To say I was excited for the launch of Sea of Thieves would be an understatement. When the title was originally announced exclusively for the Xbox One, that was the game that actually made me get the console even 3 years before it finally launched. When we learned it was to be part of the Xbox Play Anywhere program, that allowed access to PC versions of the game just by owning the Xbox version, I knew we'd get to see the game at an even greater potential. Beta after beta went by, and each time I played I wanted more.
For the past month before release, nothing has sated my gaming desires as I only had my looming pirate adventures in Sea of Thieves on my mind. On March 20th, the wait came to a close, and after a rough launch day I finally got out onto the open waters. Is it the nautical bliss I'd been hoping for?
Preparing For The Ocean
Sea of Thieves is an open-world multiplayer game set in the region of the same name. When you start the game for the first time, rather than creating a character, Rare has invented a method they call the Pirate Generator. A different starting selection of pirates every time you refresh the menu, and I mean every time. My first hour and a half of gameplay time was just finding a character that I was satisfied with (it does let you favorite a certain number of randomizations if you're having trouble picking right away). All the characters looked unique, and all of them had the varied pirate aesthetics ranging from surprising seabound beauties to the most grotesque villainous legends you can imagine. I finally found one that looked enough like me that I was satisfied. I could take to the seas not as Johnathan Irwin, but as my newfound pirate persona; Fatbeard the Pirate.
Sea of Thieves is very generous about laying out the basics of the gameplay before you. When you first load into the game, and every time you load into the game afterward, it begins the same way. You spawn in one of the many (usually) safe outposts, at the local tavern. From here you can venture into town where you'll find everything you need to strike out on your next big voyage.
Equipment, Weapon and Clothing stores are stocked with a massive variety of pricey cosmetic goods you can spend your in-game gold on. Weapons are all equally balanced for their classes so ultimately it comes down to player skill; buying new weapons and equipment are for cosmetic purposes only. I can hear the audible "Huh?" from some of the readers out there, but I'm actually on board with this idea. It's nice that the different weapon and equipment changes are grounded in the cosmetics because it adds another layer to people making their pirate truly theirs. I was happy to know I wouldn't have an odd looking weapon clashing with my hard sought outfit. However, if they were to include findable weapons as a form of treasure that were stronger than the store-bought variants, I wouldn't be against it.
But, even I started as a rags-to-riches story in Sea of Thieves. I could only windowshop, until I picked up Voyage contracts from the three guilds in the game. The Gold Hoarders, who hunger for riches and nothing else send players out to the furthest reaches of the sea. The Order of Souls, mysterious but still able to pay, have placed bounties on undead captains dotted throughout the islands near and far. The Merchant Alliance, though mundane in name, are all about their deadlines. They assign willing captains to acquire necessary cargo for shipment to the different outposts through the ocean blue within a certain timeframe. In the loosest terms, these guilds hand out fetch quests in different flavors. With Sea of Thieves I always had a vibe that it's not the destination, but the journey that matters.
Adventure On The High Seas
My time on the seas has been everything from calm and soothing, to adrenaline pumping and thought provoking. Whether I was mastering a Sloop alone or with my girlfriend, or even taking on the challenges of commandeering a Galleon with my closest friends, there's always something going on that just keeps me hooked on the adventure.
Exploring the waters and islands is in and of itself addicting, and while the voyage contracts are a great way to earn money in the long term, finding random chests, messages and maps in bottles, old tomes that lead you towards hidden treasure, even finding ways to outsmart and outperform rival crews is when you get to the real crux of what it means to be a pirate. This is emphasized by intricate but simple systems on land and at sea that make you feel like you're doing things with effort that are normally just a button away in other games. The controls, whether you're using a keyboard or a controller, are a dream and are nearly perfect for a game like this. You'll be working on mastering your coordination as a crew more than you will spending time learning the controls.
I've many stories from the high seas, but one of my most memorable ones is one that I feel sums up what it is to be a Pirate: Our galleon was engaged in a battle with another ship of the same category, full crews fighting in the midst of a massive storm looming closer. At one point we passed close enough that I did something risky; I jumped. I dove towards the ship, hoping to land close enough to land on a ladder and I felt like the luckiest man alive as I managed to do so. The enemy ship started pulling ahead in the storm, as ours slowed to repair damages. I saw my friends slip away into the blinding rain, hoping that they could follow the lanterns of the enemy ship and we'd reunite. I hung tightly to the ladder, I could just barely hear the crew of the ship muttering above and within the lower decks of the ship. I prayed they would not look over the side. I clung to the side of that ship for fifteen minutes before they came into port at an outpost and began offloading their treasure, and as they were distracted I started to do the same. Of their many chests, I managed to sneak four off to the side along the beach and into the bushes, keeping at a distance. In their confusion looking for their missing goods, I ran a gambit back and forth from the hideaway to the Gold Hoarder member and took their loot in the name of my crew.
Caught red handed with the last chest, I quickly sold it and engaged in a sword fight with two of the enemy players before finally being done in by one with a blunderbuss. To the Ferry of the Damned I went, awaiting my respawn, along with the two players I'd killed and a random person from another crew. We had a good laugh before we were welcomed back to the world of the living, "You're back! Where the hell were you!?" one of my friends said as I appeared back among their number. But they knew, as we had all gotten the same reward I earned from my sneaky tactic. The Legend of Fatbeard grows with every new adventure I have, every time I play.
Treasure To Behold
But it's not just the legend of my pirate, it's each and every player out there. Each with a different story, each with something that is so much more beyond the fetch-quest guilds. I'm hooked on this game already, and knowing Rare's passion for Sea of Thieves, I think we're in store for even more great things in the future. You need only answer the call of the sea; you are a pirate.
Easy to pick up and learn but still takes some effort to master, skill-not-gear PVP is very welcome, a beautifully presented sense of adventure that engrosses players in a pirate's life, finding randomly spawned items of value is always thrilling.
The best ways to earn gold over time are basically fetch quests.