Sea of Thieves and other Ponderings

I was not able to play any games during the day I wrote this.  I am feeling fairly aimless about the direction of this article but I think if I write enough words on the screen then something will come to me.  Perhaps I should write about the new Red Dead Redemption 2 trailer – but I did not really enjoy the first game, so I do not feel compelled to discuss it.  I did end up watching the trailer and felt – ehh – not my kind of game.  Big open sandboxes just aren’t my cup of tea.  I could write about the Avengers: Infinity War, but I do not really want to spoil anything yet.  The movie was good, but not my favorite – that honor goes to Captain America: Winter Soldier.  I know I will write about Sea of Thieves.

I really wanted Sea of Thieves to be my game of the decade.  I enjoy pirates well enough, but more than pirates I really enjoy a good atmosphere.  Every time that game was shown at conventions and media coverage, the theme was always on the atmosphere.  Drink some grog with your friends, steal some loot from a passing ship, and sail the mighty seas with the coordination of a well oiled machine.  The game was fun, but it did not do enough to create a lived in world.

Where are the memorable characters that Rare has been known for?  Where are the side quests that help you get lost?  Where are the memorable locations that make me want to come back and visit?  Why is the wind always blowing in the wrong direction?

I will admit that I liked Sea of Thieves more than Brian, Ian, or Chase.  We played a good eight to ten hours worth.  Easily worth $60 in my opinion, but especially worth $10 for a month of Xbox Game Pass, and an insane value for a free two week trial.  I have since renewed my Game Pass subscription on the off chance that we might roam the mighty sea once more, but alas I fear that ship has sailed.

The atmosphere and vistas are especially stunning within Sea of Thieves.  The sea is a often a royal blue and the sky twinkles in the night.  The ship rolls and creaks with immense weight against the water, and the sun rises catches your eye just right.  But beyond a beautiful world, the game lacks life.

It reminds me of The Witness in a way.  The puzzle game was beautiful in a way that only puzzle games can be, with a wide open world to explore and thoughtful challenges along the way.  But neither game have any life within them.  The Witness does not include any other people or characters.  My favorite part of the game were the hidden recorded messages because they made the world feel lived in.  Sea of Thieves relies on other players to populate the world, but running from or battling other ships is just not fun.  Most encounters end in stalemate, and there are too few ways to reliably communicate with other groups.

Shared world experiences are hard to navigate.  The balance between the designed experience and the experience that players bring to the world must be just right.  For Sea of Thieves the balance is just off centered, and I do not foresee Rare doing enough to right the ship.


Jake “prettyboyplaid” Fredericks

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