Is a Pirate’s Life for You?
The most important thing to convey in a video game review is the reviewer’s professional opinion on the quality of the game so that consumers can decide if they want to spend their time, energy, and money on the game being reviewed.
Titles like Rare’s Sea of Thieves make my video game review process difficult because more than usual, the decision on whether or not to spend your time, energy, and money on this game depends on what type of video game experience you desire.
On average, I prefer video games that give me two things:
- An engaging story
- An experience that allows me to engage with friends, or make new ones
This new Xbox title provides very little in the form of an engaging story, but certainly provides an experience that allows you to engage with friends, or, if you’re interested, make new ones.
To my original point however, if you are not a player that has friends who want to play Sea of Thieves, or if you are not a player that is interested in meeting and playing with unpredictable and complete strangers on Xbox Live, then a pirate’s life is not for you.
Now that we have gotten that is out of the way, I want to give a huge amount of credit to Rare, a studio not experienced in this genre of game. Despite some issues during the launch week, Sea of Thieves works as intended. Within minutes of selecting your pirate from a set of randomly generated characters, you are placed in the titular Sea of Thieves, and have the ability to seek treasure, fight skeletons, and sail open seas with a large group of friends or as a solo player.
Graphically, there are few games in this generation that are as visually impressive as Sea of Thieves. The game manages to blend Disney/Pixar-esque character appearances with beautiful aesthetics of both calm and raging waters, beaches, and sky boxes. If you’re not a stickler for ultra-realistic graphics in video games, you’ll appreciate all the small visual nuances. Additionally, and you won’t understand this until you see it, Sea of Thieves has the most awesome visual experience tied to you the moments after your character dies.
The mechanics of the gameplay are equally as impressive as the graphics; sailing is both fun and detailed. There needs to be some thought into how you maneuver your ship or when to drop your anchor. Also, working with a crew will force you to learn the difference between port and starboard, and create strategies for nautical battles.
Praises aside, there are some concerns for Sea of Thieves in terms of its ability to keep players engaged.
Quite simply, there isn’t a lot to do here.
You’re either hunting treasure, fighting skeletons, or fighting other players, and while any of these can be fun with the right group, all of these have some annoyances and honestly, the experience is far too repetitive.
Additionally, playing as a solo player is possible, but extremely difficult. Much of your experience in Sea of Thieves is dependent on what other players choose to do. Whether you are in a group or alone, eventually you will come across other players. Some will ignore you as they are on their own voyage, but just as often, perhaps more so, they will disrupt your mission by attacking you, either by ship or on land. While sea battles can be entertaining, if that’s not what you signed up for, or if that’s not what you plan to do at the moment, it can really take away from your personal experience.
In some play sessions I was able to do whatever I wanted to do. In other sessions, I was immediately locked in the brig by my random crewmates (even though I did nothing wrong). Other times I was on a voyage and was repeatedly harassed by other players wanting to fight. Even when I won those battles, it wasn’t what I intended. If you’re a gamer with a limited amount of time in your schedule to play your games, these situations can be incredibly frustrating as you likely will be unable to accomplish what you wanted to do. Perhaps Sea of Thieves would be better served by having servers that are dedicated to less confrontational experiences, or by having player indicators that identify notorious pirates.
Overall, while the general consensus was that Rare was going to deliver a hallmark Xbox first party title and give players a memorable experience, Sea of Thieves misses the mark. While the game is both graphically and mechanically impressive, there is little to see and do in this world right now and even the things you do can be negatively affected by other players. But, if you’re the type of gamer who loves online experiences, and has a group of friends, or if you’re capable of making a group of friends that are willing to regularly loot and plunder with you, then a pirate’s life might be for you. But most players would rather *ahem*, walk the plank.
Hopefully, some updates will be released to improve the experience.