they struggled to have any success with them is testament to that.

    • Heaps and heaps of turnover since then as well as the the owners selling out and leaving. So different teams, different management. Really the only thing the same as the N64 days is the name of the studio.

    • And Donkey Kong. Jesus man, Donkey Kong!

      I was 14 I think and that game changed everything. Man it was fun!

  • Given that apparently you have to be online to play solo anyway, I’m frankly not even sure why they bothered making it possible.

    It’s pretty sick and twisted for their dev interviews to have led solo players on with the idea that there might be anything worthwhile to the game for them, when it’s very clear that there’s not.

    I can only imagine that Marketing had a gun to everyone’s head, growling, “I don’t care that it’s not solo-friendly, if you do anything to convince the single-player demographic that we don’t want their money, you can kiss your family goodbye.”

    • Playing solo still lets you encounter other players, which is a large portion of what little game there is here… you just don’t have a crew of your own.

    • Think of it like GTA Online. It’s a shared online world, wouldn’t be quite the same being purely offline. You can play in this world either by yourself, or can group up with a bunch of friends, like with Organisations and Motorbike Gangs.

      • (I got griefed to fuck in GTA: Online, forcing me into solo mode until I got bored and stopped altogether. Although admittedly the most boring thing about the mode was the online-induced loading times.)

        • Lol yeah the griefing is a pain in GTA. Sea of Thieves handles it a bit better with lower player counts, more separation between players by ships, and purely cosmetic upgrades. Don’t have to worry about people coming in with $2mil+ tanks you have no chance of getting yourself without playing 24/7 for months on end.

          • Yeah. I mean, the overall thrust is that this clearly isn’t a solo-friendly game, but the devs seemed to be terrified of admitting that up to launch, saying that it’d be possible to solo and there’d be plenty to do for players who want to play that way, while constantly reiterating that they’d hope that people would eventually play multiplayer (ie: properly) once they were comfortable.

            As if they really wanted solo-focused players to try it (ie: BUY it) anyway.

            So yeah, I won’t be getting it, now that reviews are out, but I was definitely curious in the lead-up, with hints and suggestions about how solo play could work out and not be fucking horrible. There really should’ve been a dev with the courage to say outright, “No. Playing solo will be awful, and you can never truly escape other players, so no, if you’re into single-player, this isn’t for you.”

  • Are you guys playing the same game as us?? Our 4 player galleon adventures on PC have been freaking amazing! The general adventuring is good fun and all, but the PvP is outstanding. Ship to ship combat is a total team effort (especially when you’re tankards have been refilled too many times), and it’s pretty easy to pick up.

    I can see where single player would be a bit stale, but I didn’t really buy it for that. If you have a crew you can trust you should find it to be a really fun game.

    • Have you discovered the vomit meta? Get drunk and vomit into a bucket. Then attack another crew and throw your vomit in their face. It’s the nautical flash bang.

      • Not tried it yet, but we did have some fun with vomit when one of our crew went afk. We voted him into the brig, drank ourselves stupid, then surrounded him with our vomiting pirate bodies for his return. Good times!

    • > Article is about how playing Solo is crap

      > “Our 4 player galleon adventures on PC have been freaking amazing!”


  • How the hell can you make a game called Sea of Thieves and it NOT turn out to be fun? It basically writes itself, just don’t f*ck anything up and you’re gold right? Cover off on exploration, combat, trading, and build in enough freedom for people to do crazy shit and you’re set.

  • Watched some solo gameplay, looks lame af. The sword and pistol combat looked shallow and boring. If this game is only fun in tight 4 player groups they should be up front about it.

  • Played a bit in fours, and quite a lot in twos, and it is fun… to a point. When it comes down to it, there just isn’t a lot to do, and when your mate goes offline for an hour to cook dinner for his kids that becomes very apparent.

    It’s boring.

    Three missions types, which is really one mission type with a different Macguffin, and all of them ridiculously simple.

    Very limited range of weapons.

    No actual world. Just one little camp (It doesn’t qualify for the moniker ‘Town’) that is “The Hub” and a series of effectively identical island. Where are the pirate cities? Where is Tortuga goddammit?!?

    Forts to raid, caves to explore, dungeons to pillage? Nope. Just some skellies to shoot and a chest to dig up.

    Its a bit like putting a group of kids in an empty, windowless room then rolling in a ball and expecting them to be grateful. At least the painted the walls, I guess.

    Sure, PvP is fun. But it isn’t fun enough to keep people coming back. The games with longevity give you something to do while you’re waiting for your friends to log on.

    It’s pretty (but not as pretty as black flag), but also pretty dull. 4/10.

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!