I refilled the pirate’s cup a third time. This grog was made special for the governor and its potency was the stuff of legend. He snatched his tankard off the table in a thirsty, greedy stupor and downed the brew in a few enormous slurps.
It didn’t take long after that. Soon his head was on the table, his snores so loud they cut through the din of Scumm Bar. I slipped behind him, nicked his coin purse full of pieces-of-eight, and made my way to my next victim.
This bit of knavery is but a piece of the crafty new adventure awaiting fans in Sea of Thieves: The Legend of Monkey Island. My early access preview build took me to the legendary Mêlée Island, home to 1991’s The Secret of Monkey Island, the first title in the point-and-click franchise that’s widely regarded as high-water mark for the genre. Its resurrection within Sea of Thieves certainly fits the tone of Rare’s long-running pirate MMO. But is it fun to play?
Classic point-and-click adventure games are notoriously offputting to newcomers because they come from an era that didn’t have many of the quality-of-life features we take for granted now. Fast travel, capacious inventories, and autosaves didn’t exist yet. Instead, players had to think critically and venture carefully in order to solve what would otherwise be basic fetch quests today.
Classic point-and-click adventure games are notoriously difficult because they come from an era that didn’t have many of the quality-of-life features we take for granted now. There wasn’t fast travel, or massive inventories, or autosaves. Instead, players had to think critically and venture carefully in order to solve what would otherwise be basic fetch quests today.
Sea of Thieves is the rare modern title that also shares this sentiment. If you’ve never played, you’ll be taken aback at first by what feels like difficulty, but is really just good old-fashioned inconvenient. There are no waypoints or minimaps for you to chase. You have to check a paper map, then use your compass and your eyes to find your destination. Observation is key, and is what drives the gameplay in Sea of Thieves: The Legend of Monkey Island.
This can be a mixed bag, depending on what you’re looking for in this new adventure. Old-school fans will be endlessly entertained. Mêlée Island is faithfully recreated as a 3D map chock full of cameos and easter eggs and inside jokes. You get plenty of voiceover from series hero Guybrush Threepwood, too. It has the feel of a loving tribute because it is.
Hardcore Sea of Thieves crews might be underwhelmed. This adventure plays out with a distinctly single-player feel, so a hearty gang of seasoned salty dogs may have fun clowning around, but aside from a brief bit of action towards the end of the story the vibe is mainly “go here, find that, come back.”
If that sounds derivative, it isn’t meant to. Playing as a solo player, I loved the structure of this adventure. It was extremely rewarding once the pieces started to fall into place. Like any good point-and-click it’s all about momentum. Once you finish the first challenge, scouring the island for loose change so you buy a disguise to be an assistant chef, things start clicking into place. You can also solve things on your own by happenstance, like the mission-critical sunken crate I recovered almost immediately simply because I felt like swimming.
You’re rewarded for talking to NPCs too, as several will reveal clues you’d otherwise be likely to overlook. You’re also rewarded by generally fun dialogue that fills in some Monkey Island backstory for players who never touched the franchise. It really hits a sweet spot of offering just the right amount of challenge amidst a story and setting that will either feel inviting or familiar depending on your history. My only criticism is that my build was unstable, though hopefully the errors I encountered will be resolved now that it’s been released.
Sea of Thieves: The Legend of Monkey Island will be a three-part adventure, so I’m hopeful that things will advance in a more crew-oriented direction in the future. Regardless, there’s something for everyone on Mêlée Island. New players won’t feel overwhelmed within a smaller game world that serves up SoT’s unique charm. Returning players will be reminded of all the things they liked about the game, and veteran crews have a new place to goof around while they wait for a bigger challenge to come. Because there’s always a villainous ghost pirate out there somewhere, right?