The Multiplayer-Only 'Sea Of Thieves' Is More Fun Than It Sounds

At first, Rare’s Sea of Thieves didn't seem too appealing to us when it was revealed at E3 a year ago. Nevertheless, we tried the game at E3 this year, and it quickly reminded us of the mantra that you should never judge a book, or in this case a game, by its cover. In less than an hour, the short demo completely turned our view of Sea of Thieves around. However, there's a growing concern about the lack of content in the final version of the game.

Set Sail

When we played the demo at the Xbox Showcase, we were joined by three other players. Sea of Thieves requires four players to work together in order to complete quests or fight opponents. In other words, this is a multiplayer-only title. You can choose to either play with friends or join a random party. For our demo, our team had to pick from one of three activities: Solve a riddle to find legendary treasure or travel to one of two islands and use the map to take three chests and share the loot.

We decided to track down three chests on one of the unknown islands. In other to travel to the location, we had to get on a ship and work together as a crew to reach the island. Once onboard, we had to prepare the ship before we left the pier. Sails needed to be unfurled, and the anchor had to be lifted.

Once our teammates figured out the location of the island, we took charge of the helm and set a course for treasure. However, traveling the open seas isn’t as easy as it looks. Similar to Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Skull & Bones, we had to find the right angle for the wind in order to rapidly move across the waters. This meant that while we were steering, our crewmates were busy turning the angle of the sails in order to catch the strong winds from the west (we were heading in a northern direction). If the winds shifted, we then had to change the sails' angles again.

Surprisingly, this constant ship management didn't belay the fun; in fact, it emphasized the game’s core teamwork mechanics. The journey would be boring if the only person contributing on the ship was the helmsman while the rest of the crew just admired the scenery. By constantly checking the maps and adjusting sails, the entire crew contributed, which was more fun all the way around.

At one point, we veered too close to a small island (that wasn’t our destination), and a portion of our ship was damaged. A few seconds later, our ship started take on water. While our crewmates repaired the damage with wood stored below deck, we grabbed our bucket in the inventory and (comically) used it to carry the water that flooded the decks and throw it overboard. (We also had to make sure that we were anchored so that the ship wouldn’t wander into the open sea). After 30 seconds of repairs, we pressed onward and eventually found the island that was depicted on the treasure map.

Because the island didn’t have a pier, we had to drop anchor less than a mile outside its radius. This meant that we had to not only swim the rest of the way, but we also had to evade the hungry sharks that patrolled the area. We managed to dig up one piece of treasure when we saw another ship in the distance. This was the other group of players that was also trying out the demo at the same time. Our crew hurried back to the ship and started to chase them down.

Enemies Ahead

We eventually tracked down the other crew to another island, and it allowed us the opportunity to finally use the ship’s cannons, which another crewmember fortunately loaded before we even left the pier at the start of the demo. All we had to do was aim and fire, but because of our distance to the island, most of the shots ended up on the shore (the other crew was on higher ground).

However, we could close the gap by launching ourselves from the cannon like a circus performer.

Without even thinking twice about it, we climbed into the cannon and “flew” to the island. With a pistol, shotgun, and saber in our inventory, we attempted to take out the other crew. Because of the limited amount of ammunition for the firearms, each shot had to be precise and lethal. A missed shot meant that we had to endure a long reloading animation, during which time another player could get the drop on us. In the heat of battle, we shot at anything that moved, which wasn’t the best idea. Some players even opted to use their swords in order to save ammo, but they had to get up close and personal, which is within the shotgun’s lethal range, in order to take out their target.

In a nutshell, our early attack didn't end well, but it allowed us to explore the afterlife. Death in Sea of Thieves is temporary, as we found out. We ended up on a ghost ship called the Ferry of the Damned, and after a short time a door opened below deck that let us back in the world, specifically on the location of our ship.

When we got back, things went from bad to worse. The rest of our crew made it to the island to fight the other players and left our ship in the open. Somehow, it took damage again, but we couldn't save it in time. As the helmsman, I stayed onboard until it completely sank (insert somber music here), and then miraculously managed to swim to the surface and onto the island to join the rest of the crew. After some more fighting with the rival players, we eventually won and found out that the island we were on had another piece of treasure. Even though we eventually found it, we couldn't go anywhere without a ship. Someone in our crew had to die in order to respawn a new ship to come rescue us and, more importantly, keep our hard-earned loot.

The Empty Sea

Before we could decide on a sacrificial lamb, the developers told us that time was up on the demo. We walked away amused at the many shenanigans that ensued during gameplay, but we were also impressed at how fun and exciting it was to work with other people to steer a ship, find treasure, and even fight other parties.

There's a content issue, though. Most of what you can currently experience in Sea of Thieves was in the demo, and although it's a fun ride from start to finish, performing those same actions for an entire game can become dull. Sure, it’s fun to work with friends to maintain a ship and hunt for treasure, but there needs to be more for you and your crew to do in the game world. Rare plans to release the game sometime in early 2018, and we’re hoping that the studio is able to fill its pirate world with numerous activities and surprises.

The demo changing our minds in the first place; additional content would seal the deal.

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NameSea of Thieves
TypeAction/Adventure, Open-world, Pirate
PublisherMicrosoft Studios
PlatformsPC, Xbox One
Where To BuyN/A
Release DateEarly 2018
  • why_wolf
    I think this is the only game from E3 I was even a little excited for. Of course most of the fun from it will really be determined by the quality of friends you play it with.
  • beetlejuicegr
    I would love to see a ship in the game with random LoL players trying to cooperate :P