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Sea of Thieves on PlayStation 5 review – you’ll laugh, you’ll sail, you’ll drink grog until you’re sick
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Sea of Thieves on PlayStation 5 review – you’ll laugh, you’ll sail, you’ll drink grog until you’re sick

When Sea of Thieves originally set sail on Xbox in 2018, it promised a journey filled with shared adventure, but set off a little short on supplies. Though early sailors found a vast multiplayer ocean to explore, it was tough to get a reliable crew together and when you did, the quests were limited in scope and the islands offered little in the way of emergent entertainment. You came, you dug up what you were told to by one of the game’s quest givers, and you returned to an outpost to cash in your treasure, perhaps occasionally battling another crew of players en route.

Over the past five years, however, developer Rare has added layer upon layer of extra content, from pets to fireworks to longer themed quests entitled Tall Tales, which are effectively games in their own right and include tie-ins with both The Secret of Monkey Island and Pirates of the Caribbean. Now various tasks and adventures can be discovered wherever you go, in shipwrecks, caves and other scenic features, so it’s possible to sail around in your boat, spotting interesting stuff and getting lost in side quests, like a pirate-themed version of Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.

Sea of ThievesView image in fullscreen

It’s into this rich version of Sea of Thieves that the PlayStation 5 embarks – the latest in a series of Microsoft first-party titles coming to Sony’s machine. And what newcomers will find is an absolutely perfect translation of the current Xbox version, retaining the mannered visual splendour, with its stunningly authentic water physics, luminous sunsets and enticingly tropical islands. Experienced players will be able to quickly and seamlessly link to their Xbox accounts, while cross-play between the consoles and the PC is similarly painless. At the start of the game, you chose a boat (sloop, brigantine or galleon), invite friends from the list or select an open crew to play with strangers (Rare runs its own message boards to help players meet up and organise a voyage together), and you’re off.

Sure, you’re still essentially gathering loot and earning reputation with the game’s various guilds while plundering from other players, but there is so much extra detail and joy in the world. My sons and I spent a shameful amount of time chasing around the Dagger Tooth outpost hurling buckets of sick at each other. We took countless screenshots in the photo mode, especially when I crashed our galleon into a pier and they insisted on having photos of their characters pointing at the damage. This is a game in which silliness is its own currency, its own reward.

If you don’t want to be a social pirate you can play alone on a sloop, you can even take part in safer waters mode which takes place on a private server with no other players sailing about looking to steal your booty. And if PlayStation 5 newcomers are a little overawed by the sheer amount of stuff on offer when they start, Rare has provided the intuitive maiden voyage tutorial mode, which introduces the basics. In fact, the UI and onscreen messaging have been improved throughout the game, especially the quest selection screens which now provide more info including how long the mission is likely to take – useful if you only have a limited time to play with pals. In no time, PS5 pirates will be joining their Xbox-owning hearties in foolhardy escapades.

And while Sea of Thieves lacks the systemic complexity of a traditional role-playing game or massively multiplayer adventure (you can’t upgrade your weapons or boat for example – everyone gets the same kit), what it offers is a very different sort of role-play experience, existing somewhere between acting and childlike make-believe. You’re pirates on the ocean wave, fighting sea monsters and digging up treasure, but you’re also larking about playing musical instruments together or firing each other out of a cannon. Whether you’re playing on PS5, Xbox or PC, the Sea of Thieves of 2024 provides its own kind of imaginative fantasy, freed from the tyranny of the skill tree and levelling up system. You’ll laugh, you’ll sail, you’ll drink grog until you’re sick. What a luscious, singular sandbox experience. What a real, genuine treasure.

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Source: theguardian.com