Best Ongoing Game 2019: Sea of Thieves

(Image credit: Microsoft)

PC Gamer's Best Ongoing Game of 2019—awarded to an older game that offered up the best updates and support throughout this year—goes to Rare's pirate sandbox, Sea of Thieves. We'll be updating our GOTY 2019 hub with new awards and personal picks throughout December.

Chris: No matter what kind of pirate you are, Rare added something to Sea of Thieves for you this year. Fishing is the perfect activity for solo players (or for the player in a group who isn't steering and trimming sails on voyages) with a nice array of fish that can only be caught in certain parts of the world and sometimes only in specific conditions. PvP-hungry pirates got the option for finding quick, chaotic matches in the Arena instead of having to sail for ages to find human opponents. And the lore-heavy Tall Tales are perfect for a few hours of co-op sailing and puzzle solving with friends, and most Tales are even doable alone. Plus, if you're the kind of pirate who likes to spend real money, there are pets now, too. The beautiful world of Sea of Thieves always had potential, but this year it finally grew into it.

Wes: Completing all the Tall Tales with a PC Gamer crew was maybe my favorite gaming experience of 2019. The most memorable of the bunch felt like a true adventure: We used a magic spyglass to navigate by the constellations, which eventually lead us to treasure. Rare's designers really excel at giving you scraps of clues that you can just barely decipher. Every time I assumed I couldn't possibly have come to the right conclusion, the sound of a shovel striking a treasure chest made me giddy.

Also, there was that time I casually swung my sword at Tyler right when he picked up an explosive barrel, instantly killing our entire crew and sinking our galleon full of treasure. Sorry about that, guys, but it was really funny. Like Chris said, Sea of Thieves was always a fun play space to mess around in, but early on it was short on reasons to put a crew together and sail with purpose. Rare has definitely solved that problem this year.

Fraser: I was done with Sea of Thieves before my Game Pass trial was over, but I’ve since bought it and made it one of my few live service games. I’m hooked. Over the course of countless updates, it’s finally managed to live up to the imaginary pirate game I conjured up in my head when it was first announced. But for all the new additions—most notably the adorable pets—it’s the simple things that keep me coming back. Leisurely sailing around with a crew, reading treasure maps and traipsing across snake-infested islands still takes up most of my time. Not only has it become a better game, I’ve grown to appreciate the parts that have always been there.

Phil: It's a shame that fighting skeletons and other players still feels so bad, with no weight or heft to your strikes. Ground combat in general is always the low point of any voyage. But the sailing and ship combat and sense of adventure is so good that it always makes up for it.

Chris: Skeleton boss fights are definitely the weakest aspect of Sea of Thieves at the moment, and Rare's only way to make a formidable boss is to give them seemingly a million HP. Hopefully they'll develop some better ideas for challenging boss fights the same way they've improved the rest of the game.

Evan: I just have to remind everyone of one of the best things Chris wrote this year, where he went absolutely Looney Tunes and became The Mad Barrel Bomber, a kind of morally bankrupt superpirate who dynamites lesser pirates carrying piles of precious loot right at the finish line. Chris, you blew them up. You blew them up and it made me cry with pride.

Phil: Counterpoint, you're an absolute monster Chris.

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