Sea of Thieves (PC): Review
For the past week I have been exploring the tumultuous waters of Rare’s open world (or is it open seas?) adventure Sea of Thieves. During that time I’ve had some truly unforgettable adventures with my crew: raiding the skull islands for mountains of loot, desperately navigating a treacherous storm and battling to the death on the high seas with other crews. SoT has provided me with a genuinely unique and entertaining gaming experience that I’m more than happy to continue visiting, which is one of the reasons why I’m so concerned that I’m already beginning to see cracks in the facade.
Despite several weeks of a play-testing with multiple open Beta weekends, the final game was still beset with a number of frustrating bugs at its release. The most prevalent of which was one which locked the player into using a single weapon, greatly hindering combat whether it was during a raid or with other players. It’s shocking that such a game breaking and seemingly not uncommon bug (I had several friends experience it multiple times) had still not been patched despite the game already being a week old. Thankfully, Rare recently released a massive 19 GB developer update which should remedy the majority of issues players are experiencing. Considering I payed sixty dollars for this game it’s disturbing that the final product still seemed remarkably unpolished.
Yet, this is not where my true worries lie; if you read our first look at Sea of Thieves a few weeks back his biggest concern was that the game would quickly run dry on content. Unfortunately, this seems to be the reality of SoT at the moment. In terms of actual quest content players are limited to three factions to choose from. Of these three guilds the specific missions they offer have painfully little variety, the Gold Hoarders always have you finding the “x” on the map or solving a simple riddle, the Order of Souls has you fighting waves of skeletons followed by a boss, and the Merchant Alliance (the least fun in my opinion) have you collecting x amount of miscellaneous livestock or materials. The only other game given quest outside this is the raid on the skeleton island which any crew can participate in allowing for a plethora of hijinks involving other players.
For me the PvP element is still the highlight of the game and the quests really just serve as a catalyst to go out and encounter other players. Every engagement with another team feels like a distinct and exciting experience that requires the full cooperation of your team if you wish to come out on top. However, if you’re looking to avoid other players rather than confront them directly the game offers relatively few exciting alternatives. Sure the island raids can be quite challenging at times and nothing gave me a rush quite like struggling to hold your battered ship together in the midst of a massive storm, but these mostly just felt like brief distractions from the real game. If Rare wishes to keep its player base invested for the foreseeable future they need to seriously consider expanding on the variety of activities available to partake in. Even though the PvP might be considered the main attraction, that doesn't mean that other facets of the game should be overlooked. Players should still be interested in the content outside it simply being a means towards accumulating in-game currency, otherwise they will start to get bored really quick. SoT would also benefit greatly from the addition of more public events since they would not only provide more opportunities to gain loot but also play to its strength by further encouraging crew on crew encounters.
Now even though I’ve spent a large portion of this review bashing SoT, it’s only because I truly believe it still has the potential to be one of the years most memorable games. In fact, I believe it's a testament to just how much fun the game is that despite its faults I still find myself returning with my crew to have another voyage. SoT has the quality of being able to transition from being tranquil and beautiful one moment to being hectic and intense mere minutes later. I personally have rarely felt a more profound sense of adventure than I have whilst playing with merry band of gamers, even something as simple as setting the sails so that it catches the wind just right has a grandiose feeling to it. It is my sincere hope that Rare will take the criticism of the gaming community to heart and make good on the promises they made when they first announced what was meant to be a game-changing adventure experience.