After a highly anticipated E3 reveal, Sea of Thieves has finally reached our shores, with promise of gold, treasure, cannonballs, and kller co-op. But does it live up to its hype? In many ways, Sea of Thieves is everything I wanted it to be, but for every thing it gets right, it gets something else horribly wrong, delivering the foundations of an incredible game, and well, thats pretty much it.
The sailing mechanics are flawless. You are given the choice to command a 1-2 man sloop, or a 3-4 man galleon, both of which are perfectly balanced for the size of the group. Wether you are steering, manning the cannons, repairing the ship, navigating, keeping lookout on the crows nest for obstacles or other greedy pirates, every role aboard your vessel is just as important as the last.
Not since Wave Race 64 have water physics left me in awe; watching the waves rise, lap, and crash against the ship, the whitewash left behind, the storm physics, the reflections; I could go on forever, but instead i will sum it up with a single word. Incredible.
Amongst all the positives, there is a single underlying fact; unmistakenly, this feels like an early access game. There is a severe lack of content to keep the player engaged, and as such, relies heavily on players “making their own fun”. This isn’t necessarilly a bad thing, but there is no filler content in between. You pickup the same quests, travel to the same islands, submit the same completed quests, all for the sake of a new hat. As a consequence, there is no sense of progression. Battles are fun yet simultaneously frustrating; a ship banks up near you, someone jumps on board, you kill them, then they respawn on the ship again. You take out the entire crew, sink their ship, they respawn with a new ship virtually a stones throw away.
Had the game intentionally been released as an early access title, a lot of these early-stage lack-of-content flaws could be forgiven; but to slap on an AUD$99 price tag in its current form, with absolutely no roadmap as to where this game is headed, is asking a bit much. Its saving grace in my opinion, is the incredible value of its inclusion in the Xbox Game Pass. Unfortunately however, this value does not extend to Windows 10 players , which is incredibly disappointing. The games’ success on the Windows platform is severely hindered by lack of competitive pricing competition, with the Microsoft storefront being the only possible choice; and the reality is, developers want see a return on their investment when developing for a platform, otherwise, why bother? At retail the game has sold as low as AUD$69, however the lack of a physical PC retail option means the consumer literally has no other option than to cough up the AUD$99 price tag given a lack of pricing competition.
The game is an incredible experience and is brimming with potential, and in my opinion, one of the best co-op experiences around. But it needs work. A lot of work. In my opinion, the below would be a fantastic start.
- If a ship is sunk, respawn it at a far away outpost. Defeated ships and players shouldn’t be able to bounce back so quickly and attack again and again. Players need to have a solid chance of defending their treasure.
- True to pirate nature, allow players TO DIG AND BURY THEIR OWN TREASURE. This will allow them to temporarily stash loot while they keep hunting for treasure, and perhaps by chance, they may find someone elses stashed loot!
- Add larger scale mini bosses, and other mythical creatures to hunt.
- A consciousness bar that is affected by alcohol, getting clubbed repeatedly by a new melee weapon, diseases such as scurvy, etc. Once a player has been knocked out they can be handcuffed and moved around the ship. This can create all sorts of new playstyles and scenarios, such as prisoner exchanges, or exchange treasure for a team-mate.
- Useful pets such as a monkey or a parrot. Some scenarios could include sending the parrot to distract skeletons and have them running circles trying to chase the bird away, or sending the monkey up certain trees to scavenge bananas.
- A shifting bermuda triangle. Choose 3 islands in close proximity and draw a triangle between them. This area experiences extreme weather conditions, illusions, and random chances of it punching a hole in your ship. Perfect area for a mini boss and an achievement.
- Raid style quests where you can temporarily enlist the aid of 2-3 other ships.
These are just a few random ideas that sprung to mind over the course of minutes, some of which would improve a few of the games most fundamental flaws. In its current state however, an AUD$35 price tag, and a AUD$40 season pass would have been a much better deal to give players a chance to opti in to the higher price brackets once the content starts flowing in.
I personally decided to trial the game with a 14 day Xbox Game Pass trial. The social aspect of this game however, might sucker me in to its full price tag. Is it value for money? No…
…but then again, who can put a price on a good time?