By: Bailey Keck
“Sea of Thieves”, an open world pirate game recently released on March 20, 2018 has been stirring up some negative reviews that, in my opinion, are completely unwarranted.
First, it’s essential to have a basic understanding of the game. You enter the game and it requires you to pick your character. A group of five rotating pirates circle around a central pole when you scroll your mouse. In order to save one of these pirates and compare it to future sets of five you click save. Then, if you are not pleased, you request a new round and five more appear.
Some decide to take a cheap shot and criticize the character customization system, saying they wish they could create their own pirates’ features and body type. However, too many games these days allow individuals to willingly create whomever they want whenever they want. A pirate isn’t supposed to be what you want it to look like or a sexy avatar in a game, it’s a pirate. The game stops this careless and unneeded thinking by having a pre supply of pirates to choose from. They range from fat, medium sized, bulky and skinny and certain pirates also feature battle scars, tattoos and jacked up teeth to give your pirate just a little bit of a unique spice.
Then, after picking your character, it sends you to a screen offering either sloop play or galleon play. These are the two types of ships you have access to in the game. The sloop offers both single player gameplay and teams of two. It is a slightly faster ship able to make tighter turns and quicker stops. However, it’s defensive capability is limited as it has only two cannons, one on either side of the ship. It is often referred to as the prime ship to utilize during grinding missions or long journeys as it has one sail, quickly adjusting to wind patterns that can greatly affect the speed of the ship. The ship is also limited to only two floors and less overall crates to store essential supplies such as cannonballs and wooden planks.
The second and, in my opinion, more impressive ship is the Galleon. It offers both small crew (three players) and full crew (four players) settings and sends you to a three decked ship when you spawn. This specific ship is equipped with four cannons on the left and four on the right, three sails, an anchor placed in the middle of the ship, and more chests to store resources than the previously mentioned craft. It also features a brig (single-celled jail), which stores crew members that the rest of the crew votes to jail. Critics of the game often point to the lack of ship choices, but fail to mention the amount of customization your ship can undergo, including sail and hull changes, as well as certain emblems that can be applied to the sails.
The developers explain the absence of variety and absence of ship upgrades by explaining, everyone should be on a level playing field, regardless of hours put into the game. Personally, as an avid player, I agree that extra ship choices could further complicate a simple game and possibly make solo play no longer a valid option.
Next, we delve into quests, which critics often make a mockery out of. There are three “alliances” in the game that offer 3 distinct mission types (really four but well get into that later). The first is the merchant alliance that has you collect animals of varying colors that spawn on certain islands around your location. You receive a paper with a place to deliver, number of animals to catch along with what kind, and a time and date when the animals are due. Personally, I believe these to be the best and most interactive types of missions, with players darting around an island with crates to attempt to catch said animals and dodging bands of skeletons that attempt to surround and kill you. Critics and previous players of the game often find the amount of animals to catch laughable, as there are only 3. Players such as myself and others that complete and travel out merchant alliance voyages on a regular basis often come to the consensus that more isn’t always better, especially when it comes to hunting for that one specific type of animal that you have a limited amount of time to catch and sell. Would a variety of more animals make the game more interesting, probably, however is it worth the extra time searching through more animals you don’t need just to complete another mission, a process critics already regarded as delaying and devoid of interesting material, creating a circular argument on their behalf?
The second place to purchase missions (called voyages in game) is from a mysterious and reclusive skull lady that sets up shop in a a tent often placed in the center of an outpost. From her you receive quests to kill certain skeleton bosses which spawn on specific islands throughout the expansive map. The voyage paper you receive gives you the location of one or multiple bosses and a artistic little portrait of said boss. After going to the island of choice waves of skeletons will appear which must be defeated before the final boss shows itself. Upon slaying the boss you receive a skull which can range anywhere from 190-1350 doubloons. Critics of the skull missions often point out that you are subjected to fighting one form of enemy, skeletons, and the absence of more mobs makes the game somewhat lesser. However, there are multiple varieties of skeletons themselves and as a pirate themed game what other npc are you supposed to offer? The skeletons can range from gold which need to have water poured on them to be easily killed, ghoulish darker skeletons which need to have a lantern flashed at them to hiss and then weaken, and an assortment of exotic skeletons that heal in water and are covered in flora. The game also features other pirate themed mobs, such as a kraken that can wrestle your ship out of water, although proving too easy to kill, and sharks that stealthily lurk the waters hoping to take chunks out of unlucky players. I do agree that more correctly themed mobs could be added to the game, such as parrots and possibly monkeys and maybe even an npc ghost ship that pops up around the map, although the lack of these does not make the game devoid of interesting mobs to fight.
The third group of missions can be obtained from the gold hoalder, a decrepit man that also dishes out voyages from his tent near the center of the outpost. Unlike the other alliances, the gold hoarder offers two distinct types of missions. When purchasing a voyage you either receive a riddle mission, where a certain island is mentioned in the first step and the following steps give directions to uncover a hidden chest somewhere underground in the vicinity. The second type of mission places x in random locations on a certain unnamed island that you must identify on the map on the second floor of the ship and sail to soon after. Certain landmarks are present on the map, making it somewhat easy to place the x on a nearby location and start digging. Many players criticize the low worth of the chests you manage to get from these certain quests, although its important to mention that critics also scoff at the lack of variety, yet when they don’t pull up a captain’s chest every 5 seconds (worth roughly 900), and instead uncover a castaways chest (worth 30-100) they go on the internet to rant about it.
Another short, but rather important detail that critics either forgot to mention because of their stiff and unmovable stance on sea of thieves is the fact that it didn’t try to buy players through suggestive characters and unproportional body parts *cough* overwatch *cough* and instead attempted to direct its advertising towards everyone. In fact, the game, overwatch, which gathered an extremely loyal and constantly active following got in trouble for suggestive magazines in a bathroom and poses that intentionally showed off more seductive parts of a female character. Imploring a different tactic, creating family friendly advertisement with the target audience being everyone, not just teenage to middle aged men, of course lost the game some players, sacrificing some of its potential revenue rather than creating inappropriate and lulling advertisements, a particularly respectable and responsible approach regarding the consumer. As compensation for their lost profits from removing provocative material from their game, it would make sense the price would be significantly greater than that of a game that does indulge in said advertisement campaigns. Instead of viewing this as an extra 30 people need to dish out of their pockets for a “below average game” (couldn’t disagree more), they should rejoice in the fact they bought the game out of their desire to experience its wholesome content instead of staring at a handful of extra seductive computer models.
Despite the apparent plethora of missions offered (4 distinct types varying in complexity and difficulty), critics still rant on about how the game feels “repetitive” and those that disagree with this claim often dispute the presence of an “end-game.” For those who are determined to prove the game is repetitive, you can’t. Those either very shallow or without a mic or access to voice chat would find it easier to claim this. However, players with mics that communicate with their team often become perplexed at these odd notions thrown at them from a micless xbox player. As mentioned before, when entering a game your are plopped in the middle of the ocean or an outpost with a certain number of people you chose to play with (through the crew settings). Every single time you play this game it’s a different experience. You manage to meet and possibly befriend experts at the game devoted to finding treasure, rather nooby players there to have a good time, self proclaimed comedians who would rather joke around than play seriously, people great at pvp that can successfully defend your ship, and of course people of all ranges of experience levels in completing the different types of missions. If you attempt to communicate with your teammates rather than being reclusive and refusing to turn on your mic for this “repetitive game” it is impossible to find anything boring much less repetitive.To pour salt on the open wound, it’s extremely hypocritical for an audience that consumes overwhelming numbers of FPS games that do nothing but change maps and occasionally cycle through game modes to look down on Sea of Thieves as a repetitive inferior pastime.
To address the no end game problem that critics and previous players point out, you’re absolutely right. There is nothing in your power that you can do to make yourself incredibly overpowered to go around the map wiping new players out of existence for your own personal enjoyment because you have higher level equipment and cannons. Nothing at all. Those who wish to gain an unfair foothold on servers and dominate simply because they booked more hours find the non-existence of said end-game outrageous. However, I believe the absence of the end-game creates more of a level playing field for future and experienced players to struggle on rather than creating a distinct caste system that keep newer players down and makes them victims to the power hungry, keyboard smashing maniacs that want access to an in game atomic bomb that instantly destroys the whole map. This, however, does not mean you can’t customize your avatar or ship to clearly separate yourself from those with less experience. You still have the option to buy in-game cosmetics, just not anything that gives you or any other player an unfair advantage.
The last and final concept I will address is the “lazy and boring pvp (player versus player).” Run of the mill fps (first person shooter) players and those accustomed to grabbing that awp and no scoping players across the map find the slower pace of Sea of Thieves lazy. Personally, I could not disagree more. Instead of those with the most hours shoved into aiming at targets on a map to enhance their aim or memorizing spray patterns, the team with the greatest and most effective communicative skills will nine times out of ten win a fight. Whilst in the midst of a battle, players must still turn sails to outturn/run the opponent, fix holes in the hull and second deck caused by enemy cannon balls, drop the anchor to make a quick turn and hastily lift it, and know when to lower/raise the sails to increase turn radius at the wheel, all whilst jumping back and forth between each others ships to stop the enemy from doing the previous list of actions. If anything, the pvp is chaotic and epic, as whole teams communicate with each other to thwart the other one’s broadsides while taking cheap shots at the back of the enemy’s ship.
Sea of Thieves does not deserve the criticism players are so eager to award it. In addition, there are those who attempt to ruin the reputation of the game by making cheeky jokes and elbowing the player base in the gut by referencing the small size (when was any other openworld pirating game popular?). This is undoubtedly partially their fault for creating such one sided arguments and content that really only do the game harm rather than creating constructive criticism. No, I do not think the game is perfect, and of course it has its flaws, but this reckless disgust for a game many view as revolutionary in the field of co op play needs to check itself and stop.