Sea of Thieves Review

A few nights ago my brother and I set sail to hunt down a couple treasure chests. It was the first time I had set sail in Sea of Thieves with another player, and it was my brother’s first time playing at all. We tracked down a few treasure chests, sailed them back to an outpost and for the first time in our time with the game we spotted another ship. It was sitting idle outside the outpost as we tried to slowly cruise toward the shore to unload our bounty. As we unloaded the treasure, I felt my pulse pick up as I wasn’t sure if the players on the ship would be friendly or try to spoil our efforts. At first it didn’t seem like anyone was around, however as I emerged out of the water and onto the beach I saw a figure jump off the mystery ship and start swimming toward our own. I quickly ordered my brother to head back to the ship to protect our other chest as I sprinted to the vendor to turn in the one I was hauling. Just as I returned to the water I saw the figure atop our ship burst into a puff of smoke as my brother dispatched him before he could steal the other chest.

We were able to turn both chests in without further trouble, and set sail again. Shortly after we happened to see another small ship in the distance and decided to sail toward it to see what it was doing. As we approached we began to hear the burst of cannon fire as a menacing galleon came into view. Luckily, it wasn’t firing toward us, but rather at the other small two person ship. We watched from a safe distance for awhile, and eventually decided to sail directly between the two while I stood on the deck of our ship playing my accordion. One of the players on the galleon waved and then got back to firing cannonballs over our ship, occasionally landing a hit on the other sloop. At that point my brother dropped the anchor and joined in on the music as cannonballs flew back and forth over our heads. After some time had passed there was a short pause in the cannon fire. Maybe the ships had decided to leave each other alone?

A moment later the cannon fire continued, but sounded much closer. I turned around and saw one of the players from the galleon loading cannon balls into one of our cannons and firing at the sloop! Unsure what to make of the situation I walked up to the player and continued playing the music, at this point bursting out laughing at the absurdity of the situation. He fired a few more shots from our cannon and then nonchalantly strolled over to our barrel of cannonballs, emptied it out and jumped overboard toward his ship! The laughter continued as he reappeared on the deck of the galleon and continued firing from his own cannon with our cannonballs. My brother and I were left defenseless, but at least no one seemed bothered to fire on us. Eventually the sloop decided to give up and sped out of reach of the galleon. The galleon returned to port, and my brother and I departed on our next adventure.

I’ve seen a lot of people complain that Sea of Thieves offers too little for players to do, and therefore is boring. While it is true there’s little variety in the structured quests or missions of Sea of Thieves (you’ll either hunt down treasure, collect and deliver merchandise or hunt down skeletons and return their skulls) there’s still plenty of fun to be had. You can almost compare Sea of Thieves to Minecraft in a sense that the real fun comes from the experiences you have interacting with other players. You may have some fun building structures in Minecraft, but for me some of the most memorable moments were born out of interactions with my brother while playing (for example, the time we burst out laughing after filling our entire inventories with railing, lying down an incredibly long mine cart track, only to realize we left the mine carts all the way on the other end and had to slowly trek back).

I’ve had fun hunting for treasure in Sea of Thieves, but there’s not a lot of reward for completing the tasks assigned by the factions. Sure eventually I’ll have enough gold to customize my ship, but most of the tasks feel like busy work. This would make the game boring if it weren’t for all the high jinks  to be had along the way. There was the time I was up in the crow’s nest and spotted a rock poking out from the rough waves dead ahead. I called the obstacle out to my brother, but we still continued right toward it. I turned around to see the ship’s wheel unoccupied and heard laughter in my headset as my brother apparently decided to get drunk below deck and couldn’t navigate back up the stairs to take the wheel. We hit the rock.

Sea of Thieves isn’t always lighthearted fun. There have been plenty of tense moments as we approached a port only to spot the lantern light of a galleon in the distance. Did they spot us? We ask ourselves as we frantically run around the ship extinguishing all of our own lanterns before dropping the anchor and hoping the rough waves make us difficult to spot. We patiently wait, afraid to risk our bounty beneath deck by approaching the port while unknown players lurk about the island. Eventually they sail away and we creep in as dawn breaks and we unload our chests and skulls in exchange for gold and faction reputation.

Another time we were approaching port when a ship starting tailing us. Maybe they’ll be friendly? As the close the gap between us I break out my accordion, my go symbol to show other players we mean peace. I barely play a note and a cannon ball whizzes past my head. Uh oh! The next one hits the ship and we begin taking on water. We have four skulls below deck that were an absolute pain to retrieve (we probably died 10 times int he process of recovering them) so we decided that fighting back is probably too risky. Instead, in the cover of a storm I jump overboard and carry one skull at a time through the choppy water to the port to turn them in. The enemy ship doesn’t seem to notice as they continue trailing my brother as he circles the island. Slowly but surely I managed to unload all the skulls without losing any of them or the ship. It felt awesome to get away with it all unscathed, even if the ship eventually sank.

Visually, Sea of Thieves is a beautiful game. The first time I looked up at the night sky I was in awe! The water looks amazing in its many forms (from calm, peaceful light blue to menacing dark waves that thrash the ship about) and sunrises and sunsets are impressive. I’ve on occasion just gotten lost admiring the world of the game as I’ve sailed about aimlessly. The game runs smoothly on both my Xbox One X and my PC (GTX 1060, AMD FX 8320 running at 4.0 GHz). I haven’t had any server issues whatsoever, though it may be because I’ve only played at night (after 11 MT). Because of the server issues no achievements have popped for me since launch day (they’ve been temporarily disabled), but other than that I haven’t run into any technical issues with the game.

I’ve played about an hour or two of the game solo, which as many have said already is not the ideal way to play the game. It was fun at first to just sail around the seas listening to a podcast while hunting down skeletons, but without companions the game can be a tad boring. Ultimately Sea of Thieves is an incredible playground that is what you make of it. If you’re driven by quests and accomplishments maybe Sea of Thieves won’t do much for you. However, if you focus less on a more traditional video game experience and open your mind you can have a ton of fun with the game.

Sea of Thieves is available on Xbox and Windows 10 for $59.99 or as part of a Game Pass subscription ($9.99/mo).

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Loving the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 FE!

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Founders Edition box

Last week I upgraded my graphics card from the GTX 960 (2GB OC) to the Founder’s Edition of the GTX 1060. Most people interested in upgraded to the 1060 seemed to prefer to wait for the third party versions of the cards to come back in stock (they sold out quickly just about everywhere), but as someone who really dug the style of the Founder’s Edition cards when they were announced, I had no problem going with stock card from Nvidia.

The card arrived last Thursday and I couldn’t wait to dig into it.

GeForce GTX 1060 FE

I was really impressed with the way the card was presented once I slid the top off the box. I couldn’t help but stare at it in awe for a few moments before pulling it out of its snug fit in the box. The first thing I noticed is that the card had some serious weight to it, seemingly much heavier than my MSI 960.

GeForce GTX 1060 FE

I had never installed a graphics card before, so I was a little nervous trying to remove my 960. The lever to release the card was being pretty stubborn and I had to press down uncomfortably hard to release it. Luckily I got it out without breaking anything (but I swear I felt the motherboard bend) and got the 1060 installed without much problem (it took some maneuvering to get the screw holes to line up with the case).

GeForce GTX 1060 FE LED

Once installed I booted up my PC, got the drivers installed (I was worried at first because the GeForce experience app was gone, apparently I had to redownload it with the new card installed) and after one more reboot I was ready to go. The first thing that I did was launch Fallout 4 and crank every setting as high as it would go. My 960 could run it pretty well on mostly high settings (around 35-45fps if I remember right), but with the 1060 I got a steady 60 with everything maxed out. That excited me, as I’ve never seen such a steady framerate before.

After fooling around for a few moments in Fallout I jumped into Overwatch and set it to epic quality, again with all settings maxed out, and saw a steady 70fps which also made me smile. The only other game I’ve played so far is Black Ops III, which also got a steady 60fps with everything maxed out.

I’ve also noticed that the card doesn’t seem to get very hot while I’m gaming, and it’s whisper quiet all the time. After a few matches of Overwatch yesterday I checked the temperature using the GeForce experience app and it showed 59 degrees just after I exited the game. I haven’t checked how hot it runs during the heat of the moment, but it could be that Overwatch isn’t demanding much of the card. The hottest I’d ever seen my 960 run was in the low 80’s, but that was with overclocking and running a benchmarking app. I haven’t bothered overclocking the 1060 as everything I want to play runs incredibly smooth out of the box.

I’m running on an AMD FX 8320 3.5ghz (liquid cooled and overclocked to 4) and as far as I can tell it’s not preventing the 1060 from delivering a great experience in anything I play. I have not intention of ever running anything higher than 1080p (my desktop is hooked up to my 47″ TV in the living room and that’s all I need) so the 1060 is a great card for my needs. I’m certainly glad I decided to make the upgrade, and look forward putting it to the test as more demanding games come out over the next few years.

My first gaming PC!

So I’m down to the final weeks of this deployment and I decided that I would treat myself to a gaming PC for when I return home. At first I looked long and hard at the Alienware Alpha and Steam Machines, coming really close to picking up an i5 version of the Alpha for $650. However, upon browsing Reddit and Steam message boards I saw an overwhelming amount of negative posts about the Alpha, most regarding hardware failures.

Ultimately I headed to iBuyPower and started putting a desktop together. They were having a sale where basically every component you selected would be upgraded to the next higher version for free. I have to admit, I know absolutely nothing about PC’s (I’ve used a MacBook Pro for the last four years, and it’s done everything I’ve ever needed it to, without ever having any issues) so I kind of went into the ‘building’ process blind. I just picked things that seemed affordable, and ended up with the following build:

AMD FX 8320 processor (with Corsair Hydro Series H55 liquid cooling)
16GB RAM (G.Skill Ripjaws X)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 (2GB)
MSI 970 SLI Krait Edition (motherboard)
600W Power Supply
2TB 7200 RPM hard drive

I have no real clue what any of that means, but I’ve heard it’s not a bad start, although many people have said I should have gotten an i5 CPU over the AMD. All I’m hoping for is the ability to run PC games such as Fallout 4 that will look better and run smoother than they do on my Xbox One.

I’m looking forward to getting home in a few weeks and putting the hardware to use!