We were able to spend some time playing an early version of Sea of Thieves over the weekend. Sea of Thieves is a cooperative open-world adventure in which you are cast as a member of a four-person pirate crew. The game has a cartoonish appearance and very basic gameplay; it reminded me of a much more polished version of Minecraft. I enjoyed my time with it and I wanted to try to summarize why by just relaying what happened. Here’s my experience with Sea of Thieves’ early version:
In my first round, I found myself standing on the deck of a ship careening through the ocean. Three other players materialized and starting bounding around the deck aimlessly. Due to a technical malfunction (I think), I couldn’t hear what anybody was saying so it was a bit of a circus. I was immediately distracted, though, by the ocean. I’ve read about how impressive it looks before but I was mesmerized by how beautiful it is here: it rolls, it glitters, it turns violent and peaceful depending on the weather. I’ve never seen an ocean in any game look that beautiful before. Storm clouds rolled in and the water got progressively more choppy. Then we hit a rock and the ocean started coming on board, which changed my appreciation for the water. I went below decks and quickly found some boards to seal the leaks. On my own, I was able to seal the damage up quickly, then the water drained out and we set sail again. Having saved the day, I logged out of that party and looked for more experienced pirates to join.
I found those pirates in round two. They were dancing around the deck playing instruments; one had a guitar and one had an accordion. I brought up my inventory screen to discover that I had an accordion too! We jammed for a bit before arriving at a dock at which point my fellow musicians dropped anchor and swam to shore. I followed them but I ignored the dock to explore the island. The island was playfully pretty, with rolling hills and the occasional cave to explore. I found barrels filled with cannonballs and bananas. I was emptying those barrels when I heard a blast and turned to find an armed skeleton firing at me. Opening my inventory screen, I discovered I had a gun as well and I took the fight to him. Victorious, I was returning to the ship when I was alerted that I was earning money; apparently my musicians had delivered chests to the woman at the dock who rewarded all of us. I endeavored to swim back to the ship to see what they were doing when I was promptly eaten by a shark.
I jumped back into another crew who were also sailing towards a much larger island. As we approached, I prepared to swim ashore (wary of sharks this time) but I noticed my crewmates were busy loading themselves into cannons. I think I actually laughed out loud as the blasted themselves over the ocean and onto the island. I followed suit, explored some caves, and soon discovered a fort populated by angry skeletons. My shipmates at this point had moved the ship closer to the fort and the skeletons were firing cannonballs at them. I sneaked in the back and crept around the camp killing skeletons (with my gun and then my knife) hoping to save my ship. My shipmates, however, just sailed away without me. Just as I was about to reset, however, a mermaid appeared in the water offering to take me back to the ship. A blink later and I was back on board.
I kept playing for a few more hours, discovering islands and treasure and new instruments to play. Sea of Thieves feels to me a like a fun, relaxed cooperative experience. My concern for the game is the lack of incentive for continued play. Destiny 2 gives you power-ups and Minecraft lets you build to your heart’s content. I’m worried that Sea of Thieves may be relying on the thrill of discovery to keep players coming back, and that feels like the miscalculation that No Man’s Sky made. It’s very early to know that, though. Right now I can confirm that the game is fun, easy to pick up, and full of the most beautiful ocean you’ve ever seen in any game. In fact, seeing that ocean might be worth the price of the game by itself.