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coolbeans

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User Review : Sea of Thieves

Ups
  • A great art style married w/ quality technical visual design
  • Reformulates the "shared world shooter" sub-genre to stand out amongst the crowd
  • Wonderful dynamism & discovery in roleplaying the pirate life with friends...
Downs
  • ...though not fleshed-out enough.
  • Repetitive quest structure
  • Lacking the interesting lore & side-stories which can be readily discovered outside the game

How does Rare’s newest IP fare now that Kinect has walked the plank?

[NOTE #1: This review will act in a way that naturally catalogues the first four expansions as I experienced them. Although this score reflects the general sentiments of what I thought of Sea of Thieves (SoT) around launch, it's hard to really grasp a lot of memories solely from the 1.0 version when so much time has been near-equally spent between it and The Hungering Deep, along with some time in Cursed Sails and Forsaken Shores; and now an even greater amount in Shrouded Spoils. This evenly-played time across 2018 should be taken into consideration compared to the more front-loaded playing time of others.]

[NOTE #2: The vast majority of my playtime is subject to my experience of playing with other friends between a 2-man Sloop and 4-man Galleon on a near-consistent basis. I have possibly less than two accumulative hours of experience joining random queues.]

[NOTE #3: Assessment of visuals will note my experience on Xbox One X and Xbox One S consoles.]

-Captain’s Log-

Day 34

We'd just dug up a Captain's Chest, the last of that loot to be hauled aboard. Sixth mate Chad was directing us westward towards promises of skull bounties. Ah…hearing those masts clutch the northerly wind to the verge of rending in two, lurching our Galleon (*ship name tbd*) nearly out of the water was a sight to behold. Suddenly, we stopped dead in our tracks and the surrounding deep blue bled an inky purple. Surrounded, we were, by this murky mantle in all directions! Those dreaded tentacles piercing through the sea never struck such dread into a crew's collective heart. "Kraken!" Everyone began chattering in discordant fashions while we loaded...

...those blasted scoundrels had been chasing us ever since escaping the Kraken's clutches. The only good news was being out of cannonball range. Hah! They couldn't hit the broad side of a barn anyways! We....

...this was it: our last ditch effort. If we couldn't elude them between craggy rocks and circling outposts, we drifted straight towards the ocean edge, plummet off the turtle’s side if need be to ensure they wouldn’t get our treasure. But before reaching uncharted waters, I ordered me crew to drop anchor with the wheel committed hard right rudder. The ship whipped a ninety-degree turn, we immediately acquired a newfound tailwind, and sped down south while our pursuers were left in total disarray. We…

…And that’s how I became the greatest captain to sail these seas, to put it modestly!

-End Log-

Perhaps it’s not decorum for a review’s cold open to be, by all respects, fan fiction; and yet, I couldn't think of a better way of magnifying the emergent adventures anyone can encounter. After what seemed like an eternity stowed in the brig working on sports titles, Rare's arisen with a new IP encapsulating the pirate adventure within the amorphous "shared world shooter" sub-genre; the quickest comparisons will corner it to the Destiny or The Division series. But it's not content in filching those archetypes outright; instead, there’s this unique marriage of pirate double-crosses paired with a playful aesthetic and tone. Obvious comparisons can be made—especially where it lacks. Even so, the foundation in place is suffused with unique character and admirable design ideals which hold surprisingly well in shouldering against the wild gales of criticism.

So how can we define SoT as a genre? Rare's definition of the hybrid would be a "shared world adventure game." It's an online-only pirate sim where you and optionally up to three other people boat around islands in search of loot. While it's easy to prop up examples like Destiny, inspiration from survival games come to mind just as often. But rather than dark, unsettling campaigns in a hostile wilderness where you can lose everything at once, that risk/reward system is implemented with accessibility first in mind.

This convivial tone is especially emphasized through visuals and sound design.

Considering the state of the industry, there’s temptation in following in tow with other shared world games’ realistic art design. SoT sets itself apart with Rare’s signature emphasis of soft-textures for cartoonish character models and a more light-hearted attitude. Not quite straining with the exaggerated facial features as, say, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts yet livelier than various avatars across Kinect games. Everything within these environs feel reminiscent of constructs you'd find in Laika Animation movies (Kubo and the Two Strings, Coraline) with fastidious attention to realistic lighting.

That one-of-a-kind art style is still bolstered by solid—if inconsistent—technical design. For starters, this ocean is among one of the best created for this gen. Seems oddly specific, as if desperately searching for a praise to latch onto, but it's key to consider how integral it was to get this right. Sailing is the only means of legitimate transportation to and fro. Losing that would wreck the game's core gameplay, yet it succeeds with honors. There's been countless times I've taken a step back to admire how fluid & pleasing boating feels, in a similar manner to admiring polished shooting mechanics. Whether in a terrible storm or calm waters, the waves lapping against the ship can be enough to make the easily seasick reconsider coming aboard.

A chief criticism to level against visuals is the disparity of quality between Xbox One X and S. Though not incredibly pronounced, moments of texture pop-in, frame rate dips, and reduced draw distance had a knack of cropping up during my time on the S console. As stated, these weren't a high number in quantity but did sully the experience at times.

Calling upon the merriment in the Pirates of the Carribean ride, SoT knows how to capture a kid-friendly spirit of thieving—a strange bit of praise. At any time you or the crew can bust out musical instruments to kill time. The available tracks to play plus the special background OST tracks are catchy. But the intricate tunes & overall sound complexity doesn’t carry over to the game’s inhabitants. Despite what expansion trailers may show, there’s currently no chatter boxes within these various hamlets. NPC’s typically recite an mmm-hmm response or canned line while informational text provides exposition. This is a terrible shame. Here you have these instruments which can play soundtrack beats in-game, minute details like wood creaking in a ship's hull, and much more, yet don't even utilize a Banjo Kazooie dialogue template of garbled words spitting out silly dialogue for the player. That may be an “outdated” consideration for some, what with modern sensibilities assuming full voice acting by default, but that method works in spotlighting the delivery and tone of their voice: soft-spoken & nervous sister, pesky sidekick, dreadful witch. Here? There’s not that same kind of nuance to find with the fat bartenders, traders (male/female), and the rest of the assorted list. It's especially weird when so much character is distributed elsewhere, from the funny quips in loading screens to typed dialogue.

So what sort of adventure awaits, ye may ask? The core quest structure rests on three core alliances and one added via update:

-Gold Hoarders: focused on treasure chests. Their means of quest-giving is bifurcated between treasure maps and riddles.

-The Order of Souls: contract-killing skeleton bigwigs and returning with said skulls.

-Merchant Alliance: chore tasks that can range from capturing pigs, chickens, or snakes out in the wild. Levels with said faction also increases by random drops like spice crates, silk crates, or gunpowder barrels.

-Bilge Rats [Expansion]: Defeating The Kraken, various Megalodons, etc. for commendations and titles. But it’s important to note they don’t have a reputation meter like that of the other three factions.

There is no leveling like in a traditional RPG, in essence. Increasing reputation specifically leads to accruing better quests, which in turn keeps you out on the high seas repeating the loop ad infinitum.

Therein lies the rub: what's incorporated within that structure to make players' twentieth hour feel like the honeymoon period? The answer comes up short in respect to the prefabricated quests. Gold Hoarders voyages will have either buried treasure marked with red X's on a topographical map or a carefully-termed riddle. While I personally enjoyed dealing with some of these brain-busters, it's tough to maintain enthusiasm for them when higher-level X-marked maps could have several chests bespattered across an island—increasing the likelihood of getting valuable Captain's Chests. Merchant's Alliance quests are often the most generic requiring orders of different colored chickens, pigs, or—on rare occasion—snakes. The Forsaken Shores expansion also added a pirate-themed UPS driver system: delivering silks, plants, and/or rum bottles, all of which run the risk of getting damaged and devalued.

Collection of skelly bounties renders at the fine-yet-sometimes-tedious status depending on the situation. Skeletons are the only typical adversaries, varying in make between standard, leafy skellies that heal in water, gold ones which become rusted in water, and shadows whose weaknesses are in shining a light to expose their skeletal frame. Sometimes location can make all the difference though. Skeleton forts, broadcasted via glowing skull cloud, emphasize the game's core ethos of never leaving your guard down. Not only is a naval and land assault demanded for quick success, these balances are weighed by potential perfidious pirates wishing to secure the Fort's riches for themselves. Since everyone in the server could spot the icon, it's within reason to expect Galleon v. Galleon v. Sloop—or some other combo—to be waged whilst managing waves of skeleton crews.

Despite a loop anchored by repetitiveness, the amount of ancillary design details help to ameliorate those qualms. For all the recent 'shared world' games found nowadays, it's astounding how the over-expositive UI and informational text is pared down to virtually nothing within SoT. This isn't to say the maximalist UX/UI in The Division doesn't have a purpose; however, it feels in keeping with this 'pirate sim' aesthetic for everything to feel tactile. There's no interfaced compass with highlighted objective markers for hand-holding; such demands are kept in-universe by pulling out your own compass and/or crew communication. Whether on the high seas or on foot, physical maps must be consulted. For so many of the expectations found in AAA quasi-MMO’s today, Rare seemed more interested in consulting exploratory design utilized in Firewatch than in Destiny.

This philosophy extends to the quest framework as well. The integral reminder about SoT's rewards, whether from voyages, skull forts, or elsewhere, is they must be physically delivered to the appropriate faction member for you, or your crew, to acquire coinage and reputation. This is what heightens the risk/reward system of playing in these servers, and what made the cold open of this review so fresh in my memory. The reinterpretation of The Division's Dark Zone ruleset has expanded upon the word go; at the same time, the breezy atmosphere makes it easy to let others’ guard down in the most hilarious ways. One of my usual crew mates regaled to me his wiles in convincing a different 2-man crew to 'allow' him to empty their ship quicker by selling a few of their chests, securing the spoils all to himself right under their noses. He ran a rig that scored him much of their best treasure! Such chicanery brings a smile to this pirate's heart!

The plundering lifestyle is most emphasized by naval combat. Lacking, or overly simplistic, in other areas though it may be, SoT has the dynamics of ship combat down pat. For one, the visual design is perfectly clear on effective places to attack. Taking on water from successful cannonball shots requires a well-oiled machine of the crew patching holes, scooping up unwanted water, and dumping back into the ocean. There's a special demand of tactical coordination when weighing whether to commit limited resources for offense or defense as result. This dalliance is further complicated if enemy pirates decide to board. Then you're also forced to berid pest(s) whilst managing a leaky vessel.

And some of the technical details about vessels make it one of my favorite aspects of the game. When talking about commanding a 4-man Galleon, it's so easy to become rapt in attention of directing all the masts to get the perfect directional wind and seeing the teamwork it takes to pull it off. Even if taking a hit on the Galleon's mid-deck, though water may not be POURING in upon impact it will fly in and seep to the bottom dependent upon splashing waves.

None of the individual tasks at hand are difficult on their own, but bigger ships have such a demand to keep on course, watch for enemies, turn masts in accordance with wind, load cannonballs, etc. that's rewarded by the celerity and commutation of everyone, which has its own implicit reward. Later-added naval features include the ability to forge alliances with other nearby ships, which can be precarious, humorous, or sometimes both. One voyage involved us forming an alliance with a new crew that’d successfully raided a skull fort. We offered assistance but then secretly stashed some of the best items for ourselves until we disbanded.

While coordinated ship combat can have an incredible skill ceiling, gameplay for swords and guns is relatively simplistic. A basic lunge, block, and hack for swords—paired with an unreliable parry maneuver. Guns function as you'd expect. And, sure, it’s passable but individual complaints hold it back from anything above that:

-Swordplay feels floaty and doesn't have the impact it should—even in respect to sound foley.

-Eye of reach (sniper) bullet-drop is too unforgiving. I understand the intention here for the most powerful weapon, but even the Battlefield series doesn’t go this far.

-Skeletons had near-perfect aim until being patched several months back.

-Visual information of enemy health is lacking. Although I think health bars wouldn’t be the best route, there should be SOMETHING which provides better communication outside of a skelly cronching a banana.

-Only given a 5 bullet maximum for each gunpowder-based armament without any variation. Although I’m against power creep for weapons I don’t see why stat tradeoffs can’t be a thing: slower reload for extra power, weaker shots for more pellets, or something else.

Even if it were simple, there's little in the way of contextualizing teamwork or piracy while in standard combat. Granted, scouring for an ammo box works; and yet, imagine how teamwork would look if it could be carried like a chest, maybe even throwable to other teammates. Better yet, how about relinquishing your pistol and/or ammo that can be auto-thrown to a teammate in dire straits? Those types of additions on communication-based mechanics further contextualize roleplaying as a resourceful pirate crew.

There’s also something to be said about Rare's deliberate social emphasis: developing various musical instruments even before guns and swords. Whether it be the concertina, hurdy-gurdy, or later-released drum, players can whip out said instruments at any time to play and harmonize a random tune. Since tankards be found at outpost bars or on ships, one can dance and carouse until you’re three sheets to the wind and projectile vomiting everywhere.

"So with the coin I acquire what am I able to do with it?"

There's been an ever-increasing assortment of skins for all accouterments in a pirate's inventory: weapons, spyglass, compass, bucket, musical instruments, etc. Costlier charges apply to the ship: stylish masts, capstans, hulls, and more.

Exclusively cosmetic upgrades have been a point of contention since SoT's release; contrary to said critics, I find the subversion a welcome change of pace in this instance. Beats the frustrating pre-planning from WoW, SWTOR, Destiny, to The Division being locked out of quests thanks to unmatched levels. Since all it takes is for friends to level up while I'm away, enthusiasm deflates until I grind myself to their level again. Here? There's no restrictions outside of not having the more-complex voyages as your friends do, which doesn't matter since you can play them too.

The issue of content clawed at the game during release. While the game world itself is vast and mottled with islands, there's very little in the way of aesthetic variety. The geography is often eye-catching but many islands rely on stony masses, generic flora and fauna, as well as beaches. The list of names—though inspired—run the gambit of expected nomenclature. Having such a grindy system with demanding pirates reach level 50 from all main companies doesn't help cases either; neither do missing items when flipping through the equipment tab.

Expansions have excelled in adding more though. The Hungering Deep provided items like the drum and speakerphone while Cursed Sails gave us skeleton-crewed ships and cursed cannonballs. Though I stand by [NOTE #1], I must admit the respectable drip-feed of these short-lived campaigns & new items show potential. The Game Pass-inspired timed lifespan is deflating for someone who's had a couple short vacations over the summer and simply wanted to focus on other games from time to time; having noted that, the time-sensitive design also complements the pirating theme. I only get to hear the tales regaled of how The Meg was first summoned by Merrick's music, which in turn impels me to make my own stories.

Yet for all the great tales which can be regaled from spontaneous stories of “re-appropriated loot” of other pirates or of dastardly sea creatures, the overarching story & lore is absent too often. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen such a disparity between available in-game and extra-game lore. From a novel to comics, SoT has some interesting concepts explaining how & why things operate as they do here; and yet, very little is extolled through what scarce books can be found across various isles. And this issue pervades throughout voyages as well. Harkening back the NPC quest-givers, the static nature of these over-worlds & questlines does hamper the notion of inhabiting this world. Adventure doesn’t so much wait around every corner as it does fester. And it’s double a shame when early expansions’ time-specific quests showed Rare can guide players from point to point in a way that wasn’t patronizing and revealed more surprises than the world had initially let on.

As shared-world shooter hybrids blend more and more with their MMO counterparts, ‘tis nice how SoT reinterprets the Darwinistic aspects found there; opting for something more accessible while marrying the perils of losing everything you (and/or your crew) earned. Such a game sounds contradictory yet Rare's done a solid job melding disparate designs—from visuals to the gameplay foundation. No one can shirk the frustrating questions of content, and odd technical hiccups at launch, but such issues wane in comparison to a distinctive personality permeating every aspect of the game.

coobleans' *FresH* Badge

Score
8.0
Graphics
Rare hasn’t hit this level of technical fidelity with their inimitable artistic design since the Viva Pinata series, really. There’s flaws and noted disparities between X and S versions, but not to any severe extent.
7.0
Sound
Everything centered on naval combat & exploration sound fantastic. But there’s a lack of that same activity & dedication with the island’s NPC inhabitants and specific ground combat encounters.
6.0
Gameplay
A case of weighing pros & cons: great methods of comradery while traversing the high seas tied with functional-yet-basic ground combat & a repetitive quest structure.
7.5
Fun Factor
A lot of this can come down to whom you’re playing with. For me? The emergent design of the world has lent so many great moments when playing with friends. Solo slooping does exacerbate structural issues and diminish likelihood for the greater emergent experiences.
7.0
Online
Aside from a few launch issues & disconnects, Rare’s online foundation is quite solid. There’s been a constant trickle of polishing and improvements since its March launch. Even while making this review, the Shrouded Spoils expansion (their 4th one) flew under my review until nearing completion.
Overall
7.0
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coolbeans37d ago

'Sup. Hope you had a good holiday season. Hope everyone enjoyed me review! Feel free to comment down below if you wish to discuss the game or review further. If we're going to butt heads on the review: hope to create some engaging & worthwhile conversations down below.

shaggy230337d ago

Personally I love SoT, and with the last update it's really fleshed the game out.

coolbeans37d ago (Edited 37d ago )

Hey same here, man. Some of my favorites '18 gaming moments came from SoT. And, yes, Shrouded Spoils is such a surprisingly well-rounded expansion. It really was snubbed at The Game Awards for 'Best Ongoing Game' nominee imo.

Even though I do agree, I still can't help but be nagged at all the mechanical changes + additions my friends and I have discussed since launch. The base components have always been there for me to say "eh...yeah it's a good time but what about doing x, y z...." And then we get just a bit more excited at the potentially next great addition. That's the shadow looming over it--to even fans such as myself. Appreciate the comment.

shaggy230337d ago

Fingers crossed the planned modification to make quests more...........varied and interesting word out as planned.

coolbeans37d ago

Indeed. I'm curious to see how far they'll go in regards to structure, length, potential cinematics (<-not necessary), and secrets. I liked the limited-time campaign of Hungering Deep and how there was a bit of thinking involved to get from point A to B.

rainslacker34d ago

I give your review a 5/10, because you had too many words I had to look up, such as bifurcated, ameliorate(which isn't even in my auto-correct dictionary), or perfidious. I consider myself good at using words not used in common vernacular around here, but you had me stumped. Maybe don't pick the most exotic word from the thesaurus next time? :)

Seriously though, good review. Think it gives the pros and cons in a reasonable way, and shows how it all comes together for the player's potential experience. Something a lot of reviews are lacking nowadays. Also like how you review it at its present state with the expansions.

But I have to ask, is this the review you mentioned to me a while ago was going to rustle some feathers? because I don't see anything here that would really be that offensive to anyone.

coolbeans34d ago

Hahar! What can I say? Pirating and thieving brings out the intellectual in me. ;)

I appreciate it. Yeah, in some respects it's nice b/c it feels like a year-end assessment of the game's growth versus me trying to consider what I thought of the base game 9 months later. But it was also frustrating to deal with going back to reconsider updates after Shrouded Spoils just snuck up on everyone after XO18's Arena trailer.

Indeed it was. I guess I put too much stock in my potential to upset for really liking SoT; then again, I was in a mood to bump the score higher at the time, which became tempered due to some of my other unmet wishes for the game (currently).

rainslacker33d ago

I think most of the negativity aimed at this game was mostly during it's initial content phase, where it was much more limited in what it had to offer. Couple that with it being an exclusive, and you get a heavier dose of criticism than it likely deserves, because the hype surrounding it built it up into more than what it was.

Emilio_Estevez36d ago

I think I would score a bit higher, but it depends on how you frame it really. If you just go based on what's there now then I could easily give it a 8/8.5 ish. If you're going from when it came out until now, the 7 is clearly justified. There just wasn't a whole lot to do at first after you'd played a while. I was in the alpha and everyone assumed there would be more stuff at launch and there just wasn't really, minus a few small things. However, what's there now is fun and includes all sorts of things the peoples asked for, like the Skelly Ships, alliances, merchant skull fort loot, story 'quests', and more ways to get loot than just doing one of the 3 main companies. I'm finding it much easier to convince people to play now opposed to when it first came out. Can't shake the feeling that sitting on release of this for a few more months would have seen the game received much better. They should be commended for still not adding MT's yet also. People wanted more content and they declined to add MTs until there was more. They should come at some point, and maybe I'll throw them a few $ for a parrot since I got this through gamepass and have enjoyed it.

coolbeans35d ago

Argh! There be one of me favorite shipmates!

I follow but I'm not sure I'd agree. Hitting that 8 threshold would have to address certain QoL (quality of life) issues that I've brought up above. I'm not saying I don't appreciate the extras since Shrouded Spoils--I'm still impressed, but swordplay or other ancillary mechanics/design issues I've brought up here or in passing in-game should be tweaked. The expansions feel more as a 'solidifier' of a 7 score rather than being bumped up 1 or 1.5 point(s).

-"They should be commended for still not adding MT's yet also. People wanted more content and they declined to add MTs until there was more."

Well...I'm not too sure about giving credit there. Perhaps social media pressure was the catalyst to making them hold off on MT's. If so, that just makes the move more about appeasement until the launch/full price complaints have been soothed over. I'm mixed on that, to say the least. (Coming from one who purchased a game copy)

Emilio_Estevez35d ago

Since I was un-masked as a shipmate here I would like to point out that I did not want to double-cross the alliance and tried to sabotage it. Me own shipmates double-double crossed them/me. They stored treasure for when the alliance disbanded, I secretly returned it to the other crew under their nose in the shuffle. Thinking I'd gone a good deed the other crew would never know about, I was feeling good about the end of the voyage; no harm, no foul. Little did I know they were onto to my alliance turning grievance and hid even more from them/me and informed me once the alliance was disbanded. So me and another crew mate distracted them with music while the other 2 turned it in without them even knowing what was happening 50 ft from them, lol. Too late for good-guy heroics at that point, time to get the $$$.

The social dynamics of the player interactions really take this game to the next level from time to time.

coolbeans35d ago

Argh! CrabWounds and I knew ye'd go soft!

Indeed. I think I should've stressed that a bit more in review now that I think about it; at the same time, that's communicated by the stories in some sense.

maybelovehate36d ago

Nicely written review. The combat and progression system killed the game for me. Which is a shame it had so much potential for cooperative play.

coolbeans35d ago (Edited 35d ago )

I appreciate that. :)

In respect to progression you specifically talking about stat upgrades & buffs? That's been a sticking point for some, but I feel plopping something like Destiny's/The Division's upgrades would harm SoT's core design ideals. I hate how people prop that con up as though it's a missing feature when discussing how it's "LOL still in beta!" or whatever. (NOTE: Not saying you are. Just a short rant about that point.)

maybelovehate35d ago

I only played it the first month it was out, so maybe it has changed, but I didn't like how everything in the game was just cosmetics. I wanted to acquire items that made you feel like a more powerful Pirate instead of just getting items that look different. There was no carrot for me to chase other than just goofing off with friends.

coolbeans35d ago (Edited 35d ago )

No, cosmetic-exclusive progression is still the foundation here. It's just been expanded: more visual themes to select for weapons, clothes, and ship. On top of that, there's the ability to change the look of the wheel, capstan, and cannons now.

"I wanted to acquire items that made you feel like a more powerful Pirate..."

Right...but therein lies the rub in regards to balancing. Although I've brought up the potential for weapon stat tradeoffs in review, I think adding traditional RPG stat-leveling would fundamentally damage the game's intentions of accessibility. The idea of potentially losing loot you're hauling in b/c an upgraded Galleon obliterated your defenses could be one of the biggest turn-offs for new players. You'd be inclined to get pissed at the cheap stat buffs versus the skill or trickery of the other crew. I feel stat-progression is one rat race that's unnecessary in SoT.

maybelovehate35d ago

Wouldn't have to be stat progression, just anything that helped you being a pirate. For example, make it so you could buy a ship captain NPC who could navigate you to destinations on the map. Or a shovel that would make a noise when you were in the right location for a chest. Or a telescope that would highlight sunken treasure. None of these would break the game, they would just make you feel like you earned something worth a damn haha.

coolbeans35d ago

Ah-ha! Therein lies the...other rub in regards to immersive design. Here's a few counters:

-"Or a shovel that would make a noise when you were in the right location for a chest."

But that degrades the wonder when trying to figure out riddles or the demand of correctly orienting yourself on a treasure map.

-"Or a telescope that would highlight sunken treasure."

Seems like that would harm the tactile/analog feel of the world to have higher-levels get a glowing UI indicator just because of spending the coin.

It's important to understand how precarious the situation Rare is in when it comes to mechanical progression. Because we're inserting typical tropes into a decidedly atypical shared-world game. Having said that, I do like your NPC captain idea and haven't heard that one before.

maybelovehate34d ago

Not just spending coin, I mean they would only be available to really high level players. We were doing repeat quests with just a couple hundred hours in, so if we have to do the same quests over, might as well make them easier. Or maybe make that shovel only find chests that aren't part of a current quest, like bonus chests for exploring. Anything to make you feel like you have something you want.

timotim33d ago

Wow...great review. This has made me think about the game even more and where it can go from here.

coolbeans33d ago

Many thanks, timotim. Yeah, that's the kind of mood I was in when writing certain portions of this review down too. Since I'm one of those weirdos who'll get into video game books from time time, even small hints in the Athena's Fortune novel had a habit of making me think how x/y mechanic would look (like this card game called Karnath).

@maybelovehate

I'll admit that's a good workaround and would agree to that kind of added ability. There's certainly room for going beyond cosmetic but, as you can tell, it's a bit tougher to implement when thinking how said mechanic may tip the balancing scales too far in respect to accessibility & immersive design.

Well, I think I've run out of comments here so thanks everyone for chiming in. Please continue commenting if you wish and perhaps we can extend some convos via PM if necessary.