Sea of Thieves

We check in on Sea of Thieves to mark its PS5 launch

One of Microsoft's most successful modern Xbox titles is now coming to the rival platform. But what is it like to play?

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So, when I first experienced Sea of Thieves on Xbox way back in 2018, we immediately gathered a crew here in the office and stayed after work to dig up treasure, smash skeletons and navigate the rolling sea. We laughed, discussed and turned over every stone, and went home with a firm agreement to do exactly the same the next day.

And we did, but already the magic was over. Meeting new players was still a thrilling adrenaline rush, but it became infinitely clear after just six to ten hours of co-op gameplay that Sea of Thieves simply didn't have much more to offer beyond this otherwise pretty amazing instant entertainment. There was a need for systems, for mechanics, and for content.

But that was six years ago, and if Rare can be credited with anything, it's that they have worked hard to drastically improve the three aforementioned aspects of the overall experience. A myriad of major expansions have been introduced, key partnerships with other IPs have been formed and, above all, there has been a steady stream of content added.

Sea of Thieves
This is what landed in just one year - Rare didn't hesitate.
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Now that the game is out on PS5, let's take stock of what Sea of Thieves really is for those who are now considering whether the game is worth a purchase.

The game has received 11 seasons to date across the six years or so it has been on the market, within these there are countless expansions that significantly increase the amount of content and the number of active gameplay systems. The Hungering Deep, Skeleton Thrones, The Sunken Curse, Cursed Sails, Forsaken Shores, Anniversary Update, Festival of Giving, Heart of Fire, and Vault of the Ancients are just a few examples, each of which adds so-called "Tall Tales", or rather exciting missions. But there are also bigger single-player campaigns now, such as A Pirate's Life, which is a collaboration with Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Legend of Monkey Island, which kind of introduces itself.

The latter two are truly campaigns with cutscenes, dialogue sequences, a story to follow and content to complete. You can see trailers below that stage these stories.

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11 seasons, tonnes of content, but does it matter? In some ways, yes. There are new microtransactions, there are plenty of them to say the least, but there's also a whole host of streamlining that makes it easier to sell the loot you've found, for example, there's more life on the oceans now occupied by the occasional Kraken, a Megalodon here and there is just the beginning, and while it's all still very contract-based, there's just far more variety here.

There are also new activities, such as fishing, but other than that, Sea of Thieves is still primarily about sailing, and you sail for a long time. A long time. It's beautiful while you're sailing, make no mistake about it, but that's what you're doing. It's not like it's a weak point, because with the right crew, it's fun to fool around on the ship and eventually bump into enemies along the way. I only say this to emphasise that this central core of Sea of Thieves is the same as it was back in 2018.

In conjunction with the launch of the PS5 version, I've tried to look at new content, such as the new Siren Treasuries, which primarily highlights that while Sea of Thieves' combat system is kinetic and physical enough to not feel decidedly unbalanced, it's also not something that directly sparks your imagination. And there's no real loot to continuously improve your gear either. There are no stats and the changes that are introduced are purely cosmetic.

Sea of Thieves
There is now a Battle Pass and extra microtransactions. And it doesn't really matter that they are "just" cosmetic.

This is seen by many as a breath of fresh air, and perhaps it is, but it also means that combat is pretty static, and the best Sea of Thieves experiences still happen on deck against a Kraken, or with friends on a perilous quest without necessarily interacting with the various game systems on a more granular level. There's more content and more variety, yes, but that doesn't mean the game has changed its identity.

But it is commendable, because Sea of Thieves has solved many of its core problems in 2024, and today stands out as an impressive co-op game to say the least. "Co-op" is the operative word here, though, because it really, really needs friends with their microphones on, and a few hours to burn at a time for that matter, to fill the intentional voids Rare has left at the heart of the experience.

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REVIEW. Written by Kieran Harris

"It may not be all smooth sailing, but Rare's Sea of Thieves manages to deliver a cooperative experience like nothing we've ever experienced before."

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