By Shane Ferguson
Don’t be fooled by Sea of Thieves’ charm. Underneath its child-like, cartoon surface is an intricate team strategy game. Within this first-person action adventure game developed by Rare and published by Microsoft Studios, players explore the online open-world in a pirate ship, embark on quests, collect loot and engage in combat. But the strategy involved goes even deeper.
I played the Sea of Thieves final beta this weekend. For those who might’ve missed out, Sea of Thieves throws you right into the action without much objective. After your choice to join a small or large crew, manning a small or large vessel, you pick your character and you’re off to sail the high seas. I spent my first 20 minutes just exploring the open world without any real notion of what I was supposed to do.
I like games that don’t hold your hand so this was refreshing. For a beta, however, I can’t say I didn’t expect some guidance. At first blush, the world can seem sort of bland, but not stylistically (as this art style is one of my favorite aspects of the game). It’s due to the lack of activities and guided objectives. I probably played for two hours before I encountered any danger at all. On my second playthrough, I learned how lucky I was as I fought everything from sharks and skeletons to other pirates. As you begin a voyage, you get a small treasure map and everything else is left to your wits. That can be a gift or a curse for some players depending on your crew and play style.
Sea of Thieves is an online game that’s best played with friends. When you set sail, you will literally have to set your sails. Amongst other nautical activities, you will need to assign tasks and give orders to your crew. It’s best to have a team you can be on the same page and communicate with. In order to succeed, you will need to work together in most aspects of gameplay. Playing with strangers can be fun as well, but it will take a while to find the right crew to get things accomplished. In addition, I can see Sea of Thieves becoming very popular on streaming sites like Twitch as it’s a very entertaining game to watch. It’s one of those games that immediately grabs your interest visually.
From the little I’ve played, I feel Sea of Thieves will be a fun game full of mystery and exploration. Despite that, it can feel hollow and unfinished at times. How much of this is due to the Beta of an unfinished game? We’ll soon find out. Sea of Thieves releases March 20th on Xbox One and Windows.
Shane Ferguson is a frequent writer for the New York Videogame Critics Circle.