Sea of Thieves Review (PS5)


Sea of Thieves has finally dropped its anchor in PS5 waters, bringing with it years of content updates, quality of life improvements, and some of the best-looking water in a video game. But is this now former Xbox exclusive still worth playing six years after its initial launch? And how friendly is it to newcomers like us? After taking to the high seas with a rag-tag crew on PS5, Sea of Thieves proves itself to be one of the most approachable live service games on the market, and one we can’t wait to see grow on PlayStation.

We’ve always quietly liked the look of Sea of Thieves. From its vibrant art-style to its meme-able viral clips from across the years, it’s always looked like a fun time with friends to us. Thankfully, then, mere hours into our time with it, it’s clear that Sea of Thieves is exactly the type of experience we’d hoped for — but it’s also so much more.

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This open seas online adventure tasks you and a crew of up to three friends to conquer navigation, storms, and naval combat while stuffing your ship with treasure and selling it for profit. That’s about as deep as the basic gameplay loop of Sea of Thieves gets, but it’s also what makes it so damn enjoyable.

Developer Rare has cooked up one of the most accessible live service games we’ve ever played. This isn’t an experience all too concerned with levelling up or figuring out builds, instead focusing on crafting fun and action-packed adventures for you and your crew. Carrying out treasure hunts and bounties, you’ll rank up one of the game’s three factions, which subsequently unlock more rewarding missions. However, the real reward of your exploits are purely cosmetic, which changes the fundamental structure of an evolving game like this. “Levelling up” in this case is about gaining the knowledge and tactics to play the game more effectively.

It means that us lesser experienced PlayStation players are able to join the Xbox veterans without having to play catch up. Sure, there are things to learn and meta aspects to uncover, but there’ll never be a level disparity between you and your team. Having fallen behind on titles like Destiny 2 and Diablo 4 in the past, it’s incredibly refreshing to find a live service game that allows you to play at your own pace.

Once you’ve become acquainted with the game, what is the moment-to-moment gameplay actually like? Perhaps unsurprisingly, navigation is a massive pillar of the Sea of Thieves experience. Whether you’re sailing a Sloop, Brigantine, or Galleon, you need to work together with your crew to even make it to your destination. Navigating with the lower deck map, angling the sails to catch the wind, steering at the helm, and even spotting dangers from the crow’s nest are all roles that need filling. It’s a process that ensures you’re engaged with the experience and engaged with your crew. Without any map markers, you need to pay attention to the world and in-game navigation options, making the immersion of traversing the seas worth checking out alone.

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Navigating your ship is just the start of your troubles, however, as the expansive seas are filled with other players — and this is where things get really interesting. Player-operated ships aren’t noted by gamer tags unless spotted in the spyglass, leading to some paranoid peeping from the crow’s nest as you scan the horizon for dangers. The setting is so vast that you’ll be questioning the intent of distant ships based purely on sail positioning and movement.

Realising that a larger ship is on your tail is an exhilarating experience that thrusts your crew into overdrive. The perpetual game of cat and mouse is endlessly fun as you load up cannons, prepare for anchor-whipping turns, and change your tactics at a moment’s notice. Even combat itself is a team effort as someone still needs to steer as another fires and someone scoops out buckets of water and repairs the holes in the ship. There is a chaotic flexibility to combat, which means backing out is just as much an option as firing a crew member via cannon onto the enemy ship to drop their anchor. Whenever we sink an enemy ship, even if it means the end of our own, there is a euphoric sense of victory, like outsmarting your enemy in a game of watery chess.

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Combat becomes all the more nail-biting when you have a ship full of loot. Sailing to one of the game’s many islands, you’ll dig up forgotten chests or claim the skulls of skeletal enemies in various bounties. It’s up to you how much you stock up on chests and skulls before eventually returning to port to cash it all in. It crafts up a brilliant risk and reward gameplay loop, which leaves you anxiously scanning the horizon as you make your way to the nearest outpost, which often result in some exhilarating chases.

If we had to pick out one issue with the game, it would be the sword and gun combat which is incredibly plain. While in one sense it slots into the Sea of Thieves experience perfectly, on the other, land-locked battles require next to none of the tact or team coordination found in naval combat. It’s not something that ever ruined our experience with the game, but it certainly lacked that oomph.

Regardless of whether you’re fighting or exploring though, Sea of Thieves is a wonder to exist in. It sports this ageless art-style with a gorgeous colour palette and, as we mentioned, some of the best-looking water in video games. Period. Quite often our crew would gawk at the stunning sunsets while playing sea shanties on our various instruments, which is certainly all helped by the game’s buttery 60 frames-per-second performance. The whole visual presentation brilliantly captures a sense of place that further establishes that sense of adventure.


Sea of Thieves is a blast when playing with friends. With its focus on cosmetic customisation, we slipped into the pirate’s life with ease – even after six years of updates and seasonal changes. Its natural and immersive approach to navigation makes it a seafaring sandbox well worth visiting, and a focus on cosmetics over high-tier loot make it a game you can play at your own pace. It’s a delight to steadily come to grips with the mechanics of the game too, whether that be how to outmanoeuvre enemy ships or sell your loot with quickened efficiency. It might not have the same level of grind that a lot of players look for in a live service game, but there’s endless pirate fun to be had here, and we’re glad that PlayStation players finally have the opportunity to join in on the swashbuckling chaos.

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