The first of the three-part Sea of Thieves Monkey Island expansion is a mostly painful test of patience for all but the most stalwart of Monkey Island aficionados. A full disclosure up front: I am not the biggest Monkey Island fan. I'm aware of the "legend" of the series, if you will; my colleague Dustin Bailey called it "the greatest adventure game of all time" unironically, but I've personally not played a single game in the series. I have, however, logged hundreds of hours into Sea of Thieves, and I couldn't keep my eyes open for most of this utterly monotonous and shallow collectathon.
Not everything about the Monkey Island DLC disappointed me. The new location, Mêlée Island, is visually distinct from every other Sea of Thieves island I've explored, and I felt some satisfaction piecing together the mystery of Guybrush Threepwood's disappearance, but by and large this is dull stuff.
It's also worth an extra point of clarification that what's available today is only the first of three Tall Tales encompassing the whole of Sea of Thieves' Monkey Island chapter. In fact, creative director Mike Chapman took to Twitter recently to "set expectations" for the first update, explaining that the entirety of Mêlée Island won't be open to players until the second Tall Tale launches next month.
Even so, there's no escaping the unfortunate reality that this first content update in Sea of Thieves' Monkey Island saga is a drag from beginning to end. Without spoiling anything, I'll just say an unreasonably large chunk of your time on Mêlée Island will be spent running around stealing haphazardly placed coins - Pieces o' Eight, of course - from barrels and crates, and after that arduous task is complete, you'll mostly be looking around for other items and finding entirely mundane ways to interact with them and advance the plot, which, I hate to say, bored me to tears.
The connections between clues are usually glaringly obvious, and none of them introduce a single new mechanic, or at least not one interesting enough to remember. Puzzles, I say between exaggerated quote-mark hands, involve pouring grog into mugs, going fishing, throwing cooking ingredients together into a stewing pot, and operating a pully system, and never once did I feel truly challenged to think outside the box. The only times I felt lost were when I couldn't find whatever thing was required, but without fail that crucial item always turned out to be simply hiding in a location I hadn't combed through sufficiently.
By far, the biggest letdown of the whole miserly offering is the boss fight at the end. It's a frustrating, drawn-out scramble where your gun and melee weapon are useless and you're left to press a single button a bunch of times to win. Again, for Monkey Island purists, I won't spoil the details, but trust me when I say you'll be scratching your head and asking, 'that's it?' when the battle ends and you're whisked back to your ship.
Once more, I'll say there's probably a Galleon's worth of self-referential humor and nostalgia here for fans of the cult-classic adventure series, but even then I can't imagine them finding much more of value. And for everyone else, it's like the most forgettable Sea of Thieves quest you've ever embarked on, but three times longer. Go here, find that, unlock that, go back over there, move that thing a little to the right, talk to that dude, climb up that hill, go back over there again, and on, and on, and on. Davy Jones, have mercy.
For my gold, Sea of Thieves is at its best when it embraces large-scale chaos; high-pressure coordination between you and your crewmates against the persisting threat of an enemy fleet or, heaven forbid, a Kraken. This update is the precise opposite of that experience; a complacent, predictable, slow-moving slog from one checkpoint to the next, without a trace of the trademark high-risk, high-reward thrill that made me fall in love with the core game in the first place.
That's not to say I don't appreciate Sea of Thieves' more narrative-based content - I really enjoyed the Pirates of the Caribbean chapter - it's simply a case of what's been released at this time being deeply, confoundingly boring in almost every respect. That said, I do recall the Pirates of the Caribbean Tall Tales starting out pretty slow, so with any luck this little misfire of an update will be just that: an aggravating and overly long build-up to something more deserving of the Monkey Island name.
A code was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this write-up.