Sea of Thieves launched back on March 20th, 2018 on Xbox One and Windows PC. From legendary developers Rare, whose history spans over 30 years. With games like Conkers Bad Fur Day, Banjo Kazooie, Battletoads, and of course Goldeneye 007, which was the pinnacle FPS on the Nintendo 64. There was a lot of excitement in the lead up to Sea of Thieves, due to the caliber of Rare’s team and the fact it was a brand new IP. After what many considered a very lackluster year in terms of first-party output from Xbox in 2017, the spotlight was focused on Rare.
Sea of Thieves launched to mixed reviews, eventually settling on a 69 on Metacritic. Mechanically is where Sea of Thieves shined, with some of the best sailing mechanics we have seen since Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag. There was a significant learning curve to the sailing, with many different factors that could affect your sailing, it quickly became clear that the game had a very high skill ceiling. One very skilled sailor could outmaneuver and outwit a full crew of four if they were wily enough. It added a certain level of unknown factor to the game, you never 100% knew what you could be up against while running into other players. Sea of Thieves was an absolute graphical showcase on Xbox One X with one of the best uses of HDR this generation, the sheer beauty of the game could take your breath away at times. The biggest complaint that many reviewers and players quickly found though was that there was very little variety in content. Which caused many people to fall out of love with the game as quickly as they fell in love with it. Many felt that the lack of a single player campaign or a campaign of any sort was a shortcoming for the game. Considering Rare’s track record with campaigns, this criticism is fair, and part of me always wished that Sea of Thieves had launched with a classic “Rare” style campaign. However, they communicated very early on that the game was focused on player interactions and about creating your own adventure.
After a rough out the gate start, many were worried about what this could mean for Rare in terms of their next project or if the game didn’t maintain enough players could they drop support? Borrowing from the pages of Rainbow Six Siege, No Man’s Sky, and countless other games this generation, Rare knuckled down and got to work. Communicating with fans via forums and social media, the developers certainly seemed to quickly assess the situation and began working on a solution. The first big DLC released in May 2018 titled The Hungering Deep, which saw new quest lines being added for players to complete as well as a new sea monster in which to battle. The Megalodon was a hit with players, the challenge of fighting the massive sea monster, while sometimes requiring more than one crew in order to bring the creature to its knees. Player response to this update was very positive, which seemed to only motivate Rare to push even more.
The next DLC drop landed two months later on July 31st, which brought even more big changes to the game. AI controlled Skeleton ships were added, which changed how sea battles were fought in terms of PVP. You could be embroiled in combat with an enemy crew, fighting for your life to then get blindsided by an AI Skeleton ship. This update also saw the addition of the three-player Brigatine ship, which meant players could play solo, or in two, three, and four player ship sizes. Now in less than a week, one of the most ambitious updates will be released in celebration of the game’s one-year anniversary. With this update brings Shores of Gold, a narrative-driven story experience which brings a series of “tall tales” that players will be able to complete solo or with friends. With this update will also come the long-teased Arena mode, which will bring a separate queue to Sea of Thieves which will allow players to jump into a PVP focused mode competing against rival crews to collect the most loot. With this massive content drop ahead, player numbers will presumably climb even higher.
While many games have had come from behind success stories, most recently, of course, would be Hello Games triumphant return to the public eye with No Man’s Sky. With huge ambitious free updates, No Man’s Sky has found a new life and received a lot of love from players who originally felt scorned. I truly believe that Sea of Thieves is absolutely on the right track. Rare has gone above and beyond many developers with the sheer amount of updates and content that has been made available at absolutely no cost to the players is astounding. While we have seen many games-as-a-service model built games fail, or not be able to recover after disastrous launches. The future of Sea of Thieves is bright, with even more DLC content planned for later this year, as well as constantly recruiting more talent. Rare appears to be in a better place then it has been in years, while many said Sea of Thieves at launch was a sign that Rare had lost its passion. I think over this past year they have proved three times over theat they are dedicated to their game, as well as their players. Let’s raise a mug of grog and toast to the future of Rare.