STAFF REVIEW of Sea of Thieves (Xbox One)


Monday, April 16, 2018.
by Dario Zgrablic

Sea of Thieves Box art If you’ve gamed on Xbox consoles for any length of time, you should be familiar with Rare and that big gold 'R' that represents them. They’ve developed a wide breadth of games in the past, from the Perfect Dark and Banjo Kazooie series to Viva Piñata and a whole stack of games for the Xbox 360. And of course we can't forget the legendary GoldenEye 007 on Nintendo 64 either.

With the latest trend of 'persistent-online' and 'games-as-a-service', Sea of Thieves is Rare’s latest piece of gaming artwork. It’s been through what feels like a dozen-plus alphas and betas, testing that the game will play the way that Rare wants it to. So, have you ever wanted to be a pirate, yell, “ahoy matey!” and plunder the seas? This game is designed to give you pretty-much that.

Likely the most important part of Sea of Thieves is the social aspect. Without friends or others to play with, it becomes a fairly lonely affair. Sure, you can be a solo-pirate and sail the seas on your own, but the game really shines when you and a pirate crew of three more are all working hand-in-hand to steer a galleon through the rolling waves on the way to fulfilling your voyages.

The social aspect really comes into play when you first load in and realize there’s no tutorial to hold your hand through the initial hours of the game. If you poke through Sea of Thieves solo, you’ll see there are no real instructions available; you can try trial and error if you want. What’s better than trial and error though? Hopping in with someone who’s more experienced and asking a bunch of questions, or even having them point things out to you.


Every time you load into the game, you have the choice of 2 ships: a galleon or a sloop. A galleon is a large ship designed for 3 or 4 people while a sloop is a smaller ship designed for 1-2 people. Due to its sheer size, a galleon is great for going fast in a straight line or pummeling other ships with 4 cannons on each side. However, once it does get going, barring using the anchor for immediate turns, it’s like a truck, not very manoeuvrable and it has a wide turning radius. A sloop, on the other hand, is a small boat with a single sail that is quick and very controllable, but that comes at a price: it doesn’t take much to get sunk by the much larger galleon.

The basic premise of the Sea of Thieves is pretty concise: you’re a pirate sailing the seas from island to island running quests, defending your ship and slaying enemies that stand in your way. Usually those enemies are one of 4 types of skeletons, which you’ll have fun discovering how to best defeat (Or maybe one of your crewmates can offer up suggestions!). Turn in those quests, and other random items, at one of the 3 vendors, and they’ll give you gold. You can then take that gold and spend it on a multitude of fun upgrades, which are currently all cosmetic.

While you can have a ton of fun running around from island to island, you'll need to keep a watchful eye on the horizon. In the waters with you are other virtual pirates aboard their own ships, who just might want to get their hands on your treasure. Don’t always consider them enemies though, as some of them may want to help you out for a cut of the treasure. But then again, they could be trying to make you do most of the work, only to make away with all the spoils themselves while you sit on the Ferry of the Damned (a.k.a. the limbo place you go to after you die and are waiting to respawn).


There’s also a unique Skull Fort mode, which can prove quite exhilarating and super intense. A skull will appear in the sky above an island that will be inhabited by skeletons. You’ll fight 11 waves of enemy skeletons, and then on the final wave, where you’ll fight more enemies and a named boss. Once you obliterate that boss, you’ll get a skeleton key that opens a trove of treasure. Sounds simple, right? There is a hitch of course.

While most of your time in the game you can stay fairly low-key, not here. The skull above a Skull Fort will be visible to everyone on the server. Basically, it’s telling everyone “GO HERE FOR BIG REWARDS!” You can go there, but you can also bet that there will be plenty of other people coming your way too. What do you focus on first? Saving your ship? Killing the skeleton armies? That’s up you to figure out!

The mechanics of Sea of Thieves are very sound and function really well; from the fighting and gunplay, to the ship navigation and operation, to even playing shoddy pirate instruments with people around you. They set a very solid groundwork for any content to come. And that is where the only current gripe with the Sea of Thieves can lie.

While games usually give you a sort of carrot-on-the-stick reward when you play them, Sea of Thieves doesn’t really have that right now. There’s no specific campaign to follow, and beyond doing missions for one of the 3 factions and levelling them up, that is pretty much as in-depth as the game currently goes. Ask the dev-team and they’ll tell you this was by design, as Sea of Thieves is supposed to be up to you how you want to play. The biggest issue that this may raise is that players may not stick around if they don’t have something specific to hunt for.


As with any game similar to Sea of Thieves (think games-as-a-service), we can expect it to grow and have fresh content delivered. Rare has already promised plenty of future support, and they’ve already been working furiously on issues the game had at launch. Some bugs have already been patched, and achievements have been released back into the sea like the Kraken. They have also been super transparent with issues, as they have posted 2 videos about their progress and direction for the game, and have already deployed 2 updates for it.

Visually, Sea of Thieves is very impressive, especially running on an Xbox One X with a 4K TV or on a PC (It's a Play Anywhere title). The water has both dark deep blues, and warm light blues that make you just want to go soak yourself and relax. The physics of the water when waves get rolling are slightly terrifying, making you want to stay out of it until it calms down a bit. Sunsets, and the way that the rays of sunlight shine through the clouds while you’re rocking away on the sea, really emphasizes how visually breathtaking this game is, and how much work and thought went into making it look damned good.

Of course you cannot forget the sound. From the waves crashing into the bow of your ship, the wind blowing as it fills your sails, to the sound of your cannon as you launch a cannonball towards another pirate ship, it is pretty impressive. Heck, you'll even get a chuckle as you play any of the various pirate themed instruments too. There was not a whole lot to be concerned with the sound, as it definitely compliments the visuals and adds to the on-screen action.

All in all, Sea of Thieves is a solid release from Rare. Visually, you’ll be repeatedly awed while you’re playing by some of the vistas the game shows off. From a gameplay standpoint, all of the mechanics are sound and solid, ships behave predictably and will obviously slow down when you’re trying to sail into the wind, and your guns and swords kill enemies as long as you use them right. The in-depth content might not be there quite yet, but if you give it a month or two, given what Rare has said about further content, you may very well be pleasantly surprised on that front too. Let's just hope that the new content comes soon.




Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10

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