Since E3 2015, Microsoft has been showing off the upcoming shared-world pirate game Sea of Thieves. Developed by Rare, creators of classics such as Banjo-Kazooie, Viva Pinata, Perfect Dark, and the original FPS king, Goldeneye 007, Sea of Thieves was originally scheduled to launch in 2017, but was delayed until March 20, 2018. Ahead of release, Rare has held a closed alpha test (which I was part of, but could not share my experiences with due to an NDA), and most recently, a closed beta for those who were either in the alpha or pre-ordered the game. While the tests didn’t show off every aspect of the game, they did give players a good idea of what to expect when Sea of Thieves releases next month.
Upon loading up Sea of Thieves’ beta, players can choose to play alone or to be randomly matched up with others based on the desired crew and ship size. Bigger ships means more crew members, and thus, more players in your party. Once your ship size and crew is ready, players will purchase treasure maps or clues from an NPC and set sail. Once players find the location, they bring the treasure back to the NPC for a reward and for reputation points with said NPC. Leveling up the reputation unlocks higher tiered quests, and thus, better rewards. In the beta, there appeared to be absolutely no story involved with Sea of Thieves, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Rare seems set on delivering a quality multiplayer experience that is both fun to play and immersive, and from what I’ve played, that’s the perfect thing for this particular game.
Setting sail with a friend is as simple as sending an invite, thankfully, as playing with friends is the ideal way to play Sea of Thieves. I played both solo and with a buddy of mine, and the experience while playing together was MUCH better than playing alone. Sea of Thieves, at least in beta form, offers no tips, tutorial, or introduction, but in personal experience, this made the game that much more fun to play. At one point, our ship had hit rocks and sprung a leak. We scrambled about trying to find out how to remedy the situation until one of us figured it out, which yielded a much greater sense of accomplishment than if we had simply been told how to do it. A plethora of similar examples could be listed to reinforce the idea that Sea of Thieves’ anti-hand-holding approach is preferable to being told exactly what to do and when to do it. And sure, I could have figured things out eventually while playing alone, but as the saying goes, “Two heads are better than one”, and, quite simply, the laughing, joking, and frantic scrambling with a friend was an awesome gaming experience that I am eagerly looking forward to expanding on in Sea of Thieves’ final release. This kind of player interaction is exactly what Rare was going for in this game, and on this front, it delivers.
It’s hard to not compare Sea of Thieves to Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag due to the pirate themes, but the games could not be more different. Sea of Thieves emphasizes exploration and being almost a “pirate simulator,” and the best example of that is found on the ship itself. In Black Flag, players didn’t have to worry much about the automated intricacies of maintaining a pirate ship, while that is the heart of the experience while sailing in Sea of Thieves. Every crew member on board has a job, such as realigning and raising sails to catch the wind, watching the map and helping with navigation, steering the ship, and even manning cannons in battle. This really stresses the teamwork angle in Sea of Thieves, and it’s way more fun and enjoyable than it sounds.
Sea of Thieves’ is shaping up to be an excellent game from Rare, and something Microsoft desperately needs in this time of console-exclusive drought. Personally, I don’t think Sea of Thieves is going to be a console seller, but it’s absolutely going to be a great treat for those who already own an Xbox One. Rare and Microsoft Studios’ Sea of Thieves drops on March 20, 2018 for Xbox One and Windows 10 PC. For all things video gaming, including the upcoming final review of Sea of Thieves upon release, be sure to keep your browser locked to Geeks + Gamers!