“Drink up me hearties, yo ho! Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me!” – Captain Jack Sparrow
A pirate’s life is different for everybody. From Jack Sparrow who wanted to be the Captain of the Blackpearl; to Edward Kenway, who accidentally became an Assassin and started his hunt for Templars. Sea of Thieves will take care of whatever fantasy you may have. From amassing treasures to fighting to completing quests: it’s a pirate sandbox, where you can create your own playstyle!
Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag gave us hopes of a new gaming archetype – the Pirate lifestyle. Although the game wasn’t really PvP, and the online multiplayer was meh, with no real combat at all, it gave us hopes. Rare came forward and delivered exactly what pirate enthusiasts like myself were waiting for – Sea of Thieves. A game which is based entirely on pirate lifestyle. Initially released on Microsoft Store and on Xbox in March 2018, the game recently made itself available on Steam in July 2020. The game records a whopping 15M player base as of July 2020, and with good reason too.
The game sets you off as a pirate stranded on an island, where you meet the ghost of a “Pirate Lord”, which basically serves as your tutorial to all the basics the game has to offer. After the tutorial, boy are you in for a ride! Initially, the game received mixed reviews from the players. “Lack of content” was the main downside in the early days of the game. The developers have been exceptionally active however, and as the game stands today, well…the current reviews speaks for itself.
You could essentially spend hours roaming around the map, doing emissary quests. Whether you want to hop islands and dig for chests for the Gold Hoarders faction, or you might want to go and kill (or get killed, who am I to judge) some pesky skeletons for the Order of the Souls – what you do in a particular session is entirely upto you and is not dictated by the game. And in this process, what some of you might miss, is that the game DOES have a story mode, which the game calls “Tall Tales”. These are like short stories, and you need to complete all the Tall Tales to get to the “Shores of Gold”, where infinite gold awaits you. (It’s like One Piece, except this one’s actually reachable. xD )
Most of these Tall Tales consist of Journals which you need to follow, and solve riddles or vague drawings to decipher where they are. It’s interesting that, if you decide to do the same Tall Tale more than once (and yes, you will want to do them more than once, for the special item rewards and other commendations), there’s no guarantee that you will get the same clues/riddles! The game randomizes what riddles you get. Please be a normal person and google the clues like the rest of us, unless you want to question your sanity. There is no compulsion to complete these, and you might even play the game for hundreds of hours, without even touching them. The game has no unlockable skill as such; all the rewards and unlockable items are purely cosmetic.
Other PvE elements in the game include random encounters with Skeleton Ships, Megalodons and of course, the Kraken. No pirate game is complete without a good old kraken coming and giving you a big headache, just as you are going to cash in your loot you amassed from a 5 hour emissary run. (Yeah I’ve been the victim of this multiple times and I’m still pretty salty about it.) Of course all these can be defeated with some skill and tricks. The difficulty of the PvE elements depend on the size of the ship which you are operating, however. There’s 3 sizes available: a two man Sloop, a three man Brigantine, or as well call it, a Brig. And the four man Galleon. With bigger ship size comes bigger firepower and ship health, at the cost of mobility and manoeuvring.
The PvP arrangement is something I personally enjoy a lot. There is a separate game mode, called the “Sea Dogs Arena”, where players can hop in for some purely PvP action. You can play as 2 man sloops or 4 man brigs, and the objective is to find a chest on an island and return with that chest to a merchant ship. However, all the players in the game has the exact same map for the treasure, essentially turning it to a mini battle royale. Apart from that, PvP is still a very important part of normal gameplay. There will be players coming in after you in a normal game. Perhaps you are doing Tall Tales, or maybe some emissary, or just exploring the seas – you need to watch your surroundings at all times. Another player ship might just attack you outta nowhere. Fight or flight is a choice, obviously, but skilled players will take you down if you’re not careful enough.
Although the graphics is not very realistic, with player models and skeletons having largely cartoonish resemblance, the scenes are aesthetically very pleasing and soothing to the eye. Rare has paid good attention to a lot of intricate details in the game. The map in your ship is real time, and shows your position w.r.t. your surroundings and a grid format. There are uncharted islands, and you need to be careful while driving your ship, because there would be huge boulders and rocks in many places, which would put holes in your hull if you ram into them. The game has an hour to minute day-night cycle. This means, 24 minutes would in the real world would be equivalent to 24 hours in game time. You need to lookout for the weather as well, black clouds would mean storms, and storms would make your compass go haywire, and it would be difficult to control your ship amidst a storm. A storm would also fill your ship up with water, and you need to take care to throw the water out to prevent your ship from sinking.
Dying in this game practically does no harm to you. You get to stay in the spectral realm in the Ferry of the Damned for around 30 seconds, before you return to your ship. Your ship is your ultimate treasure here. As long as your ship lives, you will come back to your ship, and nothing is lost. Once your ship sinks, all the treasure and emissary status you spent hours grinding – poof! All gone.
The game does require you to have very specific roles, when you are playing with others. Depending on the size of the ship and the number of crewmen, your roles need to be divided between being the helmsman, the navigator(s), the repairman/men and the one(s) who fires the cannons while aggressing. The coordination needed is pretty extensive, and there literally has to be an “all hands on deck” style of play. Realistic details like setting the length of the sails, and fixing their direction properly will greatly affect your mobility in the game. The roles need to be dynamic, you will find yourself frequently changing roles. For example, if your ship has taken a considerable amount of damage, one person won’t be able to handle repairs and throwing out the water inside. Someone else has to join in and give them a hand if you want your ship to survive.
THE OVERALL VERDICT
You can join in with your friends who play the game, or playing with randoms also work. The playerbase isn’t really very toxic, so randoms mostly turn out to be decent players. The game is however, much more enjoyable when you are playing with other players, and not going solo.
The game is bound to get monotonous at many points. There will be moments where you will not encounter any of the fun PvE elements, and it will be plain sailing around doing missions. However, like I already mentioned, the game is a sandbox of types. What you do is entirely upto you. Do missions, rack up a lot of treasure, sink some ships and take their treasure – it’s all upto you and how you decide to play the game. There will be action packed moments where you will board an enemy ship and swing that cutlass around. Or you might prefer to stay at your ship and shoot at them while a teammate goes and does the hack and slash. There will be moments when you will drop down your anchor to drift around a rock to make some quick maneuvers and escape an enemy, or simply to pick up some treasure you found floating around in the water. The game will keep you engrossed, and the game will always have more to offer, if you know where to look for it.
So come along, put on your eyepatch and your pegleg. Tie that bandana around your head. Sharpen those cutlasses, load those pistols and blunderbusses. And like Captain Barbossa once said, “Strike your colors, ya bloomin’ cockroaches!” , the Sea of Thieves calls out to you.