Sea of Thieves fulfills a fantasy I’ve had for a long time. As a pirate, Sea of Thieves gives the player the freedom to sail the high seas, search for long-lost treasure, and engage in the assorted revelries for which pirate-kind is known. It’s a compelling premise that I knew I had to get my hands on.
The E3 demo divided players into four groups of five pirates each. Players found themselves on a small island with a handful of items, including planks of wood, a musical instrument, and some grog. Nearby, each island had a pristine pirate ship docked, and ready for players to hop aboard. There are no instructions or objectives given to us — just that we should explore and do whatever we wanted. I urged my fellow pirates to forego exploring our island and immediately set out to explore the ocean (we only had twenty minutes for the demo, after all).
Operating a ship of the size we were given was quite a task. There was an anchor that needed raising, three sets of sails that could be utilized to reach various speeds, a wheel that required someone to steer, and cannons that would need firing if it came to that. Furthermore, if our ship sustained damage, and we began to collect water, our crew would need to patch the holes up with planks of wood to prevent us from sinking. Teamwork was necessary to do even the most simple of tasks. For example, when steering the ship using the wheel at the stern, the pilot was unable to see the front of the ship, as the massive white sails blocked their view. To navigate properly, someone would need to climb to the bird’s nest, and give instructions to the captain, or risk dashing the ship into some rocks to disastrous results.
Unfortunately for my crew, we had a bit of a problem with the devil’s hooch, and were all very drunk by the time we set sail. One of my crewmates fell overboard in a drunken stupor, and we spent a few minutes figuring out how to rescue him. That’s when we spotted an unmoving ship in the distance, and set out to investigate. Aside from our drunken shenanigans, we made our way to the distant island pretty efficiently, and when we arrived, we realized that we had discovered an enemy group’s ship, left unguarded as their group went ashore, presumably in search of loot. Being the opportunist in the group, I boarded the enemy ship, and convinced one of the others in my crew to help me steal it. With our growing fleet, we abandoned the enemy crew on the island, and set sail for new conquests.
It wasn’t long before we came upon two other enemy ships, who were engaging one another in combat. Distracted by one another, they weren’t prepared for our superior firepower, and our cannons made quick work of their vessels. As their ships slowly sunk to Davey Jones’ locker, our crew revelled in our victory by playing musical instruments.
There are still a lot of questions about what Sea of Thieves will look like as a final product. What will the objective be? Will players be required to play with a crew of other pirates, or can they go solo? What is the scope of the game in terms of activities, and map size? That said, the small snapshot that I’ve played so far was a blast, and I’m excited to see where it goes.