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Launch Impressions - A Broken, Shallow Pool

Joseph Bradford Posted:
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Sea of Thieves is the game many people have been looking at saving Microsoft from the idea that they have no first party titles worth purchasing.

Sea of Thieves, in the end, is not that game.

While we’re still working on our full review, I’ve been able to hop into Rare’s shared world pirate game and while I admit there have been many moments where I’ve had some fun, the majority of the experience has been a waiting game - both while sailing and attempting to connect.

Rocky Waters

Launching world wide on Tuesday, Sea of Thieves suffered from the most common issue afflicting games nowadays: launching dead on arrival. Countless stress tests, betas and alphas over the course of the last few years didn’t - and in many people’s opinion can’t - truly prepare Rare for the server overload on launch day. However, it is incredibly important to note that while these launches are nothing new, it doesn’t excuse it when it happens. Game dev and launching a live service is not easy - no one is denying that. However, when it takes fans who bought your product close to hours to get into your game (or if you have to literally lock them out of it because the servers were woefully unprepared), it’s inexcusable.

To put it simply - people spent money on this game. It’s a title that has been hyped for years by Microsoft and sites talking about it, hoping to see Rare return to form after being relegated to Kinect hell. However, on arrival Rare’s game buckled under the combined weight of paying customers and those who paid for Game Pass to access the game. Many who bought the game are blaming Game Pass players, while many are also defending Rare and shouting down anyone who dares point out that products should not release broken. Money exchanged hands, gamers were promised a working product on launch day. By and large they did not receive that.

The first night Sea of Thieves released, I tried to hop on with a fellow writer here at our sister site Gamespace, Poorna Shankar. However, the evening was met with countless “Greybeard”, “Beatnikbeard” (because the game didn’t recognize the crew session), and “Bronzebeard” errors. We could not join a crew together nor could I log into a solo session during the first night.

The next day did not fare better, as Rare had to literally stop new players from being able to play their game in order to iron out these issues.

When it was all said and done, it took 20 hours to finally be able to connect to a game solo or with a friend. Almost a full day after the game launched - and even then it wasn’t fully stable. Rubber banding abounds during gameplay with multiple people nearby (I noticed it mainly when people not in your crew were near you). Once in the game, though, it became readily apparent that what Rare had on display was not much different than the beta testing builds we had played already.

Much has been said about the depth Sea of Thieves would have on launch. Many defenders, and even Rare themselves boasted about the robust experience gamers would have in the full game. However, at the end of the day, what is on offer isn’t all that impressive. Yes, technically the waves and the lighting are phenomenal. But one can only go on so many fetch quests before the bobbing of the boat becomes monotonous.

We’ll have more impressions of the actual gameplay in our final review, but suffice to say that I’ve only been able to get 10 hours in Sea of Thieves thanks to launch issues and I already feel like I’ve seen everything Sea of Thieves has to throw at me. I’ve done a few voyages for the Merchant Alliance and every quest had me grabbing the same two chickens and selling them at the outpost I was at last; the Oath of Souls is nothing more than fighting off the same waves of skeletons, and the Golden Hoarders has you chase down treasure chests. And if you’re lucky enough to get back to an outpost with your loot, you’re in for some gold and reputation increase (assuming the servers can keep up with that right away, as detailed by Rare on Wednesday)

Sea of Thieves was supposed to be a return to form for Rare and the Xbox brand which has sufferred from a lack of compelling first party games of late. However, launch issues mired what could have been a triumphant return for the much-beloved developer. Coupled with questions whether or not the game has any discernible compelling content, life on the seas for Rare is off to a shaky start.


Joseph Bradford

Joseph has been writing or podcasting about games in some form since about 2012. Having written for multiple major outlets such as IGN, Playboy, and more, Joseph started writing for MMORPG in 2015. When he's not writing or talking about games, you can typically find him hanging out with his 10-year old or playing Magic: The Gathering with his family. Also, don't get him started on why Balrogs *don't* have wings. You can find him on Twitter @LotrLore