A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Sea of Thieves is a cooperative multiplayer game that simulates the life of a golden age pirate. Players -- friends and/or strangers -- band together in groups of two to four to sail ships on treasure hunting voyages, where they sometimes encounter skeleton enemies and other human crews that they can fight using guns, swords, and cannon fire. There's no blood or gore; skeletons disappear in a clattering of bones, while defeated humans are banished to Davy Jones' locker as they wait to respawn. Playing as pirates means players spend most of their time looting and fighting, but the team-oriented play strongly encourages communication and teamwork and can help build friendships. Parents should also note that player characters can drink "grog," causing them to become intoxicated, which results in staggering, belching, and vomiting. It's used as a humor device rather than a means of powering up.
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What's it about?
SEA OF THIEVES aspires to give us the power to live out our greatest pirate fantasies. Players band together in groups of two to four (you can also play alone, but it makes things significantly harder) to form a seagoing crew. The team votes on a voyage, identifies their goal on a map, then sets about raising and angling sails while navigating a sloop or galleon toward their objective. You may encounter other player-controlled ships along the way, which could lead to seafaring combat likely to involve cannon fire, patching hull holes with planks, and bailing water with a bucket. Once you've arrived at your destination, you'll drop anchor and head ashore, find the location where X marks the spot, pull out a shovel, and begin digging for treasure, keeping an eye out for angry skeletons, poisonous snakes, and any additional supplies or loot that might be scattered around the island. Treasure in hand, you'll head to the nearest outpost to trade it for gold -- which can be spent on gear and items to make your pirate stand out -- and to increase your pirate reputation so that you can purchase more perilous (and rewarding) treasure hunting voyages.
Is it any good?
It's best to go into this entertaining teamwork building pirate adventure without any expectations. That's because Sea of Thieves doesn't play like your typical online game. It's not about growing your pirate avatar into a powerful character with peerless skills and invincible gear -- veterans and rookies can play and voyage together with virtually no difference in their abilities, save the senior player's experience -- but instead sharing an adventure with friends. The best parts come when players are calling out to each other over their headsets in a joint effort to accomplish an objective, whether it's the crew member in the crow's nest saying she sees a galleon with masts raised on the horizon or someone else excitedly announcing their shovel has hit wood. It's an extremely team-oriented experience, with everyone working towards and sharing in the same goals, rewards, and failures. And once a voyage is finished, players won't necessarily be talking about the loot they acquired or what they spent their gold on, but rather anecdotes about the time they cooperated to perform an anchor-assisted 180-degree turn to come about on another ship, spied a shipwreck and dove into the sea to find a glowing skull, or stood together on the bow to witness a shimmering sunset creating a sea of sparkles (water has never looked prettier in a game).
Still, this might not be to everyone's taste. There's a sense of progress -- mostly to do with reputation -- but it's not what veteran gamers might expect. And while play is wonderfully emergent and filled with unscripted events and surprises, a lack of variety in voyage types and settings carries with it a real risk of repetition. Players in it for the long haul won't be returning day after day and week after week to discover new loot and gear, but rather to enjoy a social experience with friends (or strangers). If that sounds like the sort of game you want to play, then unfurl your sails and get ready for a terrific simulation of life as a pirate.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about online safety. What are some warning signs that you might be playing with strangers who are up to no good?
Talk about the golden age of piracy. Is there anything to be admired about real world pirates, or did they live only despicable lives of crime, looting, pillaging, and murder?
- Platforms: Windows, Xbox One
- Price: $59.99
- Pricing structure: Paid (Note that this game is also included in Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass subscription service.)
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Microsoft Studios
- Release date: March 20, 2018
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Ocean creatures, Pirates
- ESRB rating: T for Crude Humor, Use of Alcohol, Violence
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.