September 24, 2021

Xbox One X

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Sea of Thieves review – a Rare treasure

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Put down the controller and close your eyes: there is no better game on earth to listen to. What do I hear? The creak of timbers, the flap of a sail, the thud and shudder and boom of the ocean.

So many of my very favourite things in Sea of Thieves are sounds. There’s the wonderful snug internal clonk of the ship’s wheel settling back into its full-ahead position (so subtle you have to really listen for it; at times I think I am imagining the whole thing). There’s the strained, buckling groan of your hull reacting to a dropped anchor when it still has sails filled with wind. Best of all there’s the neat, arresting, confirmative thwack of a shovel digging into sand and hitting – something! Something good! A treasure chest! Clonk, groan, thwack. This is a game you play with your ears as much as your eyes, and while your eyes get the glorious rolling, thrashing drama of the waters to look at, your ears get so much else besides. Your ears get the detailing that really sells the fiction.

That final sound – the shovel hitting a buried chest – helped orient me in the early stages when Rare seemed eager to abandon me, thrillingly, maddeningly, to the ocean itself. Sea of Thieves is a shared-world pirate-’em-up, but it explains almost none of its systems from the off. I chose a pirate avatar, I selected a single-person sloop rather than a multi-person galleon to knock about in, and then I spawned in a pub on a tiny island surrounded by raging waters. It was raining outside so I lingered in the pub for a while. I picked up some bananas and some cannonballs. I looked for obvious signs of a tutorial. Eventually I wandered into the downpour and found a dock with my boat – presumably it was mine – at the end of a jetty. And then I boarded it and set off.

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