Our maiden voyage with Sea of Thieves back at E3 was enjoyable, and we left excited to see what Rare could do with the pirate-themed game. A select group of players helped the studio with constant feedback in multiple closed alpha sessions, and Rare allowed more fans to check out a more recent build of the game in a closed beta event. Once again we gathered a crew and ventured out to explore the sea and find treasure, but as enjoyable as it was to get another taste of Sea of Thieves, we’re left wondering just how much there will be to do in the final version.
Guns And Gold
Before we set sail, we had to choose from three crew setups for the voyage. We could work with a group of two or four players or, for a more challenging experience, go on a solo expedition. Regardless of the number of crew numbers, the mission was still the same: hunt for treasure, sell the bounty, and potentially take out other crews along the way. For our first session, we decided to head out with a party of four players.
We gathered supplies such as bananas, which restored health; cannonballs for potential ship-to-ship combat; and wooden planks, which were used to repair any damage on the ship. One of our allies then talked to a vendor to purchase information about a specific treasure. Clues to these hidden caches are usually doled out in the form of a simple map or a series of riddles. Once the ship left port and we were out in the open sea, we went to the crow’s nest to spot our destination and look out for enemies while our comrades steered the ship and manned the sails.
Sea of Thieves' main form of progression comes from the treasure chests found by your crew, which provide experience points when sold. Reaching specific levels provides access to more bountiful, yet riskier, treasure hunts. Our first batch of quests yielded one or two chests at a time, but later on we embarked on a voyage that featured six locations with at least seven to eight chests to acquire. The latter quest easily took more than an hour to complete, and it would have take even longer if we had encountered other players in our epic quest for pirate booty.
As fun as it was to play with three other people, the real excitement came from playing with one other person or sailing solo. Even though we piloted a smaller ship, we still had to manage the sails, steering, and repairs, which are more difficult to deal with because of a smaller crew size. There was also an increased risk of failure in these situations because we could easily lose our hard-earned treasure if we encountered other ships.
Speaking of encounters, combat is an inevitability in Sea of Thieves, but it’s not just about manning the cannons or using guns and swords to take out other players. An effective crew not only fires accurate shots to sink enemy ships, it also knows how to use the sails and wind to its advantage. This means that there are some people on your team who won’t have the chance to participate in the fight because they need to steer the vessel or repair any hull damage. A multi-treasure haul can easily end in disaster if your crew isn’t prepared to repel opponents. Teamwork and communication is something that you’ll need to use in almost every situation in Sea of Thieves, and these encounters can easily be the highlight of your journey. For an extra challenge you can always try fighting when piloting a smaller vessel, but if you want to get the most out of your gameplay sessions, it’s best to play with others.
What Else Is There To Do?
At some point the excitement from a treasure hunt diminished. Riddles, maps, and combat couldn't keep us entertained forever. Even the additional clothing and equipment for our characters, which we bought with the money from selling treasures, barely satisfied us. We disregarded the search for treasure altogether and put our efforts full-time into hunting down other players. However, the intensity and excitement of combat eventually died down after a few skirmishes.
As is the case with most betas, Rare didn’t include the full suite of features during this preview phase, which left us wondering again what else is in store for the launch version of Sea of Thieves. Some fans managed to data mine the closed beta build of the game and found hints at more content, such as vendors, unique sea encounters, and customization options for your ship. However, the bulk of your time in the game is still spent hunting treasure or fighting other players. This might keep some players occupied for a while, but others might stop after a few hours. We’ll have to wait and see what the full game has in store, but as exciting as the content is so far, Sea of Thieves is a mile wide but only an inch deep.