Sea of Thieves review: a five day Captain's Log

Captain's Log

Day Four

Time: to go to bed

I grunt with satisfaction as I pull my cutlass from the skeleton’s ribcage and watch the bones crumble into the gap created, a whirlpool of dust and decay. Blowing the debris from my blade, I look around, certain that’s the last of them. That said, this is a large island and in deep darkness like this it’s hard to be sure.

Every rustle is a potential attack and every shadow is the grim reaper in a different form. I yelp as, right on cue, a small, fat pig tumbles out of a clump of ferns. I did say potential attacks, and anyone who’s read the news on bacon recently will know that the grim reaper has apparently been adopting a porcine form for some time.

Still, this particular pig is nothing more than a pig. And I feel a little bit like a chicken.

That's not a face that wants to be friends

That's not a face that wants to be friends

Returning to the spot where I was digging before I was so rudely interrupted by (literally) blind malevolence, I pull my shovel from my pocket (not comfortable at all, let me tell you) and scrape away the last of the dirt that’s coating the final chest on my latest Gold Hoarder list. 

Good reputation

If you find yourself drawn to one particular guild, it's worth working your way through their quests to increase your reputation with them. Increased reputation means harder, more involved quests with greater rewards. You can join other crews with high reputation members to reach these quests before you've unlocked them for a convenient reputation boost. No quest is off limits.

More than any of the other high seas companies, the Gold Hoarders seem to have trust in my abilities, so I find myself more inclined to continue working for them. The quests are more challenging and involved, but the rewards are worth it. The Gold Hoarders are slimy, suspiciously hunched and gold-obsessed. I really feel a deep connection with them.

I haul the chest from the ground, feeling my shoulders protest in their sockets, and look off to the right to make sure the SS Pugwash is still floating serenely beneath the moonlight. The moon is so bright tonight I wonder why I bothered turning the ship lamps off before leaving – there’s no hiding under cover of darkness on a night like this. 

Nice dark night you got here. Hope you didn't want to hide in it!

Nice dark night you got here. Hope you didn't want to hide in it!

It’s been a remarkably smooth day for sailing – not a single storm – and I wonder if the sea is trying to make it up to me after I ended up on the Ferry of the Damned as much as the deck of my own ship yesterday.

I had felt weary trepidation as I undertook this voyage alone this morning. Until yesterday, all my encounters with other pirates had either been in a crewmate capacity or where I was the aggressor. The successful aggressor, I might add. Being a helpless loser is no fun. But as much as that feeling put me off returning to the sea, it’s also the reason I did. I’ll claw back my dignity if it kills me. And let’s face it, it probably will. A lot. 

Hauling the chest into my arms, I edge around a cannon installed in the cliff edge and slide down the slope to the sandy shore.

Who needs a crew to enjoy seas this blue?

Who needs a crew to enjoy seas this blue?

Back aboard the ship, I store the chest in the hold with the rest of my treasures and return to the deck, letting down the sails and raising the anchor with practiced ease. Sailing alone really is soothing.

I’ve barely listed away from the island when I hear a screaming whistle off to my right. I don’t even have time to turn before something hits my body with bone crunching force and I’m launched from the deck. 

Ejector seat

We still aren't sure how this happened but be warned: you can apparently be knocked from your ship.

I think I’d probably be knocked unconscious if not for the shocking cold of the sea enveloping my body just a second later. Kicking to the surface, I flail in the waves, my words making the air around me more blue than the waves trying to silence me. 

‘I’ve been hit!’ I scream to no one in particular.

Looking for my ship, I see it sailing away from me, quite unmanned, towards some rocks with the grace and purpose of someone entering a lover’s embrace.

‘No, no, no’ I moan through the water slopping into my mouth as I watch Pugwash hit the rocks, mourning the chests stored in his belly.

Turning a furious glare towards the island I realize someone must have shot me from the cannon I’d slid past only moments before. Nothing left to lose, I kick out for the island, propelled by my own rage.

Spot the skeleton

Spot the skeleton
Making friends

If you don't have a ready-made friendship group it's easy to join up with strangers on Sea of Thieves (in fact, it's a great way to get into the game quickly if the servers are busy). However, working with people you don't know is far easier if you're using a mic. There are typed chats and emotes available, but speaking is the most efficient way to communicate.

Also, don't be disheartened if the first crew you join isn't the one for you – it isn't your fault. Sometimes it takes leaving and rejoining a few times to find the right group. 

Washing up on shore with a stumble, I march up the beach, the squelching of my shoes undermining the aggression of my stride. I swear I cleared out this island and as I walk some wild part of my brain wonders if I greatly underestimated the pig from earlier. Shaking the image of it raising itself onto its hind legs to load the cannon, I carry on. 

When I reach the cannon I find it completely free of people and I feel a chill go down my spine. Suddenly I feel very alone and I wish I had a crew with me so that we can laugh about this mystery. Instead I’m standing atop a rock pondering my own grave misfortune. 

Earlier in the day I had tried offering my services to a crew in need of a helping hand, but I fear we were somewhat incompatible. And by that I mean no one spoke a word the entire journey and our lack of communication meant we hit more rocks than we missed. I started to feel like I was trapped in a game of nautical pinball. 

Working with a crew isn't always smooth sailing

Working with a crew isn't always smooth sailing

For a short time I considered painting a face on a cannonball for some kind of companion. The only thing that stopped me from doing so was the tale I’d heard of someone doing this before – apparently they went swimming together and it didn’t end well at all. Instead I returned to Pugwash and embraced my own company once more.

Deciding there’s nothing else for it, I seek the help of a shame-inducingly chiseled mermaid (saving sailors is clearly good exercise) and head back to my own ship feeling somewhat despondent. 

With my gold chests lost to the depths, I take a moment to collect myself. Pulling my hurdy gurdy from my pocket (a different pocket to the shovel – I'm a pirate not a magician), I tune it up and start to play my favorite shanty to cheer myself up. My stumpy little legs do a half-hearted jig on the deck and I feel the music hook its notes into my soul and pull up my spirits like a precious cargo from the hold.


You can play instruments on your own, but when you play them with others, you'll immediately fall into tune together. Just watch out if you're playing while drunk – it doesn't sound nearly as good!

Feeling more able to carry on, I steer away from the island with a nervous glance back and let the wind carry me out to the open ocean. My mind has settled on finding shelter at the nearest outpost and there, I decide, I’ll wait for my crew. Their company will, undoubtedly, break up the monotony of the waves.

Cresting a wave, I spy the sails of another ship on the horizon and my heart leaps into my throat, while the waves drag my stomach down to the region of my feet.

Remembering yesterday’s encounter I feel something akin to panic. I’ve been in the sea as much as out of it today – my clothes are hard and crusted with salt and I’d really rather not get too familiar with the mermaids. As helpful as they are, they have an aura of sadness that sticks to your insides like emotional seaweed, leaving you feeling down long after you’ve left them. 

Fighting the urge to about turn and sail away from this approaching ship, I stay on course long enough to see that it’s another sloop. Pulling out my spyglass, I steady my feet on the shifting deck and try not to poke out my own eye.

With the spyglass closing the distance between us, I see that the other ship is manned by a single person and there doesn’t appear to be anyone else aboard. Funnily enough, under the light of the moon I see their spyglass glint, alerting me that they’re looking for me too. 

Your spyglass is key for creeping and assessing. Watch out if you're trying to be stealthy, though – its glinting can give away your position.

Your spyglass is key for creeping and assessing. Watch out if you're trying to be stealthy, though – its glinting can give away your position.

Wondering if they’ll run first, I carry on towards them but neither of us alters course. It’s incredibly tense as we continue to sail towards one another, no one making a move to diffuse the situation. If I only shift west, I could catch the wind and be out of there in jig time. But something is stopping me. Probably that annoying need to claw back my dignity. My sense of self-preservation finds it exceptionally hard to deal with.

Realizing that this is only going to go one way, I descend to the main deck and start loading the cannons. By the time I’m finished the other ship is close enough that I can see the other captain without the need for the spyglass.

Friendly faces

A great thing about Sea of Thieves is that not every player outside your crew is out to kill you. Though most encounters we've had have ended up in a battle whether we wanted it or not, this one stands out because it didn't. It's the occasional unpredictability of other people that makes Sea of Thieves feel like a living world.

I’m reminded of those moments when you’re on an escalator and you catch eyes with someone going the opposite way, knowing that you’re inevitably going to pass one another. The difference here, however, is that rather than preparing to nod at another stranger in a vague attempt at politeness, I’m standing by a cannon, breath catching, gearing myself up to turn a stranger into a block of Swiss cheese. 

But then I see it. A wave. 

The captain is waving and it’s with no small amount of hesitation that I wave back. I imagine it probably looks more like a salute. Our ships rock past one another and I realize that this pirate has no intention of attacking me. I consider this and for a moment my hand lingers by the cannon. But I pull it back and decide to enjoy this simple moment of not being an asshole. 

Safely past one another, I continue north and they continue south and I feel a little more positive and a lot less lonely. Now, time to get my crew. We could definitely have taken that sloop with our galleon. 

Emma Boyle

Emma Boyle is TechRadar’s ex-Gaming Editor, and is now a content developer and freelance journalist. She has written for magazines and websites including T3, Stuff and The Independent. Emma currently works as a Content Developer in Edinburgh.