There’s no denying that Rare has seen better days. Once the studio which produced classics like Goldeneye and Banjo Kazooie, the developer quickly fell from its lofty perch following Microsoft’s purchase. This is ultimately why many have been hoping that Sea of Thieves would be a return to form, and to restore the once legendary developer’s good name. Unfortunately, it falls a bit short of that mark. It’s still a fantastic adventure, but it commits a number of sins we have seen a few too many times before.
The sense of adventure and lifestyle of piracy is easily the greatest quality working in its favour. The ship to ship battle system in particular is fantastic, with few true flaws or even issues worthy of mention. It heavily emphasises teamwork and even with a full crew of four you can find yourself short in at least one area. Yet, this proves to be engaging rather than frustrating due to how frantic an experience this can be, and emulates the best qualities of Guns of Icarus.
The sense of exploration and the nature of the open world Sea of Thieves is set in only enhances the engagement of taking to the seas. While it seemed at first as if hunting for treasure on islands or exploring the land would become tedious, yet for the most part it sidesteps this issue. While there is certainly downtime between major events, the game is sure to throw something major your way every few hours. From a tense standoff and hunt by other ships in a storm to a sea monster showing up to ruin your day, it does push to have memorable hectic moments to keep you hooked. Not to mention the odd mission to find and slay undead capitains.
Even beyond this, Sea of Thieves is simply beautiful. The vibrant colours, sunsets and supernatural events all offer more than enough clean and bright visuals to keep surprising you for weeks to come.
So, where does it fall short after all this? For starters, it’s a massive world of predators. The code of conduct you can find on every tavern wall is supposed to serve as a rule of law. Unfortunately, many treat them more like guidelines if not completely ignoring them. Following the likes of DayZ and Nether, everyone you run into will desire to kill you. You will be shot, backstabbed and toyed with in order for them to take your plunder. You will be lucky to find a single situation which does not end in bloodshed, and the respawn system means you will always appear back on your ship. As such, countless enemy crews will simply camp out on the deck of your vessel, killing you over and over again purely for kicks.
Furthermore, the game has a distinct problem in supplying content or even more direct activities between the big moments. There’s simply not enough variety of smaller scale or varied objectives to keep things going between surviving storms, treasure chests and the odd kraken attack. While this is supposedly a game which “grows and evolves” this start is somewhat flawed to say the least. It’s clear that you need the experience of playing with friends to offset the slower periods between pitched battles.
Plus, atop of all this, you have the server issues which cannot go unmentioned. Having ridden the wave of hype to its very end, the servers are struggling to keep up with the influx of players. While this thankfully isn’t another Diablo 3 or SimCity situation, you will often find yourself lagging or disconnecting at the worst possible moment.
Sea of Thieves is a decent game, but it has the potential to be a truly great one. With a few extra patches and content updates this could be the pirate experience gamers have spent years begging for. As it stands though, there are simply too many flaws to give this one a higher score. By all means buy it, take to the high seas and have fun with a few friends, but just avoid anyone else like the plague.
SEA OF THIEVES / DEVELOPER: RARE / PUBLISHER: GREG MAYLES / PLATFORM: PC, XBOX ONE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW