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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Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition (Xbox One) impressions

I remember playing a little bit of Bulletstorm when it came out for the Xbox 360 in 2011, however it never hooked me and I didn’t spend a lot of time with it. After seeing some coverage of the remaster that released earlier this year I decided I wanted to give it a second chance. I’ve played for an hour or two so far and have really enjoyed my time with it. It certainly feels like a 360 shooter, but that older gameplay and style feel somewhat refreshing in 2017.

The shooting is satisfying, as is the grapple hook which allows you to fling enemies around and pull off sweet moves such as pulling an enemy toward you and kicking them into exposed electrical wires. The text on screen that describes and scores each kill is also quite satisfying. In most shooters your only concern is mowing down enemies as quickly as possible, but in Bulletstorm you get rewarded for killing with style. You use the points you earn to upgrade your weapons and abilities which allow you to take down your enemies in more exciting ways.

The game looks great and plays smoothly on the Xbox One, and never seems to drop in frame rate no matter how many enemies and explosions are on screen. I’m really enjoying the game, and it’s definitely worth picking up if you passed on it during its initial release. The singleplayer campaign will take most players around eight hours to complete, so the $60 price might not justified for some people, but if you happen to find it on sale for around $30 I wouldn’t pass it up.