Does Sea of Thieves still hold up in 2022? Yes, it does, let's get that out of the way, as long as you know what you'll be getting out of it. Find out why in our Sea of Thieves Review 2022.
Setting Sails with Issues
Sea of Thieves was Rare's first major title after experimenting with the Microsoft Kinect in the 2010's. The British studio then seemed to get a lot of leeway to make what is probably one of the most deceptive games out there. When it was first revealed, people thought this was gonna be the pirate game of their dreams. After all, no one had made a wacky online coop pirate game yet (at least to my knowledge). And around release, there was even more confusion about what Sea of Thieves actually was.
Reviews on release and the overall vibe were that this was an early access title sold at full price with no content. And yea…? No? To this day, the critiques you can throw towards the title can still apply today. Even if the team at Rare has added massive amounts of content to the game, it can still feel shallow if you plan to just grind it out to get rewards that mean nothing in the end. Then you also had streamers like Summit1g who popularized the title on twitch with his antics. And people slowly started to turn around on it.
To this day, Sea of Thieves has a rather mixed reputation, which either stems from people getting a wrong impression of what the game is like. Turned off by the manufactured drama surrounding the game around release or simply not getting it.
Getting Sea of Thieves
While the pirate adventure will siphon you into taking on quests on the open sea, you have to understand that Sea of Thieves is a sandbox at heart. You have a ship, a sword, a gun and the open sea. The way you interact with it is completely up to you. And it very much falls into the category of ‘you make your own fun'.
You have to enjoy getting into scuffles with other players, having the unexpected happening to you or simply hanging out with friends or strangers while being pirates. If Sea of Thieves had an offline mode, you would only scuttle around on the open sea, solve riddles and collect items. Then you turn them in for a progression system that only rewards you with cosmetics. Because Sea of Thieves operates in an online space, you can't just give people better weapons or ships as a reward. After all, PvP has to remain fair to some degree.
All the tasks you pick up, the dynamic events happening on the open sea. Those all exist to entice you to engage with them and having to deal with players eventually. This is what we call emergent gameplay, stuff that happens while you do stuff. And there are some pockets of players who really don't like this kind of game. Who can blame them, losing two hours' worth of loot to a Jack Sparrow wannabe surely stings?
But it is also the aspect that makes Sea of Thieves so fun to play. Risking things and being daring.. you have to be into the roleplay aspect of it. You need to adopt the philosophy of ‘Losing is Fun'. And you also have to think a little outside the box to make those more dynamic elements of the game work. If you're just planning to hop in and do some quests only to feel like the game has nothing else going for it. You'll be missing out on one of the best Multiplayer experiences of the last decade.
Yo Ho, Yo Ho…
Now that we've laid out the groundwork, what do you actually do in Sea of Thieves? Well, you do pirate things. That thing about being a wannabe Captain Jack Sparrow earlier wasn't a joke by the way. The game positively encourages you to come up with the wildest of things in order to get away with the prize. That very same Captain Jack Sparrow is in the game, there is a whole campaign dedicated to him.
So in Sea of Thieves, you can pick up contracts from the various factions scattered around the various outposts. Those usually include simple tasks like delivering wares to a merchant, killing NPC's on certain islands or solving treasure maps to dig up the loot. There are also several world events happening on a server, be it a fort which requires you to lay low waves of enemies or NPC ship fleets and more. Loot that you gather can be exchanged for gold and reputation. A higher reputation with the faction of the Sea of Thieves will allow you to take on even more lucrative contracts.
The game also has little campaigns called Tall Tales. These tell the story of the Sea of Thieves, which itself is something close to pirate purgatory. Through those, you slowly start to pick up on all the big players now stranded in these cursed waters and what led to the current standstill. Its somewhat of an underrated aspect of the game really, how the overall narrative is always shifting and characters progress their own journey. And the community puzzling it all together while theorizing what might be coming next is actually quite interesting in itself.
Sea of Thieves also features a story campaign that you can, unlike the rest of the game, experience all on your own. A Pirate's Life is centered around the arrival of the one and only Jack Sparrow- uhm Captain Jack Sparrow on the cursed sea. The whole campaign is a love letter to both the Pirate's of the Caribbean movies and the ride at Disney World. You'll meet some other characters of the movies and it even, somehow fits into the lore of the game, so kudos to them for doing a meaningful crossover.
So if you're not interested in the multiplayer and sandbox aspects of Sea of Thieves, at least give the story campaign a try. It might not be the best vertical slice of what the game is like but it is very well executed and makes for a fun adventure game you can play with up to three friends.
The Romance Dawn
And while I have listed all the content that is technically in the game. It still does a poor job to represent what playing Sea of Thieves is actually like. A pirate king once said that everything the world has to offer is out there, you just have to look for it. In its current state, Sea of Thieves is full of little secrets to find and islands to discover.
The mechanics that drive the game are disarmingly simple. Sailing is rather straightforward, so is fighting and all the other technical stuff. But the way all of this interacts with another is what really really makes it. You can quickly drop sails to make a swift escape, a well-coordinated maneuver lets you do a 180° turn on the spot. And fighting other players and NPC's is much less about mastering your weapons and more about making use of your arsenal and what is available to you.
All of this together encourages players to get creative and the amount of times I made off with a big haul thanks to a well-executed heist stands as proof. But some people also tend to get upset over all the pirating happening in a pirate game. See, you gotta reroute your brain a little bit when playing Sea of Thieves and other sandbox titles. Rust and DayZ are also a good examples of this actually. Don't play for the rewards, play for the experiences you have. Trust me, there is nothing more boring than chasing after voyages and treasure all day just to grind.
Sounds weird now, I know but it'll open a lot of doors or I guess chests? While most of the activities in Sea of Thieves are fun the first dozen times, they'll get a little stale once you grind them out. Instead, you go into a session of Sea of Thieves maybe pick up a task or some arbitrary goal and see what lies beyond that horizon. Because 9 out 10 times, you'll end up doing something completely different than originally planned. You go after everything that looks even remotely shiny and you usually end up with something worth taking home.
Something that is however elemental to enjoying Sea of Thieves is the multiplayer aspect. Sailing solo is hardcore, and very enjoyable if you're comfortable with it but there is also less room for error. So either bully some friends into sailing with you, or join the official Sea of Thieves discord to find a crew. I would recommend starting out by joining a 4-man crew sailing a galleon with some more experienced members. And people on the Sea of Thieves discord tend to be friendly and more than willing to help you claim your sea legs.
Some Tall Tales
I know, I've talked at length now about all the details and how should go about playing Sea of Thieves, but I believe it is a lot more interesting to just recount some of my own daring adventures. Because I need more people to know about them, but also because it's fun to share.
Most of the time, I play Sea of Thieves with one of my close friends. We don't really do any of the voyages, occasionally we pick some up just to get the ball rolling but most of the time we'll get distracted anyways. As usual, we stock up on resources at the port and make way for the nearby fort that seemed to be active. As we come closer, we spot a galleon at the fort. That means that 4 players were fighting waves and waves of enemies there. That'll also mean that getting the loot from said fort might not be that easy. Our philosophy is rather simple, we see shiny and we want it.
So we started scheming, they'd be at it for a while. And thanks to the menacing skull above the fort, we'd know exactly when they were finished. So we started to ship around the general area, pretending to do our voyages while stocking up on resources. We found a little rowboat and a powder keg. Powder kegs are infamous in Sea of Thieves since they can do massive damage to a ship if not handled properly. But they also will make you a walking bomb.
After some sailing, we were geared up for a fight, two well-dressed pirates against a full crew of potential veterans. So from a safe distance, I started rowing the rowboat towards the galleon. A little dingy would be harder to spot than a full sail sloop. My friend was getting ready to sail at them once the bomb had been armed. Halfway there I ditched the dingy and swam the rest of the way, always underneath the waves and careful not to be blown up by shark bite.
Once I made it to the ship, I waited for an opening to slip onboard and under deck. The first mistake on their end is always have someone watch your ship. I planted the bomb and started cooking a banana on their cooking station. Around that time, my friend also informed me that the fort had been completed. If you cook the fruit in Sea of Thieves, it'll eventually catch fire and with a keg placed next to it, it was only a question of time when it would go boom.
The plan here was to do some considerable damage, fend off the crew trying to repair and let the ship sink while we clean house. My friend set sail towards the fort as well while I was looking for a good spot to ambush them. Then boom! My bomb went off, but then another explosion went off under deck. Apparently, they had stored some kegs down there as well and the ship was quickly taking on water.
All four of them tried to jump me at once, so I did what I do best, run away and fight by collateral. At least that was the plan. But by the time my friend arrived at the crime scene, the ship had already sunk and all four pirates didn't offer much of a fight either. They were quickly disposed of, probably because they didn't heal up after finishing the fort and we had clean pickings of the loot.
Another time, I played with another friend and we had just finished a fort. This time another sloop quickly sank our ship and gobbled up all the booty. If you sank the first time, you spawn relatively close to your last location but with considerably fewer resources. By the time we came back to the fort, our thieves just made their daring escape. Of course, we gave chase. I would not give up all the loot without a fight.
What followed was a chase that took over two hours. We relentlessly chased our rivals down, shooting one of us towards them with canons or by some damn good sailing. By the end, the loot had changed hands back and forth around four times. And I would like to inform you that we totally destroyed them and got all our loot back. But in reality, while we were busy chasing them or escaping them, they sold off the most valuable stuff by swimming to the nearest outpost.
By the time we sank them the last time, there were only scraps left disappointment and us having to admit that we had been outplayed. But to their credit, our rivals turned out to be good sports about it. We congratulated each other on a battle of endurance well fought and went our merry ways.
So should you play Sea of Thieves in 2022?
Sea of Thieves is a game, that on paper comes with some if not many caveats if you don't know what you're getting into. It is really more a sum of its part and should be enjoyed in moderation. If you plan to just mindlessly grind out your reputation, you will quickly grow to hate it. Because there is not much to do… besides grinding out that reputation or doing Tall Tales for cosmetics.
The bulk of Sea of Thieves and why it has endured such a dedicated player base, despite people regularly bouncing off the title is because you have to get it first. It's a sandbox and it is for you to toil in said sand and start building sandcastles. If you need to be told how to have fun in a pirate game in which you can shoot yourself out of canons and have a concert with 5 strangers, then I'm sorry for you.
And on top of that, Rare has crafted a beautiful world with a sea that just feels fun to sail around on. With every update, they add more things to the sandbox for you to play around with. Especially with the fairly regular update schedule. It has slowly become the kind of title I love to check in with every few months, drum a couple of friends together and get well into the new season. There is always that itch that urges you on to come back, because there quite frankly no other game that lets you live out your pirate fantasies.
Sea of Thieves is available for PC and Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S and it's also on the Game Pass or on steam if you desire so. You should at least bully some of your friends into trying it out and the worst that could happen is that you pay for a month of Xbox Game Pass.
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