Sea of Thieves, the Xbox One’s first major exclusive for 2018, has arrived. It set sail, but the waters seem far from friendly. People going into the endeavor are coming away with mixed experiences. But whether their thoughts are positive or negative, there is one overarching, general impression. That is, it can sometimes feel like Rare did not exactly finish this game. Rather than feel like a fully fledged experience, there are lots of issues that make it seem less than ship-shape.
Starting from the very beginning, Sea of Thieves launched and left some passengers on the dock. See, due to issues with servers being temporarily full, it stopped new people from being able to play. You read that right. People would start the game, be stuck offline, and find they had nothing to do. Meanwhile, people who were online would experience issues acquiring gold and loot from their adventures. This was fixed shortly, but it left a sour taste in people’s mouths. Especially after so many stress tests and betas designed to prevent these very problems.
While getting to play is an issue, having things to do while you play is another one of Sea of Thieves’ current problems. There is a distinct lack of content. Very few enemy types exist, so expect to see a lot of skeletons and identical krakens. Scenarios are limited, focusing mainly on skull islands. The cosmetic options are not very varied yet. You can probably play for about five hours and get the exactly look you want, maybe less. The main difference between the full game and beta experiences, at this moment, seems to be cosmetic items costing more now than they did back then. Which is pretty disappointing, seeing as how there was not much new added between the prototype and full version of the game.
This ties into a lack of motivation. Right now, cosmetics are the driving force in Sea of Thieves. This is an experience-based game, much like No Man’s Sky. Since the number of actual experiences is so limited and there is no progression system that alters a player’s abilities, I feel like it puts a cap on how much I would actually want to play. After all, after 10 hours, I am mostly in the same position as someone who began playing about 10 minutes ago. The only difference may be appearance, maybe even ship size, but I found it difficult to find a reason to keep playing when there are not really a lot of reasons to improve myself or different things to do.
Then, there are the inconveniences that come with playing. I am not talking about the trolling and bullying, which is there and to be expected in a game about people who are basically ocean criminals. Sea of Thieves has these frustration systems built in, and seems like it will get even more. One is the brig system. If you use the matchmaking system to be randomly assigned to a crew, and the other people in the crew don’t care for you, they can vote to send someone to the brig. You are trapped in the brig and there is no time limit for how long you’ll be in there. The only way out is to exit the game and rejoin. Somehow, that seems counter-intuitive when you're trying to encourage cooperation on teams.
It feels a lot like Sea of Thieves is not entirely done. Like this is more of an in-progress project, with every early adopter acting as a paid tester. Considering how little is actually immediately available, it gets old quick. Especially since there are not many incentives to keep playing and growing. Add in annoying mechanics, like the brig and eventual death tax, and it leads to one discouraging and disappointing experience.