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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I wish Battleborn wasn’t dead

Yesterday I played Battleborn for the first time on PC (I had previously played it on Xbox around launch, but it’s sat in my Steam library for awhile from a Humble Bundle) and unfortunately it was pretty much dead. I played through the tutorial missions (the story one and the versus one) and then tried to hop into multiplayer and was met with an agonizing wait just to find five people for a bot match. Apparently you’re limited to just 5 vs bots early on to make the game a better experience for new players. When I did find players, most of them were higher levels, and from talking to some of them it seems they only play the bot mode because it’s the only place they can find a match. Sure enough, when I played enough to unlock 5v5 versus I couldn’t find a match. I waited and waited and waited…. you get the picture. The most I found was one other player, but it never queued up any more than that, so finding 8 additional players seemed hopeless.

From there I jumped back into a few bot matches, in which I could actually find four other players. The bot matches are fun to play, but we won every single one 100-0 so it wasn’t very rewarding. It’s disappointing that the player base is so barren, because I think the game is quite enjoyable. I like it more now that I played it on PC than I did on the Xbox, and I especially enjoy the visual style and the way the music gets more intense toward the end of a match. It was a lot of fun playing, but there doesn’t seem to be much future for the game. I’m left wishing Overwatch would add a MOBA mode.

Battleborn’s last breath?

Earlier today the struggling shooter Battleborn effectively went “free to play”, validating the long standing rumor that it would indeed end up being free. Most would agree that Battleborn’s troubles are mostly due to the fact that the game launched just before Blizzard’s Overwatch, which quickly took off to become one of the hottest games of 2016. It may not have been fair to compare the two games, as they play quite differently, but they were similar enough in most people’s eyes that they decided to pick one title (Overwatch for most) and stick with it.

I was incredibly excited for Battleborn’s launch, especially after reading about how it would blend MOBA gameplay with a shooter. As someone who was a casual fan of MOBAs (but never any good at them) it seemed like it would be the perfect game for me. I eagerly awaited its launch, and early on I found it to be fun, if a little slow moving. As days went by, however, I found that the hardcore player-base got so good that I couldn’t have fun playing anymore as I would be overwhelmed by more skilled players. What made things worse was that teams of randoms never seemed willing to communicate, and I would often get matched against teams of players who were mic’d up.

As Overwatch neared release I started to get more and more excited by the hype surrounding it. I caved and bought it for PC on release day which ultimately led to me never returning to Battleborn. I had so much fun in Overwatch from the very first moment I launched it that I couldn’t see myself wasting any time playing Battleborn that could be better spent in Overwatch. Once or twice, out of curiosity, I tried to give Battleborn another try, but each time I was met with longer and longer matchmaking times (on the Xbox One) only to have to spend thirty minutes or so to complete a match when I finally got in. This didn’t prove to be fun, whereas in the same time span I could’ve played two or three games of Overwatch. More recently I launched Battleborn one last time, only to sit at the matchmaking screen for a full twenty minutes without finding a match (there were no server issues reported with either Xbox or Battleborn at the time).

I’ve always felt like if Battleborn ever wanted to make a splash at all, it should have gone free to play long ago. It remains to be seen if the free to play model will have a significant impact on the game’s player-base and perception going forward, however I personally think that I’ve already had my fill. Still, I’m going to try it out on PC (I already own it on PC from a Humble Bundle) to see if the new influx of players can make things fun. I’ll be sure to post an update after playing a round or two of the PC version of the game to see if any of my feelings have changed.

Lawbreakers looks sweet!

Cliff Bleszinski and Boss Key Productions’ debut game, Lawbreakers, revealed a new trailer yesterday and it’s began to generate a lot of hype around the game. I hadn’t heard a lot about the game previously (though I did get a Lawbreakers hat in a Loot Crate awhile back) and the trailer was my first time seeing the game. I’m already sold. I can’t stop watching the trailer, and I’m finding myself already salivating over the game.

Lawbreakers will cost just $29.99 when it releases later this year (I assume we’ll get a date at E3) on PS4 and PC. If the price seems too good to be true, it’s worth noting that there will be no season pass, and all future updates will be free. There will be a loot box system in place, but all items will be purely cosmetic.

If you want a better look at how the game will play, there are several mode tutorials on Lawbreaker’s YouTube channel which show you how some of the game modes will work.

I can’t wait to see more at E3, and look forward to what might become 2017’s Overwatch.

Gumballs Plays: PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS (22 May)

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Watching me player PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS is probably like watching paint dry. I tend to make a beeline for a building, stock up on whatever’s inside, and then find somewhere to hide in a cowardly manner for as long as humanly possible. This strategy has worked in my favor more often than it seems like it should, as I’ve often gotten lucky and ended up well inside the circle early on. In tonight’s game I scored 3 kills, my highest yet, but unfortunately I’m still terrible once I get out into the open as the circle contracts toward the end, and this is where I always meet my fate.

As boring as it is to watch, I love playing this way. It’s incredibly tense. In tonight’s game I heard someone pull up in a vehicle, get out and open the door downstairs. The footsteps got closer and closer and I felt sure they were going to burst through the door and kill me at any moment. Then, for whatever reason, they turned around, went back downstairs, got into their vehicle and drove off. My heart was racing as I stood up to watch them drive away.

The next person to enter the house wasn’t so lucky. Unfortunately, I eventually had to leave my shelter (I probably could’ve stayed awhile longer) and work my way toward the new safe zone and my ultimate death.