You start the game a few months after its release, avoided playing it back in March due to the servers frying during the initial week. You read that this game is very polarizing but it's Rare and Phil: you trust them. So you create a terrible random character and imagine how they will ask for Rare coins later if you don't have the character model you would like but brush it off because you're not a multibillion dollars company, you're a mere player: what do you know? This time the game let's you get in and after an introduction that's very polished you spawn in a bar/pub with no indication of what to do, where to go, what is your life objective. "Ok, so my character has no story so that I can do whatever I want! Nice!" you naively think. You go outside the pub (because the interactions inside are meaningless and there is a "pirate code" on the wall that is laughable at best) and you see the ocean and imagine how wonderful it will be when you sail. If God could narrate your life It would say: "but xXx420Sniper69xXx wouldn't be prepared for what would come next!"
So you have no idea what any of the buttons do. The NPCs will make a forced joke about how pigs and chickens are scary stuff but will not explain how the questing system works: "Rare seems to have their priorities straight!", you joke. But then ask "What are the differences and benefits of different quests"? "Who cares, here's some terrible choices of conversation prompts with NPC's that won't help you or guide you but will make you cringe" says Sue, an NPC who sells clothes the closest to the water, just because owing a piece of land must be expensive (and by the prices she charge you know you'll be poor for the rest of your life.) "How do I get the stuff on the chests in front of the houses in the outpost?" you ask getting desperate about any information about anything. "That's meaningless, Look how beautiful the sunset is!" says Chad, who has some talking prompts that are acessible and doesn't required random levels to click. "How do I set a contract/quest?!" you scream from the top of your lungs. "Why are you stressing with this, this game is more fun with friends!" says any defender of this game on the internet. You remember some indie games made on an afternoon that seem to had a longer thought process of connecting the player to its own world than this "blockbuster".
You remember the 2h tutorials from FFXV or MHW and wonders if not information at all is better than all information shoved at once down your throat. You come to the conclusion that maybe, just maybe, there is a walkable line between both and you can guide without holding hands, but again you're a player, so what do you know? After 1h of walking around an island with absolutely nothing to do you picked some contract from a random NPC and don't know what to do, how to activate it or where to go. A youtube vídeo from someone very excited (It must be from the beta or the release window: you're probably right) you learn that to activate the contracts it goes something like this: you talk to a random NPC and get a paper that says you need to deliver something to a person that you have never heard of and it's not in the island you're right now. What's your next step? "Certainly I need to lay it down on the table inside my ship and vote just myself to see if I shall do it. After that I can read the contract and see what the hell I'm doing with it, but the button is not together with the list of other contracts I have acquired (but can't put down on the table because reasons)" (It's Jack and Rose all over again). No, you have a special menu where you can see the top of the paper with a time and date (that you have no idea if it's in-game or not) and finally an island name and what the quest requires after scrolling down. This is how a company works in real life: you get an assignment without any information of what to do or when and to who deliver it. You need to go your desk, that's the only place with the Enigma machine to decode the request. You verbally accepts it so Mark Zukemberg knows you're up to it and then open it on your pager. Just one assignment though because the other ones are in your fax machine and your desk cannot hold more than one open. You wonder if anyone at Rare works while sober.
The ship navigation and how to stop it are really easy to get an idea on how to do it. You just have to be intuitive about it: Most people will try to steer the wheel but nothing will happen, the ship won't move. Then you remember that ships have anchors and that's why isn't moving. You raise it and try to steer the wheel but again nothing happens. So you have a direction and nothing holding you in place, but you lack something to push your forward: the sails. This a logical thinking process. You imagine how many people will be stuck at the beginning because of the unintuitive contracts set-up and learning the ropes with your vessel and how much would a simple tutorial just to show how it Works would affect the experience. Again, you remember you're not a company with a history of well-made games with extensive thought about everything: What do you know?
After arriving in your first island, which may or may not be where your objective is, that may or may not have chickens/pig/snakes/explosives and finally that you may not have sunk your ship when trying to stop you will experience the game's combat. This is simple too: one button does damage close and one does damage from afar. And being lucky like your Aunt Debbie always told you, you'll get an island full of enemies with explosive barrells and you'll have few bullets of an weapon that barely shoots from afar. You'll experience your first death. You get to a place for people who perished with nothing to do and can then choose to go back to the surface (if you're being hunted they will respawn you somewhere else "How convenient!") or stay there and wonder why this place exists. You clear the island but your "objective is in another terrible hand-made island that you can easily say it feels like those randomly-generated easily-forgotten planets from No Man's Sky". You wonder slightly if No Man's Sky has been fixed since it was released on Xbox. The Xbox UI, which received
all most attention from Phil Spencer's Church will quickly show you that the former PS4 exclusive is better, you wonder what will happen first: SoT gets enough content to validate the $60 price tag or if it releases on PS4 in 2020. Tough call.
You wonder what those black skull clouds in the distance mean but you imagine it's something tough. "When will I be strong enough to go there?" "Depends on your patience with this game" says a voice in the back of your head, but you're determined to see everything this game has to offer. You see some ships on the distance but they seem lost just as you were on your first hour "It's an exploration and discovery game bruh!" echoes on your head. You need to get that damn chicken into the cage. You get to an island called Chicken Island and find pigs as far as the eye can see and thank god you got this game on Gamepass! You get one of the damn birds after 3 islands and 4 ghost ship trips and takes it to Warren in "Rare should be closed" Island. Now you just need to repeat this for 2 more chickens and you have completed a quest. You see the achievement list to wonder how hard it will be to get a nice 1000/1000. You visit TA, laugh, free the 30Gb of space this aberration occupied on your HD and installs Banjo-Kazooie from 2017 E3 free Rare Replay.
"Wonderful with friends!"
"Doesn't hold your hands!"
They will add content over time man!"
"You just played 10 min, what do you know?"
"This isn't a Review!"
Non-ironic review: So I'll sumarize everything in the game without being over-dramatic or ironic. Let's see if people get it now.
Visuals (3/5): The game enviroment is beatiful and the water physics is truly wondrous to see. The island. biomas are well done and the passage of time does affect the mystic of the world. The ship details are a nice addition too. The characters design (friends and foes) are very basic, very catoonish but it doesn't affect the gameplay too much. You character design is one of the weakest points as it's random and relies on customization for differentiation.
Gameplay (0.5/5): There is no introduction to the game controls: not a tutorial, not a prompt on how to do things, not a "help" or "how to play window". You enter the game without any story and don't know how to control your characters. On PC I had to keep checking the controls in the options menu to know what every button could do. The gameplay loop is repetitive and the quests are uninteresting: Fetch quests or Defeat enemies quests. Control of the ship is ok and there is a thought process behind the mechanics but that's about it. Weapon variety is cosmetic only. The enemy variety is low (lower than Ryse: Son of Rome for example) and the bosses are either random or require a complex quest line to Spawn (and the rewards are one time-only meaning that there is no incentive to do it again. The contract interaction window is overly complex and completely unintuitive. Definitely got the impression that solo gameplay was an after thought.
Sound (3/5): The music in game sets the tone for the world and it's not very intrusive and isn't very remarkable too. The sounds of guns and enemies are okayish, not very real nor very fake. The sound of Wind may be heard from time to time which is a ncie touch. The music you can produce with your instruments is varied but again hints to a multiplayer only game and not a solo experience.
Progression (1/5): The game progression is very slow. You need to complete multiple contracts at the spam of multiple days to get the pirate legend rank. The quests, as I told before, are not very varied and mostly resume of doing the same thing over and over. As everything is cosmetic only there is no real sense of progression . The lack of content is apparent after a few hours in and it hurts the game. Achievements progression is slow, really slow and requires long grinds.
Multiplayer (2/5): The game was built with multiplayer in mind. There is no denying this when you atually play the game. The problem is that while the competition is releasing single-player games every month with lots of content this game comes off as empty and rushed. The lack of content, the repetition of everything, the necessity of online connection and friends and that you are punished for playing it solo makes Sea of Thieves a very boring experience. This game should not be relased in the state it was. State of Decay came 2 months later and it's the better exclusive game of the year for Microsoft. The playerbase has plummed too since its release meaning that an online experience will be toughter to get the later you get in the game.
World (2/5): Lastly, let's look at the world of Sea of Thieves. The ratio between water and land is ridiculouly high. The number of islands and it's size are a very good indicative that the focus of this game is the voyages with your ship. And that is very limiting of what a pirate do. This game could have so much things in land and backstory to the NPCs and the islands history that it feels very empty and devoided of life. The frequent updates promise to spice things up but product that we have as of 18/07/2018 is not very compelling.
Final: Sea of Thieves tried something new, something that should be applauded. Rare still has that creativity that we know of. That said, the game lacks polish, content and a gameplay hook to keep a great number of people playing it. The updates should fix this in the coming years but right now the game doesn't give a reason to play it. I would give it a higher score if Gameplay was deeper but it's probably the shallowest part of this game.
Final Score: 1/5