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The Most Disappointing Game of 2018: Sea of Thieves

VO: Riccardo Tucci WRITTEN BY: Jarett Burke
Sea of Thieves isn't a terrible game, but after all the hype and promises, we were just expecting more. The game was just too bare-bones when it launched. so join MojoPlays as we explore why Sea of Thieves was was more leaky cog than elegant schooner.

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This year, the most disappointing game of the year was a toss up between “Sea of Thieves” and “Fallout 76”. Both games had different reasons that made them a major letdown. But the reason why “Sea of Thieves” took the top spot; was because it had a lot more importance riding on it to be a success. Let’s look at why:

First of all, this was poised for being the Xbox One’s killer app. Something the console was desperately lacking especially in the face of Sony and Nintendo’s critically acclaimed exclusives. And with sales for the console struggling, Microsoft really needed a win here to give gamers a reason to go for their console over the competition.

Secondly, this was gearing up to be legendary developer ‘Rare’s’ big return. Rare’s golden years for those who are unaware; were in the late 90s when they were partnered with Nintendo. They garnered a massive fanbase with classic titles like "Donkey Kong Country", "Goldeneye", "Banjo-Kazooie" & "Perfect Dark" just to name a few. However after Microsoft purchased the company, the quality in their titles suddenly took a nose dive, to the point where they were commissioned to create Kinect games. But at the start of the 8th console generation, Microsoft started to treat Rare’s properties with more respect, with a reboot of Killer Instinct and releasing the Rare Replay bundle. So it finally looked like Microsoft was finally allowing Rare to be well … Rare again.

Well it turns out it wasn’t to be.

There was an initial mystery of figuring out how the game’s systems worked, which was fun for a short time with a group of friends and had us looking forward to exploring the world of “Sea of Thieves” at large. But after the initial excitement wore off, it became clear that its “figure it out yourself” attitude was not for everyone and can be very frustrating. Even starting a simple voyage is much harder than it has to be and made us wonder just how much thought was put into this game for those wanting to simply pick up and play. Thus, the game’s opening comes down to a series of trials and errors.

Once you learn the basics and you’re off sailing the seas the worst is yet to come, unfortunately, in that the gameplay is incredibly repetitive. On the one hand, once you’ve learned how to sail a ship and fix up its holes and leaks, you’ve basically uncovered all there is to learn. On the other, there are really only three mission types: finding treasure, killing undead pirates and delivering animals. And the three mission types really all come down to fetch quests with some incredibly simple swordplay in between. So, in terms of gameplay, the game is quite shallow overall and, especially when playing solo, boredom crept in very early on.

What makes all this worse is that there’s no real progression/reward system, which led us to constantly question whether running another mission was even worth it in the first place. Gold is the main plunder, obviously – but it only unlocks more voyages and cosmetics that don’t affect gameplay. Thus, grinding to increase reputation and reach legendary pirate status resulted in some fancy new clothes, some more colorful guns but little else – and nothing truly meaningful. Couple the repetitive gameplay with the lack of progression and our motivation to see one more island quickly waned.

But Sea of Thieves’ missteps don’t stop at the game itself. One of its misguided goals was that it relied far too heavily or marketing itself towards Twitch Live Streamers and Let’s Players. Sure it’s really fun to watch 4 over the top personalities cause shenanigans on the high seas, but not every gamer is a streamer, as they only make up a small percentage of the gaming market. So everyone else’s mileage was going to vary depending on if they could get 3 other friends that were highly invested into being pirates. Even then, there was also the hurdle of getting all your friends available to play the game at the exact same time, assuming they’d even want to play it with all the negative press.

However "Sea of Thieves" biggest sin is one that was also committed by “Fallout 76”. In that they were both aiming to be live service titles akin to the likes of “Destiny” or “The Division”, but failed to commit a sufficient amount of initial content necessary, to attract a sustainable player base at launch. Instead what we had were shells of a game with the promise of potential much later, which is not how you should release your game, be it in 2018, 2008 or even 1998. We’ve talked about Live Service titles before, and while we don’t think they’re inherently bad. Making a good first impression is extremely important, because both games are now forever stained with bad metacritic scores that’s going to make attracting new players an uphill battle.

Yet "Sea of Thieves" has provided recent content updates to try to win players back. But once again, the amount of content each update provided does woefully little to keep its player base occupied for lengthy periods. That really sums up the overarching problem of “Sea of Thieves” as a whole: It expects too much from its player base, while offering too little in return. And that right there is the very reason why it is the most disappointing game of 2018.

Microsoft & 343 Studios: You’d better not pull this crap with Halo Infinite.

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