My time with Sea of Thieves has been enjoyable but frightening at the same time. One moment you’re sailing along the sea, minding your own business and the next you’re frantically repairing damage and throwing buckets of water off the ship after the latest attack by a crew of bastards.
Sea of Thieves looks stunning on Xbox One X. Rare have been the red headed stepchild for so long, burdened with pumping out Kinect titles. It’s return to the Triple A space is a technical triumph. It’s Xbox One Enhanced, Native 4K, HDR visuals mixed with it’s Pixar-esque art style rivals Rise of the Tomb Raider in the Ultra HD looks department.
Sure, it’s pretty but is it any good?
Sea of Thieves gives the player a basic set of gameplay elements and the rest is up to you. Take sailing for example. You need to team up with friends online to set sail on the high seas. Each person needs to assume a role to keep the ship afloat and moving towards the treasure. Somebody needs to work the sails, another to steer. You’ll need somebody to man the cannons and a friend on lookout from the crowsnest. You’ll need somebody to navigate using the in game map. This is no HUD style map with blinking icons telling you where to go. It’s a bare bones map, with an X, figure it out.
This framework forces a comradery. You’ll soon find yourself doing impressions of a pirate, using nautical terms like “Starboard”, “Port” and “Oh F%&K! It’s the Kraken! We’re all gonna die!”
“What do you actually do?” has been the question asked of Rares ambitious title. Sea of Thieves is played in a shared world. It’s a simple game based on the systems mentioned above but it really shines when encountering other players at sea. Emergent Gameplay is the buzzword. Nobody would be overwhelmed by the tasks or controls, it’s a safe place. However, coming across another ship is utter chaos.
You may simply be crossing paths with another ship destined for a different point on the map. You could also be heading towards the same plunder, are they friend or foe? Sure, you could let them pass by, a gentleman’s agreement of sorts. However…where are they going? What are they going to find there? What do they have on the ship? Treasure? Ale? You of course start firing the cannons.
What happens next is a beautiful disaster. Parts of your ship will start to be hit by enemy cannon, shots will be fired from pirates on the ship, they may even attempt to board you. It’s crazy and wonderful and frightening. The locked first person view and world class visuals really helps sell the mayhem. That’s your ship filling with water. That’s your treasure chest they are after. Those are your mates clinging on for dear life.
Adding first party titles like Sea of Thieves to Xbox Games Pass is a game changer for the industry. €10 a month gives you access to not only 100 games but also to all Xbox Exclusives day-and-date with it’s official launch.
Sea of Thieves success will not come at retail. The Games Pass element is a double-edged sword. However, this is such a well made game that I believe the success for Xbox will be in new Games Pass subscribers. I was looking forward to this game but rather than buy it at launch I instead renewed Games Pass. Why spend €50-€60 when I could spend €10? If I didn’t like Sea of Thieves no big deal, there’s 100 other games available. There’s bound to be 10 to 15 titles that I would play.
This is an important release for Microsoft. It’s a game that is perfect for streamers. It’s an online multiplayer game that lives or dies based on it’s player base, Game Pass ensures it’s numbers stay high. Sea of Thieves a game with little barrier to entry. PEGI 12 rating, simple game mechanics, beautiful visuals, unique online multiplayer, it has it all. It’s quite easy to convince a mate to take the plunge on a €10 trial of Games Pass to join you on the open seas, far easier than a €69.99 outlay with no comeback.
Sea of Thieves is equipped to be the lightning rod for this idea of Xbox Game Pass. It could end up being Microsoft’s most important exclusive if this results in a huge uptick in subscriptions. I don’t see this title having huge staying power. I certainly wouldn’t suggest picking this up at full price. It’s great fun but it’s longevity is easily called into question. Perfect for this service.
The trouble is keeping people subscribed to Games Pass but with the breadth and variety of titles on there it’s hard to leave. Sea of Thieves will be somewhat short lived but on the subscription service it’s the cherry. Being the first of the exclusives to appear day and date on Games Pass this is an important release for Xbox.