Sea of Thieves, the multiplayer swashbuckling action-adventure from Rare, has been a coming for quite a long time, but it’s finally going to be released this year. Published by Microsoft, it looks like a return to the joyous old days when MS-published games were all the rage as far as creativity and entertainment were concerned.
What awaits us on the salty waters of the Sea of Thieves? Let’s dive in and see.
Non-standard character creation
Although SoT embraces the idea of multiplayer gameplay fully and without fuss, it eschews the initial character customisation methods we’ve grown accustomed to over the years. There is no face and clothes selection screen for enthusiasts of simplified customisation, and there are no sliders for fans of facial remodelling. None of that.
Instead Sea of Thieves presents you with a selection of several characters randomly generated using the game’s libraries, each of them as unique as possible, and coming in a multitude of shapes and sizes.
The upside is that there is pretty much a guarantee that the players won’t end up with “immersion breaking” monstrosities, and everyone will look suitably roguish or heroic. Although you’ll only see several possible choices at any given time, you’ll also be able to ask the game to reroll them for you ad infinitum, in hopes of finding an avatar that appeals to you much more.
The downside, and one that already has people grumbling, is that it takes away a certain amount of player freedom from those who like having more input into their characters’ appearances.
How it works in practice remains to be seen after the game launches properly, however. The reception of this feature may shift considerably over time.
Sea of Thieves gameplay features
At its core, SoT is a first-person action-adventure game set in an open world with a singular hub location and a multitude of smaller islands where you’re going to go to complete quests, here called voyages.
It’s a rather simple core gameplay loop: get a quest out in the hub, sail towards a treasure island, do what the quest demands, come back without anybody robbing you along the way. The true meat of the game is going to be in the multiplayer bits, because the seemingly simplistic loop becomes much more interesting when you and your friends can mess around and compete with other pirates.
Puzzles and protectors
Of course getting the treasure isn’t as easy as just sailing towards a designated island and waltzing towards a red cross painted on the sand. Often the chests will be hidden behind a puzzle your crew will need to solve. Equally often you’ll encounter skeletal pirates guarding the treasure with lethal efficiency. Each of the obstacles will need to be overcome before making your way to the ship with the loot.
And of course other players may well decide to attack and board your ship in a bid to grab the spoils for themselves. No honour among thieves, yeah?
None of it would be quite easy, if it weren’t for the cooperative gameplay. The game handles teams of up to four players total, but is fine with letting you play in trios, duos, or even solo. It simply resizes your ship to make it manageable to a smaller group. Which is important, because it doesn’t sail itself.
You and your crew will need to have someone at the wheel, someone to manage the sails, and once the sails are down somebody will have to let the helmsman know what’s right in front of the ship. Essentially, it’s something of a sailing simulator, albeit one with a solid dose of good fun.
And then there’s also the small stuff that is much more fun in a team, like playing instruments together. On your own it won’t sound very nice, but when everyone pulls out their hurdy-gurdys, and other instruments, the effects are reportedly going to be rather charming.
Without a shadow of doubt, Sea of Thieves is going to be at its best when played with friends.
Rare’s upcoming project shapes up like a smash hit, which may even take by storm last year’s mega-successes like PUBG or Fortnite Battle Royale. A clear focus of cooperation, cheerful visuals, competitive elements as frequent as you make them, and the somewhat tactile joy of managing a ship may turn out to make Sea of Thieves the game of late Q3 2018 among other solid titles coming around in March. Whether it’ll mark Rare’s definitive return to the big leagues remains to be seen, but the hopes are high.
Sea of Thieves launched on March 20th for Windows PC and Xbox One.
Will we clash on the open seas, sailors?