In June 2013 Naughty Dog released one of the greatest games of all time. The Last of Us absolutely captured critic’s hearts and elevated a developer famous for platformers like Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter, as well as action games like Uncharted, to legendary status. With a lofty 95/100 on review aggregate website Metacritic, there aren’t many games that hold a candle to this PlayStation exclusive masterpiece.
Enter Rare. Best known for their work on Nintendo platformers pre-2000s, Rare created iconic franchises such as Banjo-Kazooie, the modern template for Donkey Kong games and even had a licensed mega-hit with Goldeneye 007. Following a failed acquisition bid from Activision, Rare was taken over by Microsoft in September 2002. In 2006 Rare released Viva Piñata, a colorful game that reviewed positively but sold poorly. Several Rare employees criticized Microsoft for failing to promote the game. This led to Rare’s founders, Chris, and Tim Stamper leaving the company on January 2nd, 2007. Following a string of titles that failed commercially, Microsoft decided to restructure Rare in 2010. Scott Henson, one of the designers of the Xbox 360 and Kinect hardware became the new Studio Head. Rare’s new focus became Xbox Live Avatars and games for the motion-controlled based Kinect accessory. The first game, Kinect Sports, sold over three million copies and was considered a huge success. However, the sequel, Kinect Sports Rivals, released at the same time that Microsoft began to abandon the Kinect, thus dooming the game to fail. Rare underwent even more staff changes and released the exceptional Rare Replay Collection to mark their 30th anniversary. This is a compilation of the majority of the developer’s best titles and is a must own for anyone who loves platformers or has an Xbox One. On March 20th, 2018 Rare released Sea of Thieves. Considering it was marketed by Xbox as “the best game that Rare has ever made” it’s no surprise that fans had sky-high expectations. The game currently has a respectable 70/100 on Metacritic.
So how can these two titles possibly compare? One is a critically acclaimed, single player masterpiece from one of the greatest video game developers of all time. One is a repetitive, open world, multiplayer game from a development team who are long removed from their golden era. The answer doesn’t lie in the quality of the game, it hides itself in the experience. The emotions that a player can feel while holding a controller in any of these titles are almost identical. Both games share a central theme that you will be constantly reminded of while playing;
“Other people are absolute greedy bastards.” – Adam Llewellyn, 2018
Spoilers for The Last of Us: In The Last of Us you really experience the worst of humanity. Some of the game’s scenes will cause you to feel incredibly high levels of anger. The game’s ending especially, for me, causes me to really question my own ethical views. Would I have chosen Joel’s path had I had the option? I’m not sure. I wanted to follow through on his actions, every bullet felt vital and had great weight to it. However, that didn’t stop the feeling of guilt that I had done wrong, despite the end result being what I had wanted for 15 hours of gameplay; Ellie was safe. This allowed me to be overcome with relief. Again you’ll be reading this wondering what it has to do with an open world pirate adventure with no cutscenes whatsoever. As you progress across the United States of America in The Last of Us you’ll be constantly reminded that people are capable of great evil. You’ll see atrocities committed, and you’ll have to prevent them from happening to you.
While playing Sea of Thieves you’ll also see this, although in a much more toned down manner more suitable to the game’s gorgeous aesthetic. One writer for this site was part of a multi-man crew. They voted to lock him in the brig. For no reason whatsoever, he found himself having to spend his game time locked in a jail cell because of other player’s choices. I’m sure they had a great laugh at his expense, but his time was literally wasted due to the attitude of other humans. I experienced my own sorry tale. While returning from a voyage I was attacked by a four-man galleon. Four vs One in most games and I’d like my odds, but the lack of skill involved in Sea of Thieves’ combat gives the advantage to the group. I was swiftly murdered and my ship was ransacked. However, it did not end there. When I respawned on my ship about one minute later I was killed again. They simply waited on me. They returned my ship to the nearest port, killing me over and over again until they eventually cashed in my treasure for their personal gain and sunk my ship, causing me to respawn elsewhere at last. Was this fun? Not in the slightest. Was it probably a sadistic good time for my killers? You bet.
In creating situations where players feel a genuine, emotional connection to the action on screen Rare manage to recreate part of what makes The Last of Us so special. The fact that you want revenge on the people who wrong you, much as you want to punish the people who cause you such pain in Naughty Dog’s epic really makes you feel immersed in Rare’s world. The tension you’ll feel while sailing nearby a galleon, desperate not to be spotted is akin to sneaking past a group of clickers quietly. Eventually, when you complete a successful voyage, no matter the reward, you feel relief. Like every time you successfully keep Ellie safe. Like you’ve released yourself from a massive burden and are no longer at the mercy of other people, because, if there’s one thing both these games will teach you, it’s this: People are greedy bastards. In The Last of Us, they want power, resources. In Sea of Thieves, they want loot. It’s readily available to them all over the game’s world, but they’d much rather have yours. This way they get the feeling of ruining someone else’s fun while they have their fun. Just like the human enemies in The Last of Us need to destroy your life in order to feel like they’ve improved their own. Both of these titles are a black mirror to humanity, they reveal the worst possible versions of how people can be. Instead of choosing to cooperate, we instead opt with hostility when it comes to strangers. Sea of Thieves makes you truly fear other people, creating a tense, hostile world that is probably indicative of what a pirate’s life would have been like. Unsafe, perilous and deceitful: the Kraken, the clickers or the stormy seas are not your worst enemy; humanity is.
Thanks for reading this article. I’m sure the title and the content are going to receive a ton of hate online, but I do think the comparison is apt. I actually think it applies to most multiplayer games, but I think by using its pirate theme and taking advantage of PVP Sea of Thieves could evolve into something truly special. Will it ever reach the level of The Last of Us? No chance. Could it be brilliant and provide players with an incredible time? Absolutely. Hopefully, people read this article and take it in the fun tone it was written with, for now, I’m heading back to my sloop. For more on recently released games like Sea of Thieves and the eventual release dates for The Last of Us 2 and Spyro the Dragon Trilogy keep your eyes on thelootgaming.com