There is a feeling I often have whenever I launch a game with a huge open-world. It’s like I’m standing on the precipice of a great adventure, where I know point A and point B, but I have no idea what lies in between. While you might think that after playing Sea of Thieves since its launch 2 years ago that I might have shaken that feeling, but I am amazed to say I haven’t.
Back in my day…
I can remember year 1 Sea of Thieves like it was yesterday, my fellow veterans and I often muse on those days while our friends who only just got into the game look on in confusion. There were half the activities to do compared to now, good loot was much harder to come by and the grind to max level, Aka Pirate Legend, was crushingly brutal. In fact, I only became a pirate legend earlier this year. But year 1 Sea of Thieves and its weak points were what nearly drove me away from the game entirely, I stopped playing it for three or four months when the content updates began to slow down and the gameplay grew repetitive, but when I returned for the Heart of Fire update in March of this year, I was pleasantly surprised to experience a wealth of new activities to undertake and loot to be found.
The second coming
Now, having returned to consistently playing Sea of Thieves for the last 5 months I can safely say it has never been better to be a pirate. The magic of Sea of Thieves is its unpredictability, the probability for a run of the mill game experience being just as high as the probability of a grand adventure worthy of a Pirates of The Caribbean movie. Some days I just feel like island hopping and seeing what trouble I can get myself into, hauling sunken treasure, battling menacing undead pirate captains or waiting for one of the three random boss encounters in the game (Kraken, Megalodon or Skeleton Ship) to finish off a nearby crew so I can swoop in and snatch their loot. The possibilities are not exactly endless, but there are enough variables that no two adventures play the same. Whether its blood or booty you are seeking, Sea of Thieves, its wide shared world and array of colourful characters, can accommodate you.
Still got a couple of holes in the boat
Despite the recent additions of the expansive Tall Tales, a series of episodes in a surprisingly interconnected story, the expansive additions to equipment, gameplay and cosmetics, Sea of Thieves still suffers from some of its original problems. First being the soul-crushing grind to max level, the simple concept of performing actions to level up with 3 key companies and 3 additional, more playstyle focused, companies is exhaustingly drawn out in Sea of Thieves, forcing players to pour months of playtime into the game to unlock a status that, at its heart, is purely cosmetic, especially now that the maximum level cap has been raised by a further 25 levels (half of the original cap). And the fact that the game is so enjoyable when played with a group of friends means that playing alone is the polar opposite. People sailing alone are at the bottom of the Sea of Thieves food chain, and the ‘Open Crew’ matchmaking system is deeply flawed, I was once joined by two players who tried to bully me into leaving so their friend could take my place. I ended up winning the day by playing the most annoying shanty I could in my cell below deck until they gave up and left.
Despite all that, Sea of Thieves is a new standard for online shared worlds, where endless adventures and dramatic tales are more frequent than Seagull poop. If you are seeking a story worthy of Jack Sparrow himself you can hop into the classic Adventure mode and roam the world at your own risk of running into other players that may want to turn your ship into sawdust and steal your hard-earned loot. Or if you are interested in nothing but combat you can try the PVP focused Arena mode, and cut your teeth upon the waves to earn a collection of very shiny cosmetics. So grab your crew, your cutlass and a barrel of grog, because all that and more awaits you beyond an ever-expanding horizon of content in Sea of Thieves.
Sea of Thieves is out now on Xbox One, PC and Xbox Game Pass