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E3 2016: Hands-On with Sea of Thieves – Rare’s Excellent Pirate Adventure

by Kyle Hanson


There are many fantasies that video games help us live out. Rescuing the princess, saving the world, all sorts of good guy stuff. But sometimes you just wanna have the freedom to be the bad guy. Pirates are another video game fantasy that has come to life in the past, with games like Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag really putting you in the shoes of a swashbuckling adventurer. Now Rare is looking to really make you feel like a pirate, in their online multiplayer game Sea of Thieves. After a year of watching trailers and videos, I finally got to go hands-on with the title at E3 2016, coming away even more excited for this pirate-themed adventure.

Sea of Thieves is a much more open and free environment than pirate games of the past. Putting you and a few other players into a crew, the game simply gives you a boat and a large body of water, and lets you do the rest. There are islands dotting the sea, and you can visit them, though currently there isn’t too much to see there. For my short time with the game, our one and only goal, besides screwing around and saying “yarr!” a lot, was to hunt down other ships and send them to the bottom of the ocean.

And we did this, at least we tried to do this. Actually, our little pirate adventure started out pretty well. We started out on an island, just four pirates not sure what to do with our time. We each had a musical instrument in our inventory, so we messed around, playing music, and jumping on tables. After a couple of minutes of this we set out on our ship, with one player manning the ship’s wheel, another raising the sails, one more on the bow of the ship, giving directions, and our fourth running around doing odd jobs.

These sorts of roles aren’t assigned to you by the game, you just sort of naturally adopt them while you play. Somebody just saw where to raise the sails, so they did it, another player was anxious to get going, so they took the wheel, he couldn’t see through the sails, so the rest of us helped out, shouting out directions as we had them. It’s really freeing to just do whatever you want, but that also means you’ll want to be sure to play with communicative players, who all agree on the same goal.

Sea of Thieves E3 2016 Trailer

Our goal, as I mentioned before, was to hunt down other ships. Our first try at this was shockingly successful. I say shockingly, because none of us knew what we were doing, just kind of wandering the ship looking for things we could interact with. The cannons were easy to figure out though, and as we pulled alongside our enemy, four of us opened fire immediately. They fired back, of course, so I ran below deck and began patching up the holes.

Something you don’t really think about when battling on the ocean is that you really want to aim low. We were hitting them a lot, but the shots were above the water line, which means they’re essentially useless until they are already sinking. Our first kill was a bit of luck, it seems, as they began sinking after our second pass, and by our third they were deep underwater.

We then set out for more conquests, although we wouldn’t really find them. I mean this in two ways, one: it took us a long time to even find other ships, and two: we died pretty quickly afterward. Finding other ships was a bit of a problem, though it was one that we didn’t mind all that much. We ran around the ship, and sailed past rocky outcroppings, all having a great time. We were going to try to sail through a hole in some rocks, but when we slammed into a different rock on our way there, we abandoned this plan.

Finally we entered combat with two ships at the same time. This seemed like it could work, with us trying to target one of the ships, while they fought each other. However, their attention quickly turned toward us. Their shots were aimed below the water, and while one of us was trying to repair, they didn’t really let us know that they were failing to do so. I broke off my cannon, just in time to see the waves crash over the side of our ship, as we slowly went into the water.

Our time with Sea of Thieves was short, but it was impressive. You really get the feeling of being a pirate, with all the freedom and danger that that entails. And even outside of gameplay, the game excels in a lot of ways. This isn’t the most technically excellent title on the Xbox One, however it has truly breathtaking water. The game is very cartoony, which gives it a light-hearted and adventurous vibe. Really, the game just plays great so far, though it’ll be interesting to see if the final release adds more content to mess with. Battling other ships is fun, but could get old quick if there’s not other stuff to do. There almost certainly will be other stuff though, so get ready for Sea of Thieves to hit Xbox One and PC later this year.

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