Posted June 18, 2017 by Adam Ghiggino in Feature

E3 2017: Sea of Thieves Makes Drunken Sailors Of Us All (Hands-On)

Sea of Thieves is no stranger to E3, having been present for several years, without yet seeing a release. However, the online multiplayer pirate simulator was once again playable on the show floor this year, letting us go hands-on with a 20 minute chunk of the game with 3 other players. We were given a few maps and told by a developer from Rare to set forth and do whatever we wanted to do.

Without much direction, and having seen the E3 demonstration, we collectively decided to use the treasure map, which had a couple of clues hidden within riddles, and set off on our pirate ship across the ocean to Shipwreck Cove. This isn’t as simple as it sounds, everything requries coordination and cooperation between crew members. First, the crew has to hoist the anchor, unfurl the sails and rotate them to catch the wind. Then, while one pirate is steering the ship, another has to get below deck and view the map. The map isn’t visible upstairs, and all the player driving the ship has access to is a compass; it’s a simple tactic to force communication between two players to make sure you’re going the right way, but it works quite well. Speaking of communication, another crew member should be at the bow of the ship to check for any rocks or obstacles in the way – we collided with no less than three massive rocks, although thankfully we avoided any damage. The fourth crew member can help with the sails, or failing that, can make themselves useful for playing the accordion or hurdy-gurdy for some real pirate background music.

We finally arrived at the Shipwreck Cove, running aground on one of the rocks outside its perimeter – however, at first we were distracted by another player-controlled pirate ship. Maybe it’s the fact that it was the E3 demo and we weren’t necessarily playing as seriously as we would otherwise, but like dogs chasing cars we decided to abandon our objective and take on the other crew. Rather than simply loading up on cannoballs from below deck and firing them at the ship, we decided to load ourselves up in the cannons and fire ourselves over to duel them one-on-one. This went poorly, as I smacked straight into a large rock jutting out of the ocean, although one of my crew mates did manage to pull off the press conference feat of landing perfectly on their ship. I managed put a few of the enemy pirates down with the blunderbuss, but eventually they fought back and killed us all, sending us to the ghostly ship of the damned – a kind of time-out area where players wait around in spectral form until a door opens, allowing you to respawn back into the world.

All this fooling around encouraged us to actually try finding the treasure, following the clues to look for a specific shipwreck on the island, and its central mast. From there, we used the compass to measure exactly nine steps south-by-southeast, where I was the first one to dig up the treasure (ha ha!). We climbed back onto our ship (still aground, yet undamaged, from the last time we crashed it into a massive rock), taking the treasure to a nearby port and selling it.

That brought our demo to a close, and overall my experience with Sea of Thieves has come a long way since the first time I played it. The Rare developers on hand commented that they were listening very closely to player feedback from their Alpha, integrating features like violent storms and waves into the game based on suggestions. It’s a game that is very easy to be distracted and fool around in, but that said, the more you co-operate and work with your teammates, the more you can accomplish. It feels like the perfect game for a group of friends, rather than random players online (or at an E3 convention) – I can totally imagine knocking back a couple of beers on a Friday night, then tooling around with mates pretending we’re pirates, shouting and saying “Yarrrr!” a lot. Only this time, we can do it in an actual videogame, which is very cool too. Sea of Thieves is targeting a 2018 release date.

Adam Ghiggino

Owner, Executive Editor of Rocket Chainsaw. I also edit TV, films and make average pancakes.


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