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Why Sea of Thieves is right to let you forge your own adventure

The Xbox One platform has been starved for a heavy-hitting exclusive for a while now, and with the launch of Sea of Thieves, it looks like that hunger has finally been satisfied. A week from release, the game hosts over two million players and has topped sales charts.

Sea of Thieves review

Despite all of this success, many people have been turned off from the idea of playing the title due to the fact that the game only provides minimal information about the game world and how to complete activities in it. However, I believe that the open-ended and mysterious nature of Sea of Thieves is an integral part of why the gameplay is so satisfying.

The joy of discovery

In Sea of Thieves, most quests (or voyages, as they're called in-game) give you little information about where you need to go. Often times, all you'll have is a map of an island with a red "X" showing where you'll need to dig for treasure, a wanted poster that says the name of the location of a boss, or just a simple request for a certain type of animal. The game refuses to hold your hand; it's up to you to figure out how to find these places or creatures.

Some argue that in such a vast open world, you need detailed directions to help you find the correct way to go, but I disagree. If you put in the work and the effort, it's not overly difficult to find your way. Between frequent world map scanning, a sharp eye on lookout duty, and environmental awareness, objectives will not elude you for long. The real benefit of this system, though, is the fact that it encourages exploration.

Exploration is vital to the process of completing voyages; more often then not, you'll need to narrow down your search for your voyage objective by sailing around to different islands and checking out everything on them, and during this you are bound to discover several opportunities for activities, both on the seas and the shore. These include underwater shipwrecks full of treasure, camps of skeleton enemies, hidden caves, and even other players, among others.

If the game gave you a quest marker immediately and said "go there", though, the benefits of exploration would never come. If you know where to go and how to get there immediately, you'll never interact with the other things in the game world unless you don't do voyages, which is unintuitive compared to what we have now, which makes it possible to do the side activities as you do the main ones.

Your thoughts

What do you think about Sea of Thieves' non-linear quests and the way they drive you to explore the open seas? Let me know in the comments below.

Sea of Thieves is available now for $59.99 on Xbox One, and can be played on a Windows 10 PC via Xbox Play Anywhere. In addition, you can play the game if you are subscribed to the Xbox Game Pass which costs $9.99.

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.

27 Comments
  • The game is open world adventure that should explain most of it, I've been playing since nearly the very start of the beta and we had to figure it out with a lot less online and in game content, that was part of the fun and still is, all any new player has to do is look on YouTube, Twitter, twitch or Mixer to find out how to play, also the official Sea of Thieves forums, Discord or Windows Central!
  • Agree with this article totally, I love the whole experience and have enjoyed the exploring the world...
  • I Agree... That's Why They Give You A Compass... If You Can't Read A Compass, Of Course You Wouldn't Know Where To Go... I Absolutely Enjoy The Game & Looking Forward To The Future Updates.
  • On the flipside it would vastly improve peoples ability to read a compass lol.
  • Yep, you are right! the whole point is to bicker with your friends where to go and solve the riddles together while drunk on grog. Such a great game, I joined some randoms on a galleon and had one of the best gaming experiences of my life!
  • I wouldn't like it any other way
  • The article has a valid point but this game needs content. I know it's coming but I still think the lack of content at launch is disappointing.
  • Oh, for sure. Needs to be more to do.
  • Can't say I'm surprised at another MS apologist article. Seems like everyone at WC is drinking the Kool-Aid nowadays. Anyway, most of the criticism I've seen hasn't been it's too non-linear; it's been the gameplay is shallow and repetitive with no meaningful rewards or character progression. Relying on cosmetic upgrades and creating your own fun isn't a great formula. But to each his/her own.
  • It must be really hard knowing people have different opinions than you.
  • Not at all, hence, my last statement. Maybe you missed it. Or didn't understand it. I was simply stating I've seen little criticism of it being too non-linear and this article, specifically the headline, doesn't appear to serve a purpose other than trying to carry water for MS.
  • We gave Sea of Thieves a very non Kool-Aid score of 3.5/5. Plus plenty of our content is critical of Microsoft. Just sayin'.
  • You can say that, but it doesn't read that way most of the time, just sayin'. I agree with the OP, the premise is great, but the content is shallow.
  • That was never the purpose of this article my dude. Design philosophy is separate from content variety. I don’t disagree with the OP, in fact I wholeheartedly agree, but I’m addressing another aspect of the game entirely.
  • I don't think the complain is about it being too non-linear. Or that they don't hold your hand. Most of the complaint is about CONTENT or lack of it. When we hear "make your own stories and adventure" it usually indicates lack of content by the game creator. They probably just focused on making the big open world but also made it relatively lifeless. This was the exact same with NMS. This is like giving one kid a full price game board game with content and rules and giving another kid an empty cardboard box which cost the same as the board game and tell him "here, use your imagination. Make your own fun". The main complain is not that Rare should hold our hand.
    It's also about what looks like the randomly generated generic fetch quests with no story and purpose. It's not rocket science to figure out that the mission map is the map of a nearby island. It's not rocket science to figure out that we should dig where the red cross is.
    It's just that it's always more of less the same fetch quest. It's repetitive and mindless grinding. (look at the crazy grinding achievements) Look at Angry Joe's review. He didn't want Rare to hold his hands... I really don't know why you are trying to highlight these "complaints" while ignoring the major complaints most people are making. Why can't people actually address the real issue here? The gaming community will need to stop being "fans" of companies/brands. They'll need to put gaming first and tell what's wrong with the game. If we keep defending, damage control products or ignoring real problems they'll keep producing stuff like this.
  • Well said. Personally I'm getting tired of game companies charging a premium prices on day one for half baked games. From what I've seen and read I honestly cannot for the life of me understand how ppl are getting more than 4 hrs of enjoyment out of this game as it stands right now. I'm sure given time the content will come but will that be 1 month, 3 month or a year+ from now? If we are talking a year+ from now, then I would be pretty pissed had I paid full pop on day one. I'm just not a fan of the business model "Give us your money now and we will give you a product worth the price you paid at some point down the road". To each their own though. I will give MS/Rare credit for offering this on Game Pass on day one.
  • I didn't write about the content issue because I have nothing to add to the discussion. It's not really a point you can argue. The game objectively has little content variety. It's why it was knocked down a few notches in our review of Sea of Thieves. I chose to write about this instead because I felt I had something of value to say.
  • @Brendon
    ok, I understand your post but are most people really asking the game to hold their hand? For me, learning game mechanics early on and discovering was actually good. The "forge your own adventure" messaging is a bit of a problem though. Because it shows that Rare are unwilling to add their own stories and adventures in their quests. It shows that they are all in for having an infinite number of randomly generated fetch quests.
  • Honestly, it's the only thing that kept me playing during the beta. If they held my hand I probably would have quit playing even sooner. The idea is amazing, the content and lack of progression is some of the worst I've experienced.
  • I wouldn’t say “most people” but I’ve seen a lot of it based on what I’ve seen.
  • The game is amazing. People are comparing it to Destiny too much. It's not the same...
  • This is a cool concept game. It is more 'real life' that the characters do not have level-up to do, so skills matter when battling.
    Like in real life, you get fame, not EXP. Famous real pirates would be dropped dead if being shot by a bullet, no matter how famous he is.
    Fame will bring fame and a battle will eventually create a more famous one.
    This game give you chance to go quietly or violently. That's life.
  • Too much griefing for my taste. Seems the developers need to get an understanding of what anti bullying is in 2018.
  • And their "fix" is to spawn you further away, I want to take on the forts but people camp there just to sink you with no interest in the fort so now I'll have to sail further back to it each time because only one fort is active at a time, great "fix". Love the game otherwise.
  • It's a game about piracy. I feel like the threat of being bullied or griefed is part of the fun.
  • I think they should add the options to respawn close to where they sunk or respawn further away from line of sight. This way it has the best of both worlds.
  • I think the game sounds fun and interesting, and would love to play it, and was very much looking forward to it, but I just don't want to be forced to play with random people I do not know, and from everything I have seen it is practically impossible to play the game as a single player. So, unless they make it playable by a single person, then it is a no go for me.