We’ve been looking forward to Sea of Thieves (SoT) since we first saw it at E3 in 2015. It looked like everything we loved about Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag wrapped up in a beautiful multiplayer, cross platform, first person experience. Earlier in the year, we put some hours into the SoT beta and in all honesty, had way more fun than we imagined possible. And this fun continued when the full game was released.
SoT is a game with no storyline in the traditional sense. Instead, players create their own tales while interacting with the world provied by Rare. Gamers these days tend to be a finiky bunch and whether SoT can maintain their attention for the long haul is yet to be seen. There have been complaints of a lack of content or meaningful progression, complaints I don’t really subscribe to.
Moving From Beta to the Full Release
The full game has unleashed a bunch of new content on launch. We’ve got new voyages, vendors, customisation options, enemies, raids and more. Though that’s not enough for some.
Your hard earned gold can be spent on new customisation options such as sails, hulls, and figureheads for your ship. Other items like clothes, weapons, and instrument skins have been expanded on from the beta, allowing for even more personalisation. You can’t, however, purchase items that will give you an advantage over your enemies, making interactions with hostile players more skill based. In my opinion, this is a good thing. New players won’t be outgunned by those who have too much spare time on their hands, making the game accessible to whoever wants to join in on the pirating.
New trading companies are available too with new types of voyages, breathing some fresh air into the game after an extensive beta testing phase. These voyages exposed us to some new enemies that require some lateral thinking to defeat…and the idea that we need to capture chickens? We also got to watch the Kraken sink another crews’ galleon…then got a closer look, as it ate and drowned us all. An epic experience to say the least.
SoT has pets coming in the next three or so months too – including monkeys, which is awesome – and there have been whispers of dinghies, hideouts, and legendary voyages. The developers have also talked about putting flags on ships to signify intent, such as a white flag for surrendering. It’s also been made clear that when additional content is released, there will be no loot boxes. Thankfully, players can choose what content they want to pay for and receive it without any RNG shenanigans.
The trend, of late, has been for games to strive for graphical realism. SoT differentiates itself from recent titles through a quirky art style. The game features a vibrant colour palette and friendly, caricature-ish player models. This cartoon-y flavour is contrasted by what are possibly the best-looking water effects in any game to date. These amazing effects are crucial to the game’s success as you’ll spend a lot of time cruising around the seas looking for a particular island or enemy ships.
Surely SoT will be the benchmark for future games when it comes to displaying water, especially when you see those graphics settings on ‘Mythical’.
As the in-game hours pass you’ll notice a very different visual aesthetic take hold. During the day the ocean’s colour ranges from a vibrant aqua to a dark blue. At night, you can use the North Star for navigation as the moonlight reflects off the dark, eerie surface. At sunset, the light penetrates the peaks of waves, as it would in the real world. And during storms, the water is foreboding, ominous and full of monstrous, destructive waves.
These visuals are supported by a fantastic soundscape and musical scores. Should you prefer to make your own sweet sounds, you can pull out your hurdy-gurdy or your squeezebox and play tunes with your crew – a novelty that still hasn’t worn off.
Cross Platform and Multiplayer Community
Cross platform has been increasing in popularity over the past few years. Hopefully, this trend will continue and further break down the self-inflicted (and highly unnecessary) ‘war’ between console players and the PC master race. It also means that the servers have been well populated, making matchmaking quick and easy.
While it’s possible to man the smallest of the ships (Sloop) by yourself, this game is undoubtedly the most fun when played with friends on the larger Galleon. Unfortunately for me, most of my friends are on PS4, so interacting with strangers was my only other option for playing with the glorious Galleon. And that worked out just fine.
Rare has been pushing the ‘Pirate Code’ and most seem to abide by it. Those who don’t follow the code can be voted them into the brig for a bit of discipline. Though if it’s come to putting other players in a cage, it’s probably best that everyone moves on.
The only major downfall I found while playing SoT online was the inability to choose a region, resulting in getting paired with US or UK players. Lag wasn’t too much of an issue but I imagine for those with subpar internet connections, this may be a bit of a problem.
Sailing the Ship
Sailing the ships in SoT is a lot of fun. It also requires a bit of strategy, especially if pirates occupy nearby waters. As this isn’t a guide, I won’t go deep into the mechanics of sailing but you need to be aware of what needs doing.
- The sail length and angles need to be set. Letting the sails loose will allow them to capture more wind (more speed) and vice versa. The angles should be set so that the most amount of wind is caught, you’ll hear a distinctive ‘whoosh’ noise when this happens. Remember, all the sails need to be set individually.
- Steering is imprecise and inputs take a while to come into effect…just like steering a boat. Communicating with the person behind the wheel is crucial, as their vision is often obscured by the sails.
- The anchor is used for…anchoring. It can be used to stop your ship or to make quick, aggressive turns. It’s important to note that only having one crew member raise the anchor is a horrible idea (especially on the galleon), it’ll take too long and result in being out manovoured
- The cannons are your main tool for ship-to-ship combat, just make sure they’re loaded with cannon balls (or a crew member for rapid boarding). When shooting cannon balls you need to account for dramatic drop and a very slow cannonball velocity.
- Your ship is bound to take damage and with damage comes an influx of seawater. Holes in the hull can be caused by running aground, getting being rammed, hit by cannonballs, or from large waves. These holes can be patched with planks of wood. Leaking and full of water, your ship needs to be emptied. Get your bucket and get bailing. FYI, rain and a Chest of Sorrow will flood your ship too.
PvP and PvE
PVP action in SoT is fairly straightforward but the game doesn’t hold your hand, with some mechanics not explained to players like the sword charge attack and dash evade. Guns are powerful but slow to reload, and swords are limited in range but good in close quarters.
SoT employs a proximity-based chat system, so you’re likely to hear your enemies throwing insults, or begging for mercy, as they get close. If you die, fret not, you’ll spawn back on (or near) your ship after a short ride on the ghost ship.
PVE is a simple enough exercise. Sharks and skeletons plagued the beta, and in the full game we’ve encountered some new enemies that require lateral thinking to defeat. I’ve witnessed a few ships go down to the Kraken, still don’t know how to beat it or if that’s even possible. There is a penalty for dying in some instances but the mechanics behind this are vague and causing a bit of uproar on the Reddit.
At face value, Sea of Thieves isn’t the greatest game of all time. Truth be told, it can be a little slow at times but the positives easily outweigh the negatives. I can only recall a handful of games from the past decade that have been as fun and memorable as Sea of Thieves. It’s the kind of game that makes you want to sit your mates down and give a detailed rundown of what happened over the past few hours.
Only time will tell if this game has enough replay value to drop hundreds of hours into but I’m optimistic.
This game is for sure worth the price of admission.
We’ll see you on the open seas, you salty dogs. Shitty pirate accents and all. ARGH!
Tested On: PC, Windows 10