Is honour amongst thieves enough to keep the community shipshape after all these years?
Is Sea of Thieves Worth Playing in 2022? Yarrgh!!
With the Arena now closed and the imminent release of the long-awaited Skull and Bones, we put together a Sea of Thieves review to question whether the swashbuckling stalwart is still worth playing in 2022.
"There's far more to being a pirate than a blade in your hands and a love of other people's money. It's about finding your way through ancient caverns by lamplight, digging up long lost treasures..." so says the ghost of the pirate king in the tutorial. And while Sea of Thieves in 2022 still lacks a certain depth, there is plenty to keep a budding pirate bosun riveted on the high seas.
We crewed our ship with the whole of the MMO Games writing team and set out on a grand voyage to discover if Sea of Thieves is still worth playing in 2022. About 50 hours later, we all had our sea legs worn in and our peg legs screwed on. Our answer was clearer than a horizon at dawn after a summer storm.
When I look back now at the landlubbers we were when we started, I'm struck by our naivety. We were yet to experience the thrill of cannons roaring at dusk, we were yet to hear the crack of lightning down our mast, and we were yet to know the fear that grips a man's heart when the Kraken rises from its lonely depths.
Yet had we not had these tribulations, then we would not be the swashbuckling brigands that stand here today. Tried and tested in the megalodon-infested waters of Sea of Thieves, we're now bonded by salt and blood -- having swigged more ales than the drunkest of sailors and amassed more plunder than a bosun's favourite niece.
"Honour Amongst Thieves" -- The Awesome Sea of Thieves Community
It is no accident that Sea of Thieves creates such bonds. The cooperative elements are what make the game so appealing in 2022 (and no doubt long into 2023). It's a game designed to stimulate teamwork and cooperation. Successful sailing means working together with constant communication. Much in the same spirit as classic MMORPGs, everyone has a role, and they must play it well to overcome the worst dangers amidst the waves.
Whether its shouting "Ship ahoy" from the crow's nest, guiding the helmsman via magical compasses, or helping players ascend pulley systems in underwater shrines-turned-platforming challenges, Sea of Thieves is all about cooperation -- which in turn breeds community. A reliance on one's teammates, the equitable sharing of loot, a vote-based quest system, synchronised sea shanties; these are all the things that catalyse Sea of Thieves' fantastic and enduing community. It's a game that would make a truly interesting study in game theory.
It turns out, there really is honour amongst thieves. Players genuinely seem to follow the Pirate Code which advocates kindness to new pirates. Strangers, whether they kill you or join your crew, tend to be pretty nice compared to the toxicity of most online games. That's not to say that we weren't hunted down and slain like the lowly seadogs we were, but it does mean that more than once our killers apologised to us first. We were continually mistrustful of other players; one time we fled halfway across the ocean from a pursuing sloop, only to discover that he was just a player logging off who wanted to gift us all the equipment he'd picked up.
Heck, no doubt it's part of the reason why having not been granted an official convention by the Rare developers, players took matters into their own hands, invited the world's foremost shanty band, and got to having a jolly old time.
"A Well Mixed Grog" -- The Elements That Just Make Sea of Thieves Work
Many of the elements that new Sea of Thieves players may find irritating (limited carry capacity, only three ship types, no mini maps, no progression system, no HUD, sails blocking your view) are all in fact well designed to catalyse magic on the waves. No doubt over the years, the devs have been tempted to add more and more features but they've resisted going overboard -- seemingly understanding that by restricting the gameplay, they keep the conditions in which the game thrives.
And these conditions really work. One's own limitations, the over-the-top animations, the Fable on the Seven Seas style humour, and the general clumsiness of gameplay facilitates an experience which is nothing short of hilarious. Working out who to trust, getting it wrong, trying out outlandish manoeuvres, having rings run around you by more experienced players... it's enough to send even the bitterest of writers back into that glorious state of childhood silliness -- something that only a great game seems to be able to do. The game has a sense of nostalgia even for players who have never played before.
Is it perfect? Of course not. Even as we unlocked and embarked on new types of quests, voyages, and narrative-driven Tall Tales, we were rarely under any allusions as to whether our core objectives would differ wildly from fetching-and-recovering loot. Had I started playing upon its release back in 2018, I probably would have stopped playing by now. But as a new player who has taken it up four years late, I feel that the Emissary PvP, epic Tall Tales, and regular events have more than enough to keep me intrigued for months to come.
"Fresh Fish a'Danglin" -- Sea of Thieves' Changes and Updates
Having introduced Seasons at the beginning of 2021, Sea of Thieves is now full steam ahead towards Season 9. Long-time players give Seasons a lot of credit for injecting new life into the community. We played during the two-week The Herald of the Flame event and must say that we weren't particularly impressed with it. It's nice to have a longer, more epic adventure but, much like the Pirates of the Caribbean story campaign "A Pirate's Life", I found it to be slower and less satisfying than just heading out exploring.
Nonetheless, if you're an ex-player and you're wondering if Sea of Thieves in 2022 is a prospect worth returning to -- they have introduced some awesome new opportunities for exploration. Three of our favourites include: raid-like Sea Forts, gold-laden puzzle-style Ancient Vaults, and siren-infested underwater Shrines.
And look, the most commonly levied criticism of Sea of Thieves is still true in 2022 -- the lack of vertical progression means that the gameplay is inherently a bit superficial (we're sure there's a reversed "Still waters run deep" metaphor opportunity here somewhere). Chances are that if you grew bored of the game already, the new ability to re-bury treasure won't lure you back. Nor will the fairly uninspired roadmap.
But for those of us who love a "tools not rules" sandbox adventure, then we'd argue the title is absolutely worth picking up. The pirate captain ghost was right, there is far more to being a pirate than a blade in your hands. Any gamer could pick up Sea of Thieves in 2022 and have a glorious time navigating by the stars, firing jig-balls at enemies, watching the sky battles between cloud ships, shooting off barrages of fireworks, and continually swapping out the reasonably priced aesthetics.
So, is Sea of Thieves worth playing in 2022?
By Neptune, you can bet ya bottom doubloon it is! If you're a new player, Sea of Thieves is filled with laughs, adventure, a satisfying lack of handholding, and a welcoming community. You can often find discounts for it, it features Xbox crossplay, and it's a stalwart of the Xbox Game Pass. And if you're a returning player, the new content might not blow your mind, but Sea of Thieves is such a great pick-up-and-go game, that you have very little to lose from unfurling the sails once more.