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Sea Of Thieves Review (PS5) – Smooth Water Never Made A Skilled Sailor

Sea Of Thieves Review (PS5) – In what might have been quite unusual back when Sea of Thieves initially released back in 2018, Xbox figuratively yelled “Bring a Spring Upon ‘er!” and brought Rare‘s hit pirate action-adventure game to PS5.

It’s fair to say that the Sea of Thieves we have today, is not the Sea of Thieves we had back then, and alongside its big PS5 launch, we also get the beginning of season 12.

Combined, these two marquee events bring further changes to Rare’s beloved shanty simulator. But just how much has it changed? And has that patented Rare charm worn off?

Sea Of Thieves Review (PS5) – Smooth Water Never Made A Skilled Sailor

It’s A Pirates Life For Me

I first experienced Sea of Thieves way back when they held a beta ahead of the game’s launch, and I was addicted pretty quickly. I fell in love with the manning of the ship, raising and lowering the sails, surviving the storms, and tracking down treasure. However, it’s fair to say it wasn’t always smooth sailing.

Fast forward to Sea of Thieves’ official launch, and I realized I had experienced most of what the game had to offer within that very beta. I continued to play, as the moment to moment swashbuckling gameplay, battling other players in ship battle, and relaxing on the waves with friends playing some shanties was alluring regardless. Eventually, I would taper off.

Later, I would return to see various advancements, the inclusion of more quests, and a bunch of quality of life changes. Jumping in and out of Sea Of Thieves has been my experience with it since its inception, and here I am yet again, old friend. The ocean calls to me.

Once again, rather than sitting still, Rare has released even more quests, franchise crossovers, and new gameplay mechanics that have taken Sea of Thieves to the very pinnacle of what a game as a service can be. PlayStation 5 owners, man those cannons, lower the sails, and don’t forget to feed that pig – it’s time to set sail.

No Prey, No Pay

There is a lot to do when sailing the Sea of Thieves. You can take part in the main quest lines, known as tall tales; that lead you on various spelunking, riddle chasing, skeleton slaying journeys that are fun to undertake with friends. Not to mention the other quests that feature their franchise crossovers such as Pirates of the Caribbean, and Monkey Island.

If that’s not exactly what you’re looking for, then you can freely sail the seas, take quests from merchants, improve your standing with each to earn multipliers, so when you complete your objectives, you can earn more from your hard earned booty.

Leveling up any three of those factions to level 50 will earn you the illustrious title of pirate legend, which opens up more secrets for you to enjoy. Sometimes, I just like to chill, and fish off of the side of the boat as my crew mates do all the hard work, or drink too much grog and throw up on them.

For the bloodthirsty pirates out there, you might battle other ships and steal the treasures for yourself. Hey, it’s called the Sea of Thieves for a reason. For the pacifist pirates, you can form alliances, and everyone gets a cut of the earnings. The beauty of this pirate action-adventure is in that choice.

This is where Sea of Thieves really shines; is in its emergent gameplay moments. With so many possibilities, that uneasiness when you see another ship on the horizon, the sudden shift in music and tone that might mean something more ominous, there is a lot of variables at play. If you ask me, it’s best to live by the old pirate mantra that dead men tell no tales.

Dead Men Tell No Tales

I have so many great memories sailing the Sea of Thieves. So many moments forged in their sandbox of emergent gameplay. On one occasion, myself and a friend were frantically disposing of waves of skeletons guarding some treasure in a fort, when a stranger, a friendly solo pirate came along to lend us his sword.

After a long and grueling battle, my crew mate was ready to split the treasure with the man, but I had already sunk the poor fellows ship during the fight, given my untrusting nature, and scourge of the 7 seas approach. Needless to say, more chaos ensued, and it was a barrel of laughs.

On other occasions, we have been in a desperate battle with other ships, when a Megalodon joined the fray, shortly followed by a ghost ship, depleting all of our resources.

The music rising befitting a swashbuckling adventure, until the last cannonball had been fired, and the enemies were sunk, alas, we had survived, but another fight would surely sink us, and with a horde of treasure in the belly of our galleon, we made our way to the nearest outpost.

Nevertheless, the soundtrack shifted, and the seas darkened with ink. Cue the Kraken. We lost everything on that occasion, and we were all so defeated, might I say hungover with complete disbelief.

A difficult loss to come back from, but it is these exact moments that do keep you coming back. The emergent gameplay that Sea of Thieves is capable of is unlike any other, and it begs to be experienced. In this regard, It is truly in a league of its own.


Despite all these brilliant moments that Sea of Thieves is capable of, there are some drawbacks to the game, that can be most felt when you play the game solo, or even sometimes between missions. Especially once you’ve been at it for a while.

I would go as far as saying the game is mostly only worth playing with friends. It is very much a social experience. There is very therapeutic, relaxing nature to sailing the waves on your own, but it doesn’t last long, and you might find it somewhat boring without the social aspect. However, there are a lot of tools to make friends, so don’t be afraid to say “Ahoy, Matey”.

Speaking of tools, the inclusion of tight ropes and zip lines go far in terms of quality of life design choices. Climbing to the high points of islands has been made easier as a result, and getting back to your ship in a hurry, equally so.

Another drawback is the melee combat. It is rather one dimensional. Slash away with a sword or unload some shots with your firearm that have minimal animations or variety. There is nothing else really to it. You mostly tank the damage, eat some food to replenish the health meter, rinse and repeat. Inversely, the ship combat is exhilarating. Loading the cannons, patching up the ship, and bailing water overboard is frantically fun.

Season 12 also brings new weaponry for the first time since 2018. You can now wield double barrel pistols, which hold more ammo that its singular barrel counterpart, and packs more of a punch. Elsewhere, there is also throwing knives, which are extremely satisfying to throw.

Timeless Art Style

Rare’s wonderful art style and charm is a prevailing timeless factor into the longevity of their pirate action-adventure title. Its vibrancy absolutely pops off the screen, especially on the PS5. The ocean itself is stunning, just gorgeous, and is something every gamer should see.

Combining their beautiful art style with their character designs, and customization, there is so much personality to be found in the game, that you can really make your pirate your own. Put all that hard earned gold into kitting yourself out in some fancy clothing, or some cool ship designs. Although, between that and earning titles, that is all you’re really working towards, which doesn’t always feel worth it.

Perhaps my favorite part of Sea of Thieves aesthetic design, is the minimalist hub. Since launch, I’ve always admired the way they communicate quest design, direction, and map markers with the player. A flock of birds symbolising a sunken ship, or the skull amongst the forming clouds communicates that there is a fort ready to raid.

Simply building objectives around typical pirate fare, with x’s marked on maps, and riddles on scrolls; you have to figure out where you’re going, and communicate that with your teammates. It may go more unnoticed now that it has been out for 6 years, but It allows the UI to be uncluttered in a way that lets you really enjoy that beautiful ocean and that timeless art style.

Avast, ye Mateys!

I am happy to report that other than being kicked out the game a handful of times due to a network error, it has run flawlessly. It’s especially negligible given you can simply rejoin the previous session.

Trophy hunters might want to look away, because even I cringed at the whopping 254 trophies available to earn. However, the platinum is locked behind 60 of them, with the other 194 being additional. 100% completion might prove to be as much of a myth as Davey Jones’ Locker itself.

Avast, ye mateys! If I had reviewed this game at launch, I would likely have been singing a very different tune. However, it looks to be smooth sailing from here.

Rare has never stopped updating Sea of Thieves, and it has truly changed so much since it launched. All these quality of life updates have made it a much more accessible game to play, that keeps you engaged with the parts of the game you enjoy most, rather than the monotonous legwork that plagued the game on release.

6 years down the line, Rare has delivered a must-play pirate action-adventure game that boasts a timeless aesthetic, offers barrels of laughter, and unadulterated fun. Now enough chewing the fat, get out there ye filthy landlubbers, and become a pirate legend.

Sea of Thieves is available now on PS5.

Review code kindly provided by publisher



The Final Word

Rare charted its course, and created a true treasure in Sea of Thieves. Its only lows found in solo gameplay, and its one dimensional melee combat. It is the king of emergent gameplay, and boasts a timeless aesthetic. With other issues such as the tedious downtime fixed, and a great many quality of life and accessibility changes, through years of dedication and continued support, Sea of Thieves is the best game as a service on the market.