A comic book based on the computer game, Sea of Thieves is a particularly interesting proposition, because much of the criticism that’s been levelled at Microsoft’s swashbuckling adventure of piracy on the high seas is that it has no story and no character progression. Instead, the multiplayer game is more of an open-world: a stage where you and your pirate friends can sail off and create your own adventures, as you complete an endless series of treasure-hunting quests.
It’s no great surprise, then, that Jeremy Whitley adds a lot of additional flavour to his story, which while set on the Sea of Thieves and featuring many of the things you might see and do while playing the game, takes vast liberties with the range of characters, the skills they have and the way they interact.
Demarco and Lesidi are brother and sister, the two children of a notorious pirate who has promised that, upon his death, he’ll provide them with a map to his buried treasure. The trouble is that neither sibling wants to share, which leads to a series of misadventures as both hire crews and sail off in competition to reach the treasure first.
The story rolls along well enough but is constrained by the mechanics of the game in all the wrong ways, feeling a bit like it’s only setting up some of the situations to allow the story to tick all the right boxes. I’m not going to spoil the story by deconstructing many of these but it gets particularly daft near the end, when the way the game deals with character death seems to directly challenge the point of Whitley’s story. How can you build up any tension and drama when the worst that happens to a dead character is that they disappear off stage for a few minutes?
Rhoald Marcellius’s character illustration is a good fit for the aesthetics of the game and you could easily imagine meeting people who looked like his designs as you explore it. The backgrounds are too plain, though: one of the most visually pleasing things about the game is the realism of the rolling sea and weather effects, which isn’t captured in Marcellius’s flat backgrounds.
This leaves the book caught between two stools. On one hand it’s a decent enough pirate adventure but the necessary adherence to the game’s mechanics leave it imperfect, with the story and the game not quite gelling together. On the other, gamers looking for a Sea of Thieves story could easily be disappointed that this forces so much more into the story than you can realistically experience in the game. I suspect that either audience will be ultimately disappointed by the compromises that building a story around the game have forced upon one another.