Sea of Thieves final review for Xbox One

Platform: Xbox One
Also On: PC
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Rare
Medium: Digital/Blu-ray Disc
Players: Multi
Online: Yes

Having only spent a few hours with Sea of Thieves at this point, I?m having a hard time being able to tell whether this online pirate experience from developer Rare will ever be ?my thing?. So far, it doesn?t seem like it, but I can also understand the appeal for those playing. There is definitely more to gain from playing with a dedicated group of friends, and so far my experience in dealing with either random crew members or trying to go it alone has been pretty lackluster. That?s on me though, and less on the game, since it is pretty upfront with the importance of online play and dedicated parties. Still, I feel like if I keep scratching at it I might finally have an ?Aha!? moment, so I continue on.

Here?s what seems cool to me so far in Sea of Thieves. The world itself is pretty neat looking, and the water effects are stellar. This is good, since you?ll be seeing a lot of water as you journey from island to island, taking on quests, killing skeletons, engaging with other players, and delivering goods. Manning your ship, either with other players in tow or all by yourself, also feels pretty satisfying. Needing to not only steer, but control sail length, sail direction, and keep water out of your boat helps make the journey from one island to the next eventful. You?re not just staring at a map, but instead you?re actively navigating, assuming a role, and putting in effort to get from point A to point B.

Unfortunately, everything else feels a little underwhelming so far. The aforementioned quests pretty much revolve around collecting livestock, locating treasure using a map, or killing off mindless waves of skeletal enemies. Doing any of these things involves lugging items back to your ship to cash them in and reap quest rewards. But those rewards are typically just gold, which in turn can only buy purely cosmetic items. There are no real upgrades to speak of in Sea of Thieves, your ship, sails, and weapons never really change from their basic functions. They might look fancier, but behave no differently regardless of how they look. For some folks this will be OK, but I?d rather feel like I?m getting some sort of forward progression out of the experience.

Combat so far also feels like a chore, particularly against the mindless skeleton enemies you?ll encounter when taking on specific faction quests. There?s not much finesse to combat, you?re pretty much just swiping your sword a few times, backing up to avoid an attack, and repeating the action. Ranged weapons could be a bit more interesting, but the extremely limited ammo capacity of the two types of guns you can access makes them a little lackluster too.

Combat against other players also feels unfortunately boring, ship to ship combat is over quickly, and the mostly revolve around whether you want to be inconvenienced by having to spawn back a minute or two later. Losing all of your loot, whether by having it stolen or having your ship sunk, feels really awful too, mostly because collecting that loot was likely time consuming to collect. If you?re a player that values his or her time, a few bad player encounters will sour your overall experience quickly.

So, as it stands, I?m not feeling too hot about Sea of Thieves. Again, I?m pretty early into the game overall, and plan on devoting more time this week to it before finalizing my review. It?s possible things could change, or I could hit some sort of moment that finally makes the whole thing click, but the basic mechanics I?ve encountered and dealt with so far make that feel unlikely. I will update this review by the end of the weekend, and we?ll have a score up for the game then.


OK, so I?m pretty sure Sea of Thieves isn?t for me.

I have yet to encounter that moment that either makes the game click, or makes me feel like I?m having any sort of actual fun. It bums me out a bit, because I?ve read stories, seen videos, and clearly other people are definitely enjoying the game to varying degrees. I had a conversation with my nephew over the weekend about the game, and it definitely seems like most of the fun comes from solid co-op buddies that are down for goofy adventures that don?t necessarily move the needle when it comes to progress or loot collection.

With that in mind, it?s hard for me to be overly harsh to Sea of Thieves, and I acknowledge that some of the issues stem from how I want to play games, and less with the actual faults contained within the game. It?s easy enough to matchmake, you can definitely find plenty of random people online to play with, and I do think the idea of encountering opposing pirates on the open sea is pretty great. Again, I?ll acknowledge that the game has some visual style, and the whole process of unfurling sails, checking your map, and setting your destination by compass is appealing.

That said, while the game just isn?t my cup of tea, I still think it has actual faults as well. The person to skeleton combat is lackluster and dull, the quests are also largely uninteresting, and exploring islands yields little to no actual rewards. I also wish the game did a better job of telling stories that allowed your imagination to run wild when you set foot on an island. Outside of encountering NPC?s at outposts and hearing their limited speech responses, I?d love to see the non-outpost locations outfitted with either NPC?s or random encounters that could help make each location feel unique. Right now, while the world is certainly large, it also feels pretty empty, which isn?t what a game on the scale of Sea of Thieves should be shooting for.

On the plus side, it is clear that Rare and Microsoft will be updating and improving upon the base game down the road. Rare has already laid out plans for new content, and I?d imagine this is one of those titles that won?t lack for support over the next couple of years. It?d be nice to have more of that content upfront though, and because of that I?d be pretty hesitant to suggest that anyone pick this up at full price right now. But if you really want to check it out, and understand that co-op is somewhat vital to your enjoyment (whether with people you know or other random folk), then the Xbox GamePass alternative seems solid and reasonable.

Note: Microsoft provided us with a Sea of Thieves Xbox One review code.

Grade: B-