Three Sheets to The Wind

written by Alastrom

 

It never ceases to amaze me how much fun I have in Sea of Thieves. The game isn’t what most would call an in depth experience (ocean pun in the second sentence, nailed it) and yet I have no problem repeating the same pattern of game play every time the crew gets together. If you’ve somehow missed this gem of a game let me sum up the experience for you. Board ship, get mission, do mission, sell treasure, buy fancy clothes to show everyone how many times you’ve put up with this nonsense. Now you might ask: “Alastrom, that doesn’t sound fun at all. Why subject yourself to this watery hell?” And I think the answer is simple. Sea of Thieves isn’t pretending to be some grand hero’s journey where the story revolves around you. Instead it’s a game where a bearded lady can play the hurdy gurdy while watching their captain get eaten by a shark while the rest of the crew vomits on itself. Quality pirate experience.

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But gamers want more! We always want more no matter how much more we get. Sea of Thieves has delivered more since it’s initial release with several free content updates including new lands, new weather, new creatures and a new ship. In fact, Rare has given players so much free stuff to date we may as well all pirate the game (award winning material.) It’s these content releases that really help keep the game afloat. There’s a number of titles I’ve been meaning to pick up again, Destiny 2, Conan Exiles, Everquest Landmark (RIP), but I know if I get into those games again they’ll expect me to buy the DLC that I missed while they were making the experience good. If it turns out I still don’t feel like playing those games I’m out a few hundred bucks. Sea of Thieves doesn’t run into that problem. I haven’t played in about six months but the other day I logged in with my crew on a total whim. We got attacked by a giant shark. We killed the giant shark, then we got attacked by a ghost pirate ship… and a kraken. And some 13 year olds. Great afternoon experience and it changed our opinion from “We should try Sea of Thieves again” to “When are we playing Sea of Thieves again?”

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A crew does go a long way with this game. Not a random crew that you can find from the main screen, those are horrible and no amount of free updates will make it better. I mean an actual group of friends who enjoy the experience enough to spend twenty minutes sailing from one side of the map to the other. We found out very early that if you turn Sea of Thieves into a mechanical experience where you try to achieve the objective as quick as possible, you’ll spend about four hours before you realize it’s not the game for you. Digging up treasure or fighting off skeletons is fun once. If you want it to be fun a thousand times, you need to make each experience as unique as the one before it. Sometimes that means shooting your friends out of a cannon. Other times, it’s blowing them up with a keg of gunpowder in the middle of a tense situation. The best crews need to be able to laugh along with the whole experience because anyone that got into Sea of Thieves expecting a serious tone didn’t do their research. To that end, I think the game has a fairly small market of players who can get the most out of it. It reminds me of playing Left for Dead with my college room mate. Sure, the goal was to make it to the safe room but half of the time the goal was to make it to the safe room “first” so you could slam the door on the other guy. Like all sand box games, you can’t force a quality experience and you sure as hell can’t code it. Sometimes it just comes down to the people you’re playing with.

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I wasn’t the biggest fan of Sea of Thieves on launch day. Like most people, I saw the potential but I had fears the game would never leave port if they couldn’t find a way to make the repetitive game play loop more entertaining. I realize now that was never what Rare intended for this game. Sea of Thieves is what you make of it. The game gives you as much as you give it. Gamers, myself included, like to boil a game down to its base components or extrapolate the experiences far beyond whats offered. Is Sea of Thieves just a game about getting treasure to buy new cosmetics so you can show off how much treasure you’ve amassed? Maybe. Could Sea of Thieves be a much better game with fully functioning cities and economies and a job system? Probably. Are either of those things what Sea of Thieves set out to be? Doubtful. Enjoy the experience for what it is. A beautifully rendered silly adventure game that doesn’t demand you take it seriously. If that’s not enough for you, give ATLAS a try, I hear they’re really doing the whole “pirate” thing right.

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