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

Captain's Log

Day One

Time: Quite Dark

I wake up in a tavern, blinking against the dull light and find it empty apart from myself and the serving wench. Stumbling over to stand in front of her, I notice that she can’t seem to look me in the eye. Last night must have been bad. 


You'll start off the game with some key items which include a small stash of bananas for health, a watch, a compass, musical instruments, a tankard, a shovel, a spyglass and some wood for repairs. All of these can be used. Just be careful with the tankard – you will get drunk!

I dig through my pockets to see what’s been taken and find it all there: my paltry stock of bananas, my compass, my watch, my shovel and a lantern (unlit – I always sit with a slight lean after the burned buttocks escapade so I’ll never make that mistake again). 

My tankard is even still there. And it’s full! I drink deep and the room takes on a friendly, fuzzy green glow. As I step towards the music box on the bartop I find my steps are a tad uneven and the music sounds all wrong, almost like it's drunk. 

But at least I haven’t had a vom – never mind. The wench looks utterly nonplussed which makes me feel simultaneously better and worse. 

Feeling it’s probably best that I get out into the world, I refill my tankard with my favorite kraken’s vomit-based grog and get on my way.

The decking under my feet when I step out onto the island is uneven but solid beneath my feet and I make my way down onto the sand to speak to some of the traders that have set up for the day. The sun is rising, taking the time from quite dark to less dark. 


There are three guilds from whom you can accept quests in Sea of Thieves: Gold Hoarders, Merchant's Alliance and Order of Souls. You'll find all three on all the outposts across the map and talking to them will give you the ability to accept a quest scroll. The more you play through a guild's quests, the more reputation points you get and the harder these quests become.

I chat to the Gold Hoarders for a while and pick up a quest scroll before moving on to do the same with the Order of Souls and Merchant’s Alliance. They all seem like reasonably simple voyages so I decide to get started given my coin purse has more holes than gold coins at the moment. 

Hopping onto my small sloop (SS. Pugwash), I make my way to my captain’s cabin and assess which quest I’m going to embark on first. This is the beauty of not having to answer to a crew – my decision is the final one. It’s not always a good one. But at least I don't have to argue about it. 

Settling on the Merchant’s Alliance quest, I see I’m tasked with picking up and delivering one red speckled chicken and one white feather chicken. Seems easy enough. Picking up my coops from the Alliance representative on the dockside, I return to my ship and prepare to set sail. 

Gold Hoarders can be found in tents, Merchants by the docks and Order of Souls in apothecaries on each outpost

Gold Hoarders can be found in tents, Merchants by the docks and Order of Souls in apothecaries on each outpost

Sailing on your own is an interesting experience. It’s frantic and difficult but when you get into a rhythm it becomes enjoyable. 

Your crew

We've sailed alone here but Sea of Thieves is a game that encourages multiplayer. Smaller crews of one and two will man sloops. Crews of three or four will have a galleon. There are many different things to focus on when sailing including steering, direction, sails and keeping a lookout. This is easier with more people (as long as you work well together). You can choose whether you want to sail alone, join a crew of friends, or join a crew of strangers at the start of each game.

Directing the wheel away from the dock, I lower the sails and lift the anchor before running back to the wheel. Using the compass to my right I make sure I’m travelling north west and settle in for the journey. 

Conveniently, the wind hits my sails and I pick up speed. Less conveniently I pick up speed straight into a storm. People have told me that I’ve probably not picked the best career for someone that dislikes rain. I only ever think they’re right when it’s actually raining.  

The storm is relentless and the sky is dark and unforgiving. Up ahead of me I see a small island surrounded by a formation of rocks and decide to head towards it. Moving towards so many dangerous jagged rocks that are so close together probably isn’t the best move given the weather but this island might have chickens and I’m not willing to pass that up.

Sloops are smaller and easier to man in crews of one or two

Sloops are smaller and easier to man in crews of one or two

Maneuvering around the rocks and dropping anchor, I leap from my ship into the stormy water before kicking out towards the island which is much smaller than I initially thought. I find it doesn’t have chickens. It has snakes. Several snakes. I momentarily wonder if I could catch them and argue that they’re de-feathered chickens but I doubt, like actual chickens (and snakes thank God), that would fly. 

Disposing of the snakes I head back to the ship to set a new heading. I’m grateful the storm has passed while I’ve been on the island. What I’m less grateful for is the water the ship has taken on in my absence. Going below deck I take out my bucket and start bailing myself out. I really should get a person for this. 

When I start sailing again I notice a giant glowing skull on the horizon and hesitate. My mind is telling me no. But my body, my body... is also desperately telling me no. 

But the course I’ve set for myself and the direction of the wind are forcefully telling me yes. Great.

This does not say 'sail towards me'

This does not say 'sail towards me'

I’m glad the storm has passed because the vibes are bad enough without some atmospheric lightning alongside the skull. Even Batman would pointedly ignore this particular signal. 

Glowing Skulls

If you see a glowing skull on the horizon it means there's a skeleton fort event taking place. These are world events and all players can take part, either working together or against one another to defeat the waves of skeleton's in their cursed fort and retrieve the treasure at the center. These events are completely optional so if you're not interested, just don't sail directly towards the skull.

Without the storm around me I can see that the water is a bright inviting blue and the sky is bright. Finally I can see the island I originally set a heading for coming closer. It’s coming closer quite quickly actually. Too quickly. 

I start shouting commands to my crew. And by crew I mean me. I raise the sails in an effort to slow myself down and in the end I just throw down the anchor. The ship squeals to a stop just before it hits the island. I’m pretty sure if the SS Pugwash had a figurehead it’d be wiping sweat off its brow right now. I really hope ships can reverse. 

Jumping from the ship I find that this island is also lacking in chickens and I wonder if they’ve gone the way of the unicorn. What it does have, though, is a shipwreck in a lagoon at its center. But as I’m diving into it I realize it has sharks too. Hungry sharks. I hear the bite before I see the teeth and I scream in shock. 

Sharks are fast and deadly

Sharks are fast and deadly

Abandoning the shipwreck I scamper back towards my ship as fast as possible, wondering if the point of this quest is to discover that I was the chicken all along. 

Back on board I eat a banana to restore my health (skin on because I have a feeling mine unfortunately is not).

If this next island doesn’t have chickens I’ll tar and feather myself for the merchant. 

AI Enemies

While every ship you see in Sea of Thieves will be manned by real players that have the potential to be friend or foe, there are some AI enemies. These are cursed skeleton pirates and snakes on land and sharks and the kraken in the water.

Approaching the next island I’m happy to see I’m still a safe distance from the still-glowing skull. I decide to pull out my spyglass to assess its chicken population instead of swimming ashore. To my delight I spot a chicken. Two chickens!

Wasting no time, I grab a coop from below deck and dive from the ship to head towards the shore.

Knowing that I’m looking for highly specific kinds of chicken I start my search, resolutely refusing to be distracted by the pigs that also call this island their home. I will not be fooled. 

The lesser-spotted white feather chicken

The lesser-spotted white feather chicken

When I spot the chicken I’m looking for I chase it down, holding the coop in front of me like a ticking bomb. It turns out chickens are quite fast but once I’ve caught the white feathered demon I quietly weep into its feathers in relief.

Quest Goals

Not every quest will ask you to chase down chickens. Merchant's Alliance quests are fetch and deliver focused like this. Gold Hoarder quests will have you find buried treasure and defeat the cursed pirates guarding it. Order of Souls quests are combat-based and you'll have to find a boss skeleton and defeat it to pick up its magic skull. You can carry three voyages at once so you can take one from each and do one after the other for variety without having to return to an outpost.

 A shrill cluck wakes me from my emotional reverie and I hurry to swim back to the ship, making sure I keep the chicken above the water. Do you know how hard it is to hold a caged chicken aloft while swimming through tumultuous seas? Not very actually, and I didn’t grudge doing it a second time.  

Once my chickens are stored below deck I set a course for Dagger Tooth Outpost and check my watch. One day to get there on time. Not great but possible as long as I’m not waylaid by another crew. 

It’s when I start sailing north east and realize the wind is going to be blowing against me the whole time that I wonder what I have done to make mother nature hate me so. At least I’m now moving away from the skull.

As soon as I relax behind the wheel the chickens begin to cluck incessantly below deck and I wonder just how worth it this has all been.  By the time I get to Dagger Tooth Outpost I'll probably be clucking too. 

After a long journey which sees me running desperately back and forth between my wheel and the small balcony from which I can see my map, my destination comes into view. The entire time I was sailing I was half-expecting some sails to come over the horizon, bringing a crew determined to send my chickens and I down to Davy Jones’ KFC. 

Thankfully they didn’t and it’s with delight that I throw my anchor down and swim my chickens towards the shore. 

I have to say, the merchant doesn’t seem particularly pleased to see me or impressed that I’ve managed to find the exact chickens she asked for. But I think I’m joyful enough for both of us. 

The night is drawing in and I decide it’s time for a grog and a sleep. I hope tomorrow features less poultry. 

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.