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Sea Of Thieves Review – A Real Hornswaggle

Official Score

Overall - 40%


This game was not ready for release, it was not ready to be played by the masses, and it most certainly is not worth the $60 price tag.

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In late 2013, a game released that would raise the expectations of the seafaring genre for the entire gaming audience. A game that set a precedent, raised the bar, and (we all hoped) would inspire developers to create a good pirate multiplayer game. That game was Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Sea of Thieves, on the other hand, is unfinished, uninspired, and arguably the biggest waste of $60 I’ve spent this year.

Sea Of Thieves Review

The folks at Rare boast a pedigree that very few teams can match. With over 30 years in the industry, this studio has the likes of GoldenEye 007, Donkey Kong Country and Battletoads under its historic belt. The keen eyed among us may notice a trend hovering over those hugely successful titles: they were all popular two to three decades ago. Rare hasn’t been at the forefront of innovation over the last few years, unless you count Kinect Rivals. That is, until Sea of Thieves was revealed.

Sea of Thieves opts for a more vibrant and colorful graphical style over more realistic and duller tones. While not usually my flavor, it works really well. The characters and environment blend together brilliantly and the ocean and weather effects come together to craft an impressive landscape. While aesthetics are not everything, the artistic direction in Sea of Thieves is both detailed and fitting, delivering a visual experience that is very pleasing to the eye.

Promising an exciting insight into the pirating life for you and your friends, Sea of Thieves looked to finally fill the void left for so many after Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. However, if you watched the initial reveal and subsequent trailers, you’ve pretty much seen everything the game has to offer.

Sea Of Thieves Review

Before beginning your sea voyage, you get to choose a pirate. Very few models and no additional customization options available mean you’re going to bump into identical twins at every port and on every island. This lackluster effort in such a vital area of a multiplayer experience sets a rather drab and dreary tone for the entire experience, a tone that persists throughout the content-sparse environment.

Being a first-person game, you could almost forgive the lack of decent character customization if the developers followed it up with some insane ship building or customization features. Alas, they did not. There are two types of ships; yes, just two ships in the entire pirate game. One for crews of one or two, the other for up to four. They are all identical with no ability to move storage boxes around, and no character. The developers completely overlooked the importance of building a connection between ship and crew. Two ships in a pirate game. It sounds like a setup for a really bad joke, but sadly that’s not the case.

Arriving on one of the few friendly ports, you and your free, characterless ship are free to explore the wonders of the seas. There are three factions in the game that offer different quests. Completing these quests builds your reputation and opens up additional rewards within each faction. You can either travel to an island to kill skeletons, travel to an island to find chickens or pigs, or follow ridiculously easy static treasure maps that are on the same places on the same islands every time.

Sea Of Thieves Review

If you have a few friends to fill your crew, you’ll likely have a few hours fun completing the basic and repetitive quests, enough to get yourself some booty and plunder. All quests have the same outcome, with items you must return to an outpost to sell for gold. This is typically where the “PvP” comes into play. Large groups of players camp at ports, waiting for those returning from voyage for easy gold and loot. Players will also come across small islands with a fort filled with skeletons. While initially offering attractive opportunities for large bounties, your hard work will usually sink to the bottom of the ocean as passing players sink your boat for little more reason than to annoy you. The most exciting part of ship combat is plugging holes and scooping out water. This would be alleviated slightly if NPCs took to the sea, but outside of the characters at port, there’s no life anywhere.

The melee combat doesn’t stretch much further into the realms of quality. There are only two basic melee attacks and three different guns. Players will fight skeleton enemies of two to three different varieties, and that’s it. This, too, is lacking in depth, creativity, and even the most basic of enemy variety as expected by video games made in the last 30 years.

The PvP is a breeding ground for trolling. With no progression, penalties, or real rewards, it’s a pointless addition that only functions because cannonballs can damage other ships. Outside of turning the ship to port or starboard and shooting below the waterline for maximum effect, there’s no real tactics to the combat. More often than not, enemies respawn on their ship after death, long before you can sink it. You cannot damage the sails or mast and the damage models are poor. Put simply, it’s a mundane PvP experience. One that is topped by cash-grabbing MMOs that are nearly 15 years old.

Sea Of Thieves Review

If you play alongside friends, you all share the same ship. There’s no option to form an armada of sorts, no ships to unlock, no upgrades to purchase. If you grind for more than 20 hours, you’ll be able to buy one of the very limited sail designs alongside other minor cosmetic improvements, but that’s it. You don’t even get to name your ship. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that’s a big no-no.

While the game lacks the depth of even the most basic of mobile games, it’s not without its charm. Sailing the seas, playing music with friends, the first time boarding an enemy ship, huge thunderstorms, learning the basics of sailing with the wind. All give a false promise of deeper and more grander features, but all fail to deliver. Recycling the same two to three musical tunes, the pointless repetition of kill – die – repeat in PvP, and the lack of serious danger during turbulent seas all take away from the game. Even if you kill an entire crew, board their ship, and sail off to the sunset, they can respawn directly on the ship. Pointless is the word that summarizes so many elements of this game.

At its best, Sea of Thieves is a casual multiplayer experience that can be a blast with a few buddies for a couple of hours. Offering little more reward than a new beard or pair of pants, it quickly shows its true colors. After the second or third session, the repetition, lack of goals, and complete absence of progression really start to set in. There could well be a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow but I wasn’t willing to put in the hours to reach maximum level.

This game was not ready for release, it was not ready to be played by the masses, and it most certainly is not worth the $60 price tag.

This Sea of Thieves review was written based on the PC version of the game. A digital copy was purchased on the Microsoft store.

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Blaine Smith

Blaine Smith, or Smith as he prefers to be called as he doesn't have to repeat it four times before people get it, is one of the original founders of Gamers Heroes. Smith has been playing games for over 30 years, from Rex & 180 on ZX Spectrum to the latest releases on the ninth generation of consoles. RPG's are his go-to genre, with the likes of Final Fantasy, Legend of Legaia, and Elder Scrolls being among his favorites, but he'll play almost anything once (except Dark Souls). You can best reach him on Twitter

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