Sea of Thieves Closed Beta Impressions

Posted by: 2/5/2018

Sea of Thieves is the latest game from acclaimed developer Rare, and while the game has had a presence at Microsoft’s E3 briefings the past few years, not much was known about the game. The biggest question was “what do you actually do?” This past week, the NDA was lifted on the closed beta, and the internet learned exactly what you do in Sea of Thieves. Not only is Sea of Thieves the best pirate game to hit the video game market, it is one of the best multiplayer experiences I’ve ever played.

The first thing that you need to realize about Sea of Thieves is that it isn’t your typical online experience. When you boot the game up, you have the choice of joining three other players to run a four man boat, team up with one other person to manage a smaller boat, or you can so adventuring by yourself in the same boat the two man teams use. After you make your selection, you get put into a massive living world with other player-controlled pirates, and some NPCs.

Okay, so you run a boat with other people playing as pirates, but what do you actually do? It is honestly up to the player to decide what they want to do in this sandbox world. There are trading companies in the game that give you voyages (which is what Sea of Thieves calls quests). In the beta, there was just the one trading company that wants you to find treasure. The final game will have two other trading companies; one will have you delivering goods across the world, and the other is a trading company that has you killing enemies as a sort of bounty.

Treasure hunting is the main way the game gets players to move around the world. The treasure hunting loop is pretty fun in the game. You get a map of an island with the location of treasure chests marked on the map. On the second deck of your ship, there is a big map table. The goal is the find the island on the big map table, sail to that island, and use the treasure map in your inventory to dig up the treasure. After you find the treasure, you take it back to the treasure hunting company, and you get gold coins as a reward.

As you progress, the voyages go from half day voyages to multi-day voyages. The multi-day voyages are high risk, high reward voyages because they have you going to multiple islands to grab multiple treasure chests. As you begin to stockpile treasure chests on your ship, you start to get nervous about coming across other pirates and getting into a ship battle. I only went on one multi-day voyage during the closed beta, and I think we had about 10 chests at the end of the voyage.

The big concern with the beta is the lack of content (which Rare has said there is a lot more content in the finished product), and how progression is bare bones. Those criticisms are fine if you compare Sea of Thieves to other multiplayer games, like Call of Duty or Destiny 2. But Sea of Thieves is not your typical multiplayer game.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen the rise of games where you experience your own story instead of experiencing the story that the developers have come up with. This is where Sea of Thieves shines. Each time you log into the game, you have a different experience, and you craft your own story. I can say with absolute confidence that Sea of Thieves is the most fun I’ve had in a multiplayer game in a long time.

It’s been a long time where I have felt comfortable just jumping into a game with a bunch of random people. I actually avoided online gaming for a while after a few years of dealing with toxic communities. But Sea of Thieves has reignited that love of playing multiplayer games online.

One of the areas that Sea of Thieves succeeds in is giving players stuff to do. For example, when sailing around on the ocean, each player has a responsibility. You’ll have one person manning the wheel, another adjusting sails so you get the full power of the wind, another following the map so you know you’re on the correct course, another in the crow’s nest looking for enemy ships, etc. You never feel bored in the game; there is always something to do.

The game really shines when you come across another boat filled with other players. You can approach other ships however you want. The most common would be to load your cannons and try to sink the other ship. Ship battles are so chaotic, and I think Rare has done a great job of giving you a sense of urgency during battles. If your ship starts to take damage below deck, you’ll need people repairing holes and bailing out water. If you don’t do it quick enough, your boat sinks, and all the treasure that was on your boat will now be floating in the water for other players to take.

You can also board enemy ships and try to take them out that way. Or you can flash your lanterns as you pass, signaling to the other boat that you are not looking for a fight, and hoping they return the favor. The connected world of Sea of Thieves makes it a unique experience.

I did do some sailing on my own, and it makes Sea of Thieves a completely different experience, but it is still a lot of fun. I’d recommend playing with other people if you can, but sailing by yourself can be relaxing. The smaller boat has all of the controls within a few steps of each other, so it is really easy to manage by yourself. They are also faster and nimbler than the bigger boats, so you can easily outrun bigger boats that are trying to attack you. You feel very vulnerable sailing by yourself, but it is also very tranquil.

The combat in Sea of Thieves is easily the weakest aspect, but it also isn’t the focus, so it is easy for me to give it a pass. You have an assortment of weapons: a rapier, a flintlock pistol, a sniper file, and a blunderbuss. The full game will have more weapons, and you can buy new weapons from outposts in the world. The bulk of the on foot combat comes from you killing re-animated skeletons that rise out of the ground when you’re looking for treasure. They are more of an annoyance than anything, and can be disposed of rather quickly. I wouldn’t say that combat is an afterthought in the game, but it isn’t the main focus. If you’re looking for a game with a deep combat system, you won’t find it here.

But I cannot reiterate enough that Sea of Thieves is one of the most unique multiplayer games I’ve ever played. It is more than just a connected, persistent world. You feel more apart of the world than I’ve ever felt in a multiplayer game. It’s definitely a game to keep an eye on. I’m very excited for the final release to see what content Rare has been holding back, and to become a pirate again!

PC Previews Xbox

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