By Dan Moren
March 31, 2018 2:26 PM PT
A Thing We Like: Sea of Thieves
Aye, it’s a pirate’s life for me. Rare’s Sea of Thieves might not capture everything you loved about the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, but if you’re looking for the best darn sailing ship simulator around, well, it can do that and a whole lot more.
I’ve been enjoying my foray into the MMO pirate game, which debuted last week for Xbox One and Windows PC. In particular, I love the utterly pitch-perfect world that the game creates; it’s a fertile space for all sorts of creativity. You hop aboard your ship (either a one- or two-person sloop or a three- or four-person galleon) and set sail between islands in search of treasure, skeletons, and the occasional chicken.
The main criticism I’ve seen of Sea of Thieves is that the gameplay isn’t particularly deep. And while that’s true, I also think it’s fine. Not every game has to be of the totally overwhelming requires-you-to-invest-months-of-your-life type as, say, Breath of the Wild (which I’ve also been playing). It’s perfectly acceptable to have a casual game where the focus is on hijinks that you have with your shipmates, and not on a treadmill of continuous advancement that becomes a souless grind.
Sea of Thieves missions primarily boil down to three types of fetch quests: use a map to find some treasure chests, kill some skeletons, or capture some wildlife. And while those can get old after a while, this game has truly struck me as an example of where it really is more about the journey than the destination. It’s a game that’s best played with a group of friends, and when you’re each working on a task—setting your course, adjusting your sails, manning the cannons—to come together like a well-oiled machine, well, it’s a sight to behold.
If nothing else, Sea of Thieves is absolutely beautiful, with some of the best weather and water effects that I’ve ever seen. (The latter’s particularly important when the vast majority of the game takes place asea.) The art style evokes a mix between the classic Monkey Island games and Pixar movies, with cartoony characters that live up to all the piratical tropes you could desire. Plus, did I mention that you can shoot yourself out of a cannon?
Could the game use some refinement? Sure. I’d like a more seamless drop-in/drop-out experience, for one, and a more complex character-design tool wouldn’t go amiss for those who don’t fancy picking from the random generator. And I’m curious to see how Rare will choose to expand the game, whether there will be more content and activities to come, and more goals to aim for. Right now, advancement is pretty much entirely based on cosmetic items you can acquire, which is great in terms of keeping the playing field level, but may feel empty once you’ve bought all the things.
But for now I’m content to pull out my tankard full of grog and dance a jig. Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum…
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The latest novel in his Galactic Cold War series of sci-fi space adventures, The Nova Incident, is available now.]