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Sea of Thieves is open world pvp adventure where it’s about the journey and not necessarily the end destination (at least for me.) The end destination is focused on cosmetics items and becoming a Pirate Legend of which is not fully in the game yet. You play as a pirate either solo or up to four players total in a crew as you sail the high seas. Plundering island for treasure, skulls, and commodities along with other pirates. It has both sea and land combat.
You can also do and go just about everywhere from the get-go (with the exception to Pirate Legend hideout unless you have someone invite you in.) The reward system itself is also focused on cosmetics instead of item upgrades. As such if a day 1 player and a 6-month-old player both had the similar playing ability it’s anyone’s guess which one would win in a fight.
The game itself is $59.99 (in the USA) developed by Rare and published by Microsoft Studios. It is available on the Xbox One and from Windows Store on the PC. They have cross-play between the two platforms and it uses Xbox application.
I myself never played in the beta but did purchase it a couple days after it was released on March 20th, 2018. It has many pros and cons that tend to create camps of where people have a stance on the game. I have played both as solo and as a team up to four members. Most of my gameplay has either been from solo or duo play as that is where most of my experience will be written from in this review.
Sea of Thieves has two ships in it for now with some cosmetic items for them. Players can play solo or in a two-man crew onboard the Sloop. Crews in the three to four member sizes sail a Galleon. Both of these ships come unlock from the start and your goal is to earn gold to unlock cosmetics for these ships among other things. Along with becoming a Pirate Legend of which those game mechanics and how they interplay with these ships are not entirely in the game yet. As such I will wait further to comment on that aspect.
Each of the ships themselves has a helm, a map area and quest table area, storage, brig, and cannons. Along with an armory, clothing, vanity, and equipment chest so you do not have to stop each time at an outpost just to swap things out or change your appearance.
One of the things I really like in this game is the amount of control you have when using sail(s). Not only can you bring up the sail to half, quarter, full or where ever you please to control the speed. The less sail there is the higher the mobility the ship gains when turning. This creates rather a precise movement when needed.
In addition to that, the wind also changes directions so you need to change your sail(s) angle trying to capture full winds if possible(you can see the white wavy wind lines on the sail.) This creates speed benefits for those who wish to micromanage sail angle to maximize ship speed. You won’t always be sailing with the wind but when you do this can help you escape or catch up to another ship if they are not taking advantage of this system.
This ship itself has a single sail and is very easy for a solo player to control and maintain from getting from point A to point B. In sea combat situations having a second crew member on board makes repairing hull damage and firing single cannon on each side easier. As one player can focus on sailing and the other on combat, repairs, or scouting.
The captain himself has a very short distance of just two or three paces while in the helm area of the ship between the steering wheel, sail length, sail angle, anchor and viewing the map.
The captain can also see what is in front of him making this a very easy ship to sail solo. This also makes it easy for one person to man all these things while another is either off repairing, firing cannons, marking spots on the map, or up in the crow’s nest spotting other pirates, shipwrecks, and other things.
Below deck, your first area is dedicated to maps and voyage (quest) board. The deck below that house the brig (for dealing with troll crew members), some storage containers for things like boards, bananas, and many players tend to place loot in that area as well
The positives of this ship overall are that it is very new player friendly. You do not need to have built up yet great teamwork with the other player to still have a smooth operation. Tasks on board are easy to do solo if needed. It also sails faster when compared to the Galleon ship under the same situation of no wind, and has better mobility when turning.
It is a shame you can’t have a third on this ship. But I can understand why as that would make it a bit unbalanced. Still, I could see benefits of it. I prefer this ship over the galleon and most of my gameplay has been on the sloop thus far.
This ship requires teamwork. Unlike the Sloop, it’s not for a solo player at all. You need three to four crew members and each need to have a role in mind beforehand and the ability to communicate effectively with other members.
The person steering the ship cannot see the map as it’s down below deck without any way of seeing it. On top of that, it’s very hard with how large the ship is and the waves to see well in front of the ship. As a result, you not only need someone keeping an eye out for rocks in front of you along with other ships but someone keeping an eye on the map and giving directions.
The ship also has three sails that need to be adjusted over time to min or max speeds. They can take a while to lower, rotate, or rise. Having a couple of people who can take orders and understand which sails are theirs to deal with is great.
Even something as simple as raising the anchor is rather slow with just one person. You usually want two or three people on it just to speed things up.
You also get four cannons on each side. Along with that the ship also has another floor so it takes longer to get to the bottom of the ship to make repairs. They also have more storage capacity to accommodate needing the larger crew.
So while it has more places to store treasure and is made for a bigger crew it can also be easier to sneak aboard with say a gunpowder barrel ;) to blow up and put some holes in the hull! As they often have players running all around and they don’t always notice “hey that person not on our crew.”
Other than that it has everything else the sloop has. Just more times more of it.
I somewhat wish this was a 6 or 8 man ship. I can see there being enough roles you could create to warrant that many player. Between someone steering, someone in crow’s nest scouting, someone on maps, and people to man the cannons while you also have people down below boarding up holes. A boarding crew or others to take out people sneaking on board while everyone is busy playing their role would also be welcome.
This ship has quite a lot more firepower and manpower while it moves faster with the wind than the sloop. It can also be an easy target due to its size and if they are not very well organized and lack commutation skills on board.
For a pirate reputation means everything. Unlike a more classic game where you have levels. In Sea Of Thieves, you gain reputation with three different factions in the game: Gold Hoarders, Order Of Souls, and Merchant Alliance. Doing turn ins to these NPCs increase your reputation with them that has some effect on the amount of gold you earn per turn in, cosmetic unlocks and to become a Pirate Legend you need 50 reputations with all three.
Voyages you get from these three factions tend to be a find, fetch, and bring back for a turn in if you make it that far. Locations change, the amounts of things you find have some variances, many of the players tend to call these “quest loops.” They are not very deep. The adventure in doing these tend to come from other factors such as running into storms, betrayal, other pirates, or other events.
Reputation grinding for gold and cosmetics is grind in itself. I suspect it will take many months before I’m level 50 in all three factions if not longer. Last night for instance while with a friend I went from Order of Souls ~25.4 to around ~26.2 in the couple of hours we played. Each reputation level increase takes longer to achieve.
One of the more interesting things I have noticed is you can go hours without seeing a single player. Next thing you know the next voyage you get wants to take you a fair distance away from the current area you have been in. Suddenly it’s like everyone in that game all have voyages in the same area (5 or more ships.) Conflicts, sea battles, and plunder occur! Other timers it’s like everyone has relocated to your area and you are only one holding any treasure! This may or may not be how it’s intended to work. just an observation I have made.
The voyages this faction hands out are about going out and digging up some treasure chests! They also accept treasure chests you find in shipwrecks, fort treasure room, or just ones you find while you are out and about. The turn in NPC never questions how I acquired said chest in the first place. He knows better than to ask about the blood stains!
Each Voyage comes with map(s) that have different levels of difficulty. The basic map shows you a drawing of the island with X marks the spot. You then have to use the in-game maps to find the island and sail over to it.
You then dig up the treasure chests and sometimes skeletons will spawn but they are easy to kill.
The harder voyages will tell you what island but give you a riddle or instructions you have to follow. There can even be multiple steps you have to complete to find the true location to dig for the chest. Everything from finding a skeleton, camp or shipwreck on the island to counting x amount of paces facing a certain direction to find it.
Order Of Souls
These voyages have you go out and fight waves of skeletons so you can collect the skull of a named pirate. You can also find skeleton skulls in shipwrecks, randomly on an island, and even in fort treasure room.
Basic ones have you fight rather easy skeletons that you do not need to know anything about to be able to defeat. The higher your reputation the harder the encounters become and even the longer they get. Higher level skeletons also have weakness and things that power them up.
For instance a plant skeleton we could not even kill during a bad storm with 10 direct cannonball shots; meanwhile, it is weak to slash attacks from our Cutlass after it had stopped raining. While other types skeletons might be weakened by water, light, or take more damage from bullets.
This faction voyage was rather different than I was expecting. While you can turn in certain things you find in shipwrecks like tea or spices they also accept gunpowder barrels you find in the wild.
The real meat to these guys is turning in the correct animal you capture yourself in the allotted amount of time. You get different cages to go out and capture things like chickens, pigs, and snakes. Something like chickens is easy to capture and low maintenance; meanwhile, pigs have to be feed every so often or they die.
You can also find cages and caged animals in the wild. However not having a voyage and the correct NPC to turn them into nets very little gold and reputation from doing so. An added bonus to things working like that are people who are looting other players don’t get a lot out of pillaging these off your boat unless they want to get a voyage for the turn in.
As you earn gold to buy things and unlocks by reaching high enough reputation the rewards are cosmetics. I found this to be rather interesting as I’ve not played a game like that before that had their reward system solely focused on cosmetics.
Instead of grinding for that better weapon that has amazing stats to one shot everything I’m earning gold towards a gun cosmetic. I have a few mix feelings about this. I like the fact everyone is on an even playing field but what happens if I don’t like the higher costing outfits, gun skins, and ship skins? For now, I’m not sure since I’m not anywhere near that point.
In fact, I still have the basic looking ship as cheapest ship cosmetics start at 70k gold. I have purchased an entire outfit I just wish there were more options. As I have in my own mind what a pirate looks like and I’ve yet to see it yet available to me.
The death system itself is very softcore and I feel it fits in well with the kind of gameplay. You do not lose any gold or have to pay any kind of fee. There are no lingering debuffs and you do not drop equipment or anything of that short. You simply have to wait on the Ferry of the Damned for a short amount a time. Then a bell rings and you get to exit and respawn back on your boat.
Your soul as you will is always tied to your boat. If that boat sinks a new one will respawn elsewhere at another island. If this happens and you are still alive a mermaid will appear that will respawn you on your boat after talking to it. You just can’t be carrying anything.
One of the things I have really come to enjoy is the moving storm systems. Some days you think they are following you around while other days nothing but clear blue sky ahead.
The storm itself can get rather nasty. Causing low visibility, lighting strikes you and your ship, your compass to spin out of control, your steering wheel on the ship turns on its own. It can also have an effect if you are currently battling skeletons depending on the type that you are fighting this could hinder or help depending on that.
I have been struck a few times by lighting and even having two back to back. While that did not kill me it was close. On top of that a strike to the ship causes hull damage and if you’re not on the ship at the time to notice it taking on water-- well it could sink!
I have even used a bad storm to escape people trying to sink my ship. I even watch ones a guy’s ship sink while he was chasing after me in the storm. In the end, they can be a hinder or a very welcome surprise depending on if you can take advantage of them.
Currently, in the game, there is four handheld weapons: Cutlass, Blunderbuss, Flint Lock Pistol, and Eye of Reach. All firearms have five shots before you need to reload ammo at ammo chests. Those can be found randomly on islands, your boat, and outposts. You can carry two weapons at a time and switch out for different once at outposts and your ship by using the armory.
The Cutlass a pirate classic and my go-to weapon. Great for short range combat. For slashing, blocking, and it has a very nice forward thrust that moves you a couple of paces forward with a powerful attack. As such, I keep this as one of the two I use.
Blunderbuss gives that classic pirate feel. It’s a point-blank and very devastating type of gun. Great for point-blank combat when boarding other ship. Not so great if you end up stuck in the water or outraged.
Flint Lock Pistol is great short to medium range accuracy firearm. I prefer it over the blunderbuss as I like to have a bit of range when I am using a firearm and it has better accuracy for doing headshots.
Eye of Reach is your long range sniper gun. It is great when you are just too far out for the pistol and want to get some headshots. I love this weapon when another ship is closing in and I can scare them a bit with just random shots from this. They don’t need to know I’m a horrible shot! I feel it has a decent range but not too long for it being in a pirate game.
Choosing the right two kinds of weapons for your needs plays a big impact on the success of what you are trying to do. There have been rumors of more to be added in the future and I’m looking forward to what kind of role they choose to fill.
Other Things To Do
On the map, there are a couple of forts that can be found. For the most part, they are inactive. When they become active a giant skull forms in the clouds above them like a beacon for everyone to see. As a result, many players can become drawn towards them. Sometimes you will be on the map that no one cares about them; while other times, it seems every one of 6 or so ships has shown up to fight over it.
They are guarded b cannon towers, with an inner tower that has waves of skeletons you have to kill. With the end result of a boss spawning who drops a key to unlock the treasure room.
The biggest dangers tend to not be the fort or fights inside but players waiting outside for you to fill your boat full of treasures so they can sink you and take it all for them.
The forts themselves can be completed solo if other players do not get in your way. Will others notice and take advantage? Why yes they tend to!
There are two types of things I consider a shipwreck in the game. First one being floating barrels and sometimes treasure from what appears to be leftovers of a sunken ship and that is it. They are a great mechanic to pick up some extra boards, cannonballs, and bananas while out in the open sea.
The second being an entire ship that you get to explore for treasure. When it comes to this type you tend to see a portion of the front of the ship sticking out of the water. Some nice treasure can be found while exploring the sunken ship. This one happened to be fully underwater and loaded to the brim with six items inside. Tea chest and some skulls I’m sure most players passed right by it without even noticing the signs it was there.
Sharks are usually attracted to shipwrecks adding a nice little surprise element when you are trying swim back to your boat with treasure.
As far as sea monsters go this is only one so far in the game. I’ve not had one try and take my ship out yet. I have seen people lose their ship to one and I’ve seen many players escape from them.
That was till I was working on this review and decided to jump into a fight another ship had with it. Yes, both ships sank to the bottom of the sea! The screenshot was worth it! With a gale force wind o’ enjar up off his ship and tossed me.
There are both in-game easter eggs and lots of rumors floating around of other sea monsters to be added to the game.
Finally the most import part of the game! If you are someone who wants to roleplay here is your place to do so. There is ship to ship combat where you are either trying to board the other ship to slow them down or sink them with cannon balls. Either way, you are trying to steal their loot and get anything they had on board. You can also try and rob people while on land.
Naturally, you want to procure other people’s treasures as your own. While hoping to make it back to a turn in NPC and not be the victim of a pirate yourself.
Other players really liven up the game adding fear, adrenalin and the fun factor for me. Nothing like charging full force into someone who chancing you down on the high seas knowing you have nothing to lose. While other times having twenty treasures on board and your heart pumping because you are playing solo in a sloop and a 4 crew galleon ship just ramped into you.
Is this Game For You?
For myself, I’ve been itching for a pirate game for a while now. It’s been so long, in fact, the last one was Black Flag. Yes, it’s been way too long. While there is going be another game that been “inspired” by Black Flag that might be released sometime in the fall from my understanding it’s just going have sea combat. Yarrr, pirates need and lust for land content as well. If I forever wanted to be more or less trap on a ship for the entire game I would just go play Eve Online again and go yarrr me some space lazers in solar systems and seek space dust.
With Sea Of Thieves providing both sea and land content it was an easy choice for me as I had other friends wanting to play it as well. While it can be played solo (and I have during the day hours when my friends don’t have time). This game really is great with a friend or two. It really amplifies up the fun factor even more so if a little role-playing is involved with the crew.
There has been a fair amount of criticism on the game from the price point when compared to the amount of content available at launch. Even more so as of recent from one person getting ahead of what might not have been expected from the player base. Noticing not all the content people were hoping to be in the game at launch was in fact not in or it was the “same old.”
This game is taking on a more modern day style of content updates. With releasing new content every couple of months to keep players interested; instead of, the more class older model of here’s your game we are now done with it. Part of me likes this way as this creates a roadmap and you engaged longer in a single game. Another part of me wants more of a game right away to know for sure it was worth the cost. Outside of major bug fixes, the next content release is expected three months after game release.
It also has a fair amount of grinding. Since my focused on this game is the journey and the adventures along the way. I’m not bothered by this at all. I hope to still be playing a little bit here or there come months down the road. Even longer depending on how the updates go. While I have mentioned Pirate Legend a few times it’s not the end-all for me. I’ll get there one day but for now, I’m just having fun.
With all that said if you don’t mind these things, have some people to play with and just want to yarr a couple of nights a week away at the very least it’s going be fun. I’ve gone out many times and the results have varied. Everything from completing the voyage without issuers or my ship sinking and getting owned by other pirates! I was even in a fifteen-minute chase across a large portion of the map where I hide inside a storm to escape a galleon and was able to turn in my treasure. You just never know with the current systems in place and all the possibilities this game has for the future.
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Screenshots taken and content written by @enjar from the game Sea Of Thieves developed by Rare.