Loot, pillage in sandbox pirate adventure game ‘Sea of Thieves’

Sail the seas and take what you want in Rare Interactive’s sandbox pirate adventure, “Sea of Thieves.”

“Sea of Thieves” gives players balanced options that are rarely seen in the gaming industry today. For example, all weapons are exactly the same and cannot be upgraded. A player who has been active for some time would not have a better weapon than somebody logging in for the first time. The veteran pirate may have a classier outfit and a golden pistol. But the golden pistol gives zero benefits, only swagger.

kraken_1.pngA “sandbox” game emphasizes exploration and gives the player choices of what to do, instead of having a linear story line. “Sea of Thieves” places the player and their crew anywhere on a giant ocean littered with a plethora of unique islands. Almost every island has a secret or treasure waiting to be found.

There are special islands called “Skull Forts.” Each Skull Fort is a named island, with a fort guarded by skeletons. Every half our or so, a giant skull-shaped cloud appears over a random fort, triggering a raid. Pirates have to fight through at least 10 waves of skeletons, including a final boss at the end of the raid. The boss drops a key to a large stash, which is the prize for the risk of taking the fort. Not only are the skeletons and their canon fire lethal, other pirates can see the skull cloud, and race to the loot, either sabotaging players actively taking the fort, or stealing the loot once the raid is finished.

Three pirate companies dish out gold pieces for the treasure players find. If a treasure chest is found, the “Gold Hoarders” faction will happily pay for it. The “Order of Souls” company purchases magical skulls, which are either stolen, or looted from the most common enemy: the living dead. Also, there is the “Merchant Alliance,” which tasks players to collect animals and other tradable goods such as cannonballs.

When a player reaches level 50 in the original three companies, they earn the status of “Pirate Legend.” Lastly, “Athena’s Fortune” grants voyages to those who have reached max reputation with the other three companies.

The content in “Sea of Thieves” has been lacking since launch. Going on voyages or spamming skull fort raids is very repetitive. Luckily, Rare developers have addressed this since launch, saying that “Sea of Thieves” will evolve over time into a truly satisfying experience. Furthermore, Rare likes to tell players that the point of the game is less about the destination, but the journey it takes to get there. Rare tries to emphasize the adventure in a quest, raid, or voyage, not just the reward.

The freedom that “Sea of Thieves” delivers is by far my favorite aspect of the game. With new adventures being released every few months, some forcing opposing crews to work together, “Sea of Thieves” is a game that creates fantastic stories of classic pirate shenanigans. Whether a crew is involved in a heated skirmish on the high seas, or an espionage scheme where a crew is dedicated to the long con of stealing a huge stash of loot, the game never ceases to keep players talking about it.

Another point that cannot be ignored is Rare’s attention to detail, along with the aesthetics. The graphics are truly a spectacle, especially while on the open seas. I have never taken more screenshots of a video game than in “Sea of Thieves.”

Additionally, Rare has delivered no shortage of Easter eggs. The music sounds like it was produced by “Conker’s Bad Fur Day” developers. The bananas and barrels are straight from “Donkey Kong,” and there is even an island to travel to where a player can hear Diddy Kong yelling at the wind.

As the game evolves, I’m sure my rating will increase. But for now, I give “Sea of Thieves” an 8 out of 10.