What a difference a year can make when it comes to game development. I played Sea of Thieves last year, at E3 2016. I enjoyed my time with the game, but it was clear that it was kind of bare bones. Our demo loaded us into an open world with another player controlled ship and then we sailed around until we spotted each other and fired cannons until one of our ships (mine) was sunk to the bottom of the ocean. This year I got to try it again, sitting down with Sea of Thieves before E3 2017 even kicked off. And man, if it was fun before this demo showed how much more Rare has added to the experience.
This time there weren’t any other player controlled ships. It was just me and my three crew mates. We started our quest on a random island, leaving the tavern once we’d all gotten a run down of the controls and general objectives we might want to accomplish. We had three treasure quests we could complete, but we’d only have time for one. After choosing which to try for we had to piece together what we were doing and how to do it.
You see, in Sea of Thieves you don’t just hop on the ship and sail away. We had a picture of an island with some X’s on it. We then had to use the map to figure out where this island was, announcing that it was almost due south of our current position, once I figured out that I was looking at our sea chart upside down. I then began raising the anchor, which would have taken a while if a fellow crew member hadn’t helped out. You can drop the anchor quickly enough, this is even a gameplay mechanic which allows for some hair-pin turns if used properly, but raising it takes some muscle.
As the two of us raised the anchor our other crew mates dropped the sails and angled them into the wind so that we could set sail for treasure. I steered the ship, which is something you can’t really do by yourself. With the sails down I couldn’t see a thing, which caused me to ram us onto a rock once we arrived at our desired island. Communication is key and we had failed to communicate, so we instead had to use buckets to toss water overboard and patch up some holes in the ship.
With that done it was time to get treasure hunting, so we hopped in the cannons and fired ourselves onto the island. Using our map we oriented ourselves by way of a nearby dock. We all decided on which X would be our treasure of choice, so we pulled out the shovels and started digging. Some skeletons popped up to fight us off, but we made short work of them and got back to our task. Hitting nothing but dirt a few times, we had to really figure out where that X corresponded on the actual landscape. We worked it out though, and our bounty was the “Chest of Sorrow”, a blue and green monstrosity that will randomly shed tears. Not a problem on the island, but on the boat it could quickly sink us.
We loaded up our treasure, with two people staying up top to steer and navigate and the other two down below making sure to offload the water that randomly spewed from our treasure. After some more miscommunication we finally made it to a different island with an outpost where we could sell our weeping bounty. We had just enough time to hop by the bar for some drinks, dancing (read: jumping up and down on tables) and music making.
Oh, and did I mention that I died. Yeah, it seems that jumping into ankle deep water will cause some damage. This sent me to a ghost ship where I had to wait out a timer. Once the door opened I could step through and get back to my crew. It’s an interesting little respawn mechanic and adds a lot to this magical pirate world.
All of this wasn’t a part of Sea of Thieves just a year ago, and it’s clear that Rare is focusing on adding in these sorts of quests and objectives, as well as a bunch of little fun touches. The end result is a game that has a loose structure, but still has a lot of purpose and meaning in what you do. They still have a lot of time to add even more too, so keep an eye out for Sea of Thieves when it hits Xbox One and Windows 10 in early 2018.