Sea Of Thieves

Platform(s): PC, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Rare
Release Date: March 20, 2018


XOne/PC Preview - 'Sea of Thieves'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on July 19, 2016 @ 2:30 a.m. PDT

Sea of Thieves is an immersive, shared-world adventure game filled with pirates, unexpected dangers and loot for the taking.

Pre-order Sea of Thieves

In Sea of Thieves, you're thrown on a pirate ship with a crew of other players, and you must work together to man the ship, explore the world, and become the best pirates you can be. It's effectively a sandbox game with a simple concept: Be a pirate. The gameplay is simple but can quickly grow complex. The pirate ship has a series of stations you can man. Hop on the cannon and shoot your enemies, help raise the sails for more speed, or quickly duck down below deck to patch some holes in the boat before it sinks. The focus is on immersion. While we didn't see it in the demo, the developers fully intend to have maps that you can look over together and even perhaps a mechanic that lets you force ne'er-do-wells to walk the plank.

The goal is to have fun. The developers have said they're eager to make sure that Sea of Thieves isn't a game you play "the right way." Instead, you can do whatever you want. Do you want to get together a group of friends and become a brutally efficient group of plunderers, rushing across the sea to find treasure and loot any ship you encounter? Go for it. Or do you want to get drunk and play instruments for hours? Go for it!  Rare is aware that people need goals, and the developer intends to implement optional progression systems and quests. There won't be a "right" or "wrong" way to play the game.

Sea of Thieves is heavily focused on cooperative play. The developers said that they initially considered focusing on a free-for-all environment, and they quickly discovered that human nature doesn't support that. The moment a treasure chest came into play, the formerly cooperative pirate crew turned into backstabbing monsters. This can be fun, but it quickly becomes too difficult to prevent people from killing each other. Instead, they're focusing on making sure everyone on the team is interested in working together. Each player is allowed to own a ship, and there are even single-player ships for those who want to explore the world and not bother with the social elements, but cooperative play is front and center.

The other intriguing element of Sea of Thieves is that it's also competitive. Players exist in a shared world, but Rare was clear that they want player interactions to be special and not a case of looking out across the sea and seeing 10,000 ships at once. You will encounter other players, and how those interactions go is entirely up to you. The current demo only allows combat between players, but Rare says they intend for the final game to allow for trading and other friendly interactions. They're unsure if they'll implement alliances between players but are very interested in seeing player feedback to see what is and isn't a must. They have said that there will be AI enemies for players to fight but insist that any ship you encounter should be manned by other players.

Rare is very open about the fact that Sea of Thieves is still in its early stages but also are just as open that their ideas are extremely ambitious. They want to make a sandbox in the truest sense of the term. The end goal is a game where one group of people can sail around battling monsters and finding treasure, another can loot everything they get their hands on, a third can form some kind of merchant empire, and a fourth can just be a traveling party ship. All are equally viable, and all are equally fun. It's a difficult challenge, but at bare minimum, it's easy to see how a lot of the basics have already been implemented. For those worried about griefers ruining the fun, Rare has said they intend to keep a close eye on things and make sure that nobody's too soured by a bad experience. Likewise, they intend for the loss of a ship to feel important but not crippling.

At the end of the day, Sea of Thieves biggest element is that it's fun. The first gameplay demo shows off a lot of potential, and even this very early build is remarkably fun to play. Screaming at three other people while you frantically try to raise the sails, return fire on an enemy ship and avoid crashing into rocks is absurdly enjoyable, and it has the makings of a great game to play with friends. The fact that it isn't strictly cooperative or competitive also allows for a lot of potential. Every person on the show room floor who tried the game came away smiling, and it's easy to see why. Sea of Thieves comes out exclusively for the Xbox One and Windows 10 in early 2017.

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