This isn’t a review, per se. Actually, it started in my head as a rant. After-all, I feel more than a little salty at the release of Sea of Thieves. It looked to be such a gorgeous game built on the wonderful premise of letting friends crew up, explore the ocean and do some plundering. And as a bare-bones platform, that’s what the game is, albeit only just. After years of following the game’s development, of salivating over the idea of countless islands full of mysteries to explore, an immersive world full of colorful characters, and the ability to customize your pirate and their ship to make them truly your own, Sea of Thieves proved to be a classic case of over-promise and under-deliver.
Sea of Thieves is a classic case of over-promise and under-deliver.
The crazy thing about it all is that the ideas are there. I’ve read through the Art of Sea of Thieves and many of the other companion materials, and clearly the creative departments had been working overtime to bring everything to life. But in execution, so much of it failed to manifest. NPCs are shallow and dull. Hidden locations are empty and unworthy of exploration. Customization options—one of the biggest selling points touted time and again—were minimal. And “Pirate Legends,” which had been promised as Sea of Thieves’ expansive end-game, when the “real” fun would start, were all hype and minimal substance.
Many reviews of Sea of Thieves have shared these observations, while many of the more forgiving fans have suggested patience and talked about how more is coming. And maybe that’s so, but it doesn’t change the fact that people paid full price for a half-baked game. One in which there isn’t enough to do, and so players grow bored with the tedium and instead wind up killing anything that floats just for the LOLs; and everyone else winds up killing anything that floats in preemptive defense. That’s not piracy—that’s paranoid anarchy. And on a fun scale of 1 to 10, it’s adrift in uncharted waters.
This isn’t piracy—it’s paranoid anarchy.
So yeah, things are off to a rocky start. You can tell that the game’s developers are well aware the clock’s ticking before they’re declared this year’s No Man’s Sky from their regular podcasts, in which they always put a sunny outlook over the thinly-veiled subtext of, “please bear with us while we sort this shit out.”
And now it’s May, the month in which we were promised a massive update full of new content. I hope it’s true, because patience and sunny outlooks aside, I think players need to finally see Rare making real strides to deliver on the game that they sold us in the promos. One in which we have vast options for customizing our pirates. One in which the islands are actually worth exploring, where mysteries are more than empty riddles (and krakens more than just tentacles), and where pirate ships aren’t engaged in endless, pointless battles out of shear boredom.
Through it all, I’m still a sap for Sea of Thieves. I believe in the dream, and I’m convinced that the creatives at Rare have brilliant ideas that were intended for launch day, but for whatever reason couldn’t be released on schedule. But now’s the time for it all to start coming together. We’ve seen a tiny trickle of new outfits as of May 1st, which is a good start, but only a fraction of what’s needed. Hopefully the trickle is about to turn into something more substantive, because if Sea of Thieves under-delivers this month, I suspect many fans will consider it a last straw.