I read Rob Hayes’s book, Where Loyalties Lie, the other week for the #SPFBO and enjoyed it (see the review over on Fantasy-Faction), so when the chance arose to try out Sea of Thieves on the Xbox it was impossible to resist.
Now, I hadn’t seen any videos, reviews or much of anything past the idea that it was an MMO sort of game. And I like MMOs - I play them less than I used to, and stick with them a shorter time, but they are my game of choice. DAoC was where it was at in my day and I miss it still! Those evenings at Salisbury Bridge, taking down the skeletons… ah, the memories!
So I went into the game wide-eyed and innocent, expecting plunder, raids, sea battles and lots of grog. Well, there is grog to be had and I’ve managed one sea battle so far (I lost, but it was two against one). Oh, and I found some gold too.
I chose my pirate from the selection available, there is little customisation as all you can spend your gold on is making them look different, and headed out my first cruise. I chose a galleon as my vessel, a mistake, and woke up in a tavern clutching a banana. Come one, who hasn’t? Anyway, as far as tutorials go this one is best described as short and uninformative.
I found some people in tents, spoke them, learned a little and took a quest - find a chicken and bring it back. A mistake. My boat, ship(?) awaited and I climbed aboard. Finally, the seven seas awaited. Though now, I realised, I had no idea how to sail this ship. An anchor, pull that up… sail, lower that… angle them properly and steer. Easy.
Which direction? Down the to map room. Back up to the wheel. Then the sails, back to the wheel. Angle the sails again. Go and check the map… this was a task beyond the ken of mortal man - well, at least one mortal man on a galleon. This was a four person ship… three at least. One man, even such as me, was not equal to the task.
So I quit the game and started again, this time on a sloop. These one person can handle. I set sail, navigating the absolutely stunningly beautiful seas and found an island. I’d taken a gold hoarders quest this time - dig up a chest and bring it back. In fact, every quest (of which there are just three) is find this “thing” and bring it back. The variety is lacking.
I was attacked by another sloop (and it remains the only other ship I seen in the game) and while they were two and I was but one, I leapt aboard their ship and sliced about with my cutlass. They killed me.
One eve, as the sun set over the watery horizon… well, the houses at the back of mine... I joined a friend online and we went about our simple questing. In a group, with friends, the game is much more fun. We sailed, we battled skeletons, we found chests and we earned gold. It was fun in a group purely because we were in a group.
Solo, this game is just about fun, a little bit of sailing, a little bit of fighting, and not a lot else. To be truly successful, this game needs more to do. Not just quests, but skills and options. I can’t craft. I can’t run a shop. There is no equipment to collect and improve upon, only gold to earn and spend on cosmetic enhancements.
There is, from the mysterious stranger in the inn, the promise of something more later on - a legendary pirate to become. How that is done, I’ve no idea, but you do have to reach the top levels in each of three guilds who offer you the fetch quests.
On the positives, the game is beautiful. The seas and waves are exquisite, the weather and winds bring challenges and the whole cartoon feel is wonderful.
There just needs to be more to do. I don’t mean hand holding, golden exclamation marks and detailed instructions. Just something else to do… give the game some depth and I think the developer could be on to a winner. In its current state, it would be hard to recommend to anyone.
And that’s a shame.