Last weekend, a friend and I sailed to a deserted island looking for treasure. As we searched using the clues received from some strange person calling themselves a gold hoarder, we heard a sound off in the distance. We ignored it the first time, but then heard it again. As we went to investigate, we discovered that another ship had arrived at the island and was firing upon our own vessel! Immediately forgetting about the treasure, we spent the next hour and a half chasing down the scum in a quest for revenge.
Moments like this are what make Sea of Thieves, developed by Rare for Xbox One and PC, so much fun. Players can set out with a group of friends seeking to complete various quests, only to find an entirely different adventure waiting for them. Rare has crafted a world that encourages players to explore, providing gamers with a truly unique experience every time they set sail with friends. While there are many elements that are designed to divert you and your friends from your originally intended course, there are core tasks in Sea of Thieves to give you direction every time you sign on.
Factions in Sea of Thieves play a large role in giving that direction. While the final version of the game will have three factions, each offering quests that focus on a different play style, the Sea of Thieves beta featured only the Gold Hoarders faction. By purchasing a quest, or voyage as it’s called in Sea of Thieves, players receive a map that allows them and their friends to set sail in search of buried treasure. By finding the treasure and returning it to the Gold Hoarders, you receive a reward in the form of gold coins. Each player is allowed to propose a voyage in the captain’s cabin, and the voyage that receives the most votes is the quest that the entire team will embark on.
Because each faction focuses on a different play style, completing a string of voyages for the same faction in a row can make the experience seem somewhat repetitive and mundane – if all you choose to do is the quests. This certainly would have been the case in the Sea of Thieves beta if we had allowed ourselves to be solely focused on voyages and not open to whatever diversion might present itself. Stopping to investigate a capsized ship, venturing off to see what lies at the end of the map, and simply drinking grog or throwing one of your friends in the brig and taunting them with music you can play, offer a lot of ways to keep the game enjoyable between voyages. In the final version of the game, the Merchant Alliance and the Order of the Souls will join the Gold Hoarders as factions offering voyages, giving players a much more diverse selection of missions to play.
The old saying “it’s about the journey, not the destination” certainly rings true in Sea of Thieves. The real fun in the game is in the interactions you have with your friends on the ship while sailing the sea. While playing the beta, I experienced the sensation of drinking too much grog and stumbling around the ship, my friends drinking way too much grog and seeing them vomit on the navigational map or right on the captain, giving him a screen covered in green so he couldn’t see where he was steering, and locking friends in the brig while we stood around them throwing buckets of water at him and playing our musical instruments in front of him.
While all of these things had us laughing while we played, the last one stands out in particular. We let our friend out of the brig when we reached the outpost so he could help us turn in one of the four chests we had discovered. Three of us turned in our chests, but we didn’t see him. Suddenly, we heard him in party chat saying that he hoped we could find another ship because the one we were on was gone. He had taken the ship and sailed away to get back at us! We were all dying of laughter, and moments like this are what makes Sea of Thieves both different and great.
Visually, Sea of Thieves looks fantastic, though some players might be put off by the cartoonish looking graphics. However, if you can look past that, the game looks absolutely stunning, especially if you are taking advantage of the 4K resolution on the Xbox One X. Colors are bright and vivid, reflections look great, and you’ll find a variety of different looks in the players you encounter. No, Sea of Thieves doesn’t look like Gears of War 4 or Halo 5, but it’s not meant to. It looks exactly like what the game is: a fun, light-hearted experience.
Controls in Sea of Thieves are simple and easy to master. Everything you can interact with, such as the sails, lights, map, cannons, and wheel, will display a button prompt telling you exactly what to press in order to control it. The bumpers allow players to select an item in their inventory to use, such as the shovel to dig up treasure, wooden planks to repair the ship, or the cup you drink grog out of. Combat weapons are selected by pressing the Y button repeatedly until you’ve cycled through to the one you want. Overall, the control scheme is very intuitive and makes Sea of Thieves very easy to pick up and play.
There’s really no other way to put it – I had an absolute blast playing the Sea of Thieves beta with friends. Now that it will be part of the Xbox Game Pass at launch, there is simply no reason to not give it a try. If you do, I can say with confidence that you will experience a game that is both new and refreshing, and something Xbox sorely needed. My friends and I plan to both play and stream a lot of Sea of Thieves when it launches on March 20, and the only downfall is the wait we have to endure until then.
If you want to know more about the Sea of Thieves beta, please check out our weekly podcast where we get into more detail about our experience!