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Est. April 2016. III Version 2.0. III

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SEA OF THIEVES
A battle between content & quality that will rage on for months to come.
REVIEW
By MIKE HAZLETON
04/04/18

A game that splits opinion unlike any other, Sea of Thieves is selling by the ship-bailing-bucket load, but stories of boredom or lack of value abound across the salty seas of the Internet. In truth, both sides have good arguments. This return to form for Rare (their best game on a Microsoft platform) gives you a fixed map dotted with islands to explore, outposts filled with friendly traders, skeleton forts to defeat and a few secrets thrown in, but the real heroes are the seas themselves, and the thieves (other players) you will encounter or team up with.

The most incredible water effects in a videogame to date can't save Sea of Thieves from becoming a chore if you are matched with random players in the wrong spirit, or if you’re playing alone with the wrong attitude. It's completely possible to love the game in both situations, but you really should try the game on Games Pass first to see if it's for you. Get a good crew, play it as an adventure and not with the goal to grind as much as possible, and you will fall in love. More content is absolutely required very soon, however, or a mutiny will be afoot.

THE BASICS - Live a pirate's life in multiplayer-only servers focused around team-based ship combat, exploration and questing.

PLATFORMS - Xbox One, and PC.

PLAYERS - Online - 1 - 16 (?)

CO-OP? MULTIPLAYER? - Multiplayer only. You can have a ship to yourself, though it makes the game significantly harder!

DOWNLOADABLE CONTENT - Free content for the foreseeable future, plus a premium (cosmetic) store to be released shortly.

TARPS? - At the bottom of all our reviews, you’ll see a series of absurd looking images (with equally stupid, in joke laden names). These are the TARP badges, which represent our ‘Totally Accurate Rating Platform’. They allow us to identify specific things, recognise positive or negative aspects of a games design, and generally indulge our consistent silliness with some visual tomfoolery.

REVIEWS KEY:

The Look - Art style, graphics, and overall presentation.
The Feel - Mechanics, controls, and learning curve.
The Sound - Music, sound effects, and dialogue.
The Experience - Anecdotes and random thoughts.

There is nothing quite like hearing the thud of a hopeful spade against a freshly unearthed chest.
Good ol’ Rare. The sound design throughout Sea of Thieves is excellent.

LET US KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS ARTICLE!
LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW, TWEET US @JAYTEE_GA, OR E-MAIL: EDITOR@JTGA.CO.UK.

The BEST WITH FRIENDS badge is earned if a game is significantly more fun playing with people you know, either in campaign or online.

The PICK UP AND PLAY badge is for when a game is better suited to brief, impromptu sessions that give a quick blast of escapism.

The LONE WOLF badge tells you that a particular game can only be played, or is more enjoyable, when
you’re flying solo.

The DEEP DIVE badge is a heads up that what you’re about to play is a huge undertaking, and best enjoyed in extended periods.

The KITCHEN SINK badge is an indication of a game that is
bursting at the seams with content (either on disc or DLC).

The BAM! DONE! badge lets you know that within minutes of picking up the controller, you can play this like a pro.

The HOT POTATO badge makes a really clear statement: this
game is making waves, and it’s
definitely worth a  look.

The LEARNING CURVE badge is awarded if you’ll need to allow a fair bit of time in
order to fully
grasp the controls.

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FINAL SCORE:

TARP BADGES:

The SCEPTICAL FACE badge is for when a game doesn’t leave a strong first impression. Perhaps more
time is needed to decide?

The LEFT FIELD badge is awarded when a game surprises us by being really good and it hadn’t previously been on our radar.

The HMM… FIREWORKS badge is earned when a game features excellent particle, lighting, or atmospheric effects.

The BARREL OF LAUGHS badge is for when a game boasts a keen, sharp wit and several laugh out loud moments.

The BIG STINKER badge is awarded when a huge AAA budget title turns out to be a letdown that leaves us feeling cold.  

The BOOTS ON THE GROUND badge is for a game you need to play as soon as possible. Don’t leave this one for your backlog!

The SMALL FRY badge is for a title from a smaller development team that is absolutely worth your time and should not be ignored.

The LOBBY LAG badge is for when the multiplayer side of things is lacking features, and/or runs very poorly.

The SLICK RICK badge is earned when the soundtrack, effects, and / or overall audio design is fantastic across the board.

The COUCH MADNESS badge is awarded when a game nails split/same screen gameplay.

The CAPTAIN KEYES badge is for a game that has memorable, well written characters that leave a lasting impression.

The LAME WAD badge is used in the event a game has particularly bad dialogue or cheesy voice acting that distracts from the story.    

The RE-TARP badge is earned when a game offers more of the same. It’s up to you to decide whether that’s good or bad.

The HOMEBOY badge is for the kind of game that is perfect for playing at home, AND when you’re on the go.  

The MILO & KATE badge is for a game that we don’t think will look the same from reveal to release, or perhaps even see the light of day…  

The MIS-TARPED badge is for a game that’s supposed to represent one genre, but turns into something else.

The SHOVELWARE badge is for something that feels rushed, or launches without key features that would have made a big difference.

The IT’S A TARP! badge is awarded when a game offers a real challenge, in single player and/or multiplayer.

The ON ME! JONESY! badge is earned when getting into a multiplayer game is quick and easy, with a robust matchmaking / party system.

The BREACH ON ZULU badge is awarded for a game that consistently demands intelligent strategy / tactics.

The TRANSPORTER BUFFER badge is for a game that requires you to carefully manage your inventory and supplies.

The JUST ONE MINUTE MAN badge is for a game that keeps making you come back for just one more go.

The TOO MANY TARPS badge is awarded when a game has a lot of content, but no real substance or depth.

The JUMPED THE TARP badge is for a game that has had one too many sequels, and should be radically rebooted or retired completely.

The PICK N’ MIX badge is awarded for a game that has a wide variety of things to do, or continually presents new mechanics / ideas.  

The SCRATCH THAT RASH badge is for a game you should take a risk on. You might love it!  

The HYPE-O-SPRAY badge is for a game that has, or may yet become, a victim of its own hype.

The 1, 2, DITCH badge is for a game that has been poorly explained and/or received a lot of bad press.

The BOOGEYMAN TWO badge is for a game with a collection of strong, varied enemies to face.

The SEA OF THIEVES badge is for a co-op game that is truly memorable.

The WEAPON DROP badge is for a game that features superb weapon / item design.

The YOSHI’S EYELIDS badge is for a game where the facial animation leaves much to be desired…

The BREAK THE TARGETS badge is for a game that has excellent side quests and/or optional missions and activities.

The YAR! BEARS! badge is for a game that is played (or should be played) by Adam Burleigh.

The SHODDY CODDY badge is for a game includes mechanics or controls that just don’t feel right.

The TROLLOLOL badge is for a game with sudden spikes in difficulty.

The WAGGLE YOUR LIPS badge is for a game with terrible pacing and/or too often takes control away from the player.

The KABOOM! badge is for a game that has excellent explosions (with Halo 1 frag grenades being the gold standard).

The PUMPKIN LOOK badge is for a game where the art style, graphics, and/or presentation are on top form.

The FALCO FEEL badge is earned when the gameplay mechanics, controls, and/or learning curve feel just right.

The POPPY SOUND badge is for a game where the music, sound effects, and/or dialogue are superb.

The POM POM EXPERIENCE badge is earned when a game produces numerous great anecdotes or stories.

The QUANTUM OF SOLACE badge is for a game that is played (or should be played) by Mike Hazleton.

The DEALBREAKER badge is for a game where one or two crucial mis-steps is enough to put you off.

The SARU’S GANGLIA badge is for a game that does a great job of immersing you in its world.

The FADING CIRCLE badge is for a game with extremely poor environmental interactivity and/or object physics.

The SCRIPT SUPERVISOR badge is for a game with incredibly quotable dialogue.

The BEVERLY badge is for a game so good that it would make even Jean-Luc Picard want to spend time with Wesley.

The WII SPORTS badge is for a game that even non-gamers would recognise as being something truly special.

The BUFF TING badge is for a game that has an excessive number of patches, or requires a huge day 1 update.

The LEAVES ON THE LINE badge is for a game where awkwardly placed geometry and/or bad level design causes you to get unintentionally stuck.

The DISCO TECH badge is for a mini game compilation or party game that’s (perhaps surprisingly) really good!

The OOKLA badge is for a game with inconsistent server performance and/or frequent lag.

The LOOT ON THE ROOT badge is for a game with lots of different collectibles, items, and other bits and pieces.

The OOBLEH! badge is for a game that has a dodgy or inconsistent framerate.

The DIGITAL FOUNDRAJON badge is for a game that pushes technical boundaries with cutting edge presentation.

The ATOUBA badge is for a game that features a loveable character (or characters).

The IT WORKS SO WELL badge is for a game with characters you’re truly invested in.

The CLONE WARS badge is for a game with lots of repeated character models.

The JASON DUFNER badge is for a game with a limited choice of playable characters.

The CONGLOMERATE badge is for a game where characters frequently clip through surfaces.

The CLOONEY badge is for a game with outstanding character design.

The SKYPE RINGTONE badge is for a game with a catchy soundtrack that you can’t help but love.

The WAR-ROCK! badge is for a game that absolutely deserves ongoing player support.

The LAWBREAKERS badge is for a game that is unlikely to get long term player support.

The EPIC RESPAWN badge is for a game with superb post launch developer support.

The TEARS OF BORE badge is for a series that just needs a break. Please. Just stop.

The NOOB COMBO badge is for a game that lacks balance in multiplayer.

The SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES badge is for a game that unnecessarily restricts co-op and/or multiplayer.

The JACK CARVER badge is for a game with stereotypical or unimaginative characters.

The ROMULAJON badge is for a game that is played (or should be played) by
Jay Tee.

The BLEEDING EYES badge is for a game where bump mapping doesn’t happen as often as you might think…

The BEN’S PISS CUP badge is for inexcusably lazy game design that both confuses and infuriates.

The MOLYNEUX’S LIES badge is for a game which fails to deliver on basic promised features.

The ROLL THE DICE badge is for a game surrounded by easily avoidable controversy.

The THEY’VE FU**ED IT badge is for a game that really should have been so much better…

The TEN DAY RETURNS badge is for a game so disappointing you wish you could get your money back.

… MORE TARPS WILL BE ADDED SOON!

WAVE RACE - Not only does Sea of Thieves have the finest water and wave effects in existence, but the dynamic storms are backed up by wonderful lighting to give every time you play a distinct feel.

THAT'S SO RANDOM - Player characters are created in an innovative screen where a set of models are randomly generated in front of you. The idea being that you end up with a character that looks more like a pirate and less like a videogame store sales assistant mutant.

MEDIUM-RARE - Sea of Thieves looks like a Rare game. Characters and the animals that inhabit the islands are wonderfully realised, while the ships themselves are clearly a labour of love. More customisation options are definitely needed, however.

Relaxed co-op games are few and far between. The chance to take to the seas with your best buddies, fight skeletons and other crews, is too good an opportunity to miss. But the lack of variety does need addressing.

CHICKEN CO-OP - There's nothing in gaming that compares to teaming up with a buddy, navigating your ship together and fighting off other pirates. Co-op is essential to get the most out of Sea of Thieves, so make sure you have at least one partner lined up to play with.

LOAD THE MAN CANNON - This is one of those games where if you think something is possible, then it probably is. Daring manoeuvres, firing crewmates from cannons, playing your instruments underwater as your ship sinks… Rare just get what makes games fun.

ALL HANDS ON DECK - It can be quite a challenge to stay on top of all aspects of pirating, even with a full crew. 2 man or solo teams have a smaller ship, but even these require high levels of teamwork to control.

A PIRATE'S LIFE FOR ME - Although there are only three shanties, the ability to sync playing them with your crewmates, and tweaked audio based on your playing location (and drunkeness!) will result in you humming them between sessions once back on dry land.

EYE OF THE STORMZY - Background music drops in and out to suit the atmosphere of what you are doing. Being below deck during a storm and hearing the waves crash against the hull and the wood creaking is a glorious experience.

RARE DIALOGUE - Unfortunately, there isn't anywhere near full voice acting in the game for NPCs, though updates to this are coming. Communicating with other players can take place with set phrases and emotes, but you can also hear enemies if they are close enough, really adding to the intensity of combat and giving new layers of strategy.

GET ON BOARD - One of the purest co-operative experiences out there, Rare has undoubtedly succeeded in their aim with Sea of Thieves. If you are looking for Destiny at sea, this isn't for you. A game for laid back, imaginative and fun-loving players at present, but Rare will need to add more to get the core on board.

SLIM PICKINGS - Variety is a problem if you are planning to play this for hours every day, to reach the end game. There are three quest types and various secrets to uncover, but all follow a similar theme. This isn't a problem if you just play at a relaxed pace, but it will frustrate some gamers. And needs addressing.

MASTER GRIEF - Currently there are balancing problems where ships respawn too close after being sunk in combat, and the fact that they do so loaded with supplies. This makes it easy for griefer players to harry you and effectively ruin your session. There are a few small niggles like this that Rare need to iron out sooner rather than later.