Posted February 2, 2018 by Andrew Cathie in Feature

Sea of Thieves Closed Beta Hands-on Impressions

There are few pleasures in life quite like being with close friends and having fun. This is something that some games have attempted to work off, with a focus on co-operative play, but few games do this while also allowing relative freedom. Sea of Thieves, the new pirate adventure coming from Rare in March, looks to focus on the feeling of adventure and camaraderie that comes from adventuring with your friends, sailing the high seas and searching for treasure. I had the opportunity to go hands on with the game during its latest closed beta, trying out both group and solo adventuring.

While the full version of Sea of Thieves sports multiple guilds that you can accept voyages from – the single or multi-step adventures you’ll experience in the game – the closed beta contained only one of those guilds. The guild in question were the Gold Hoarders, focused on collecting gold and treasure, they have you scouring islands looking for the loot that will come to line their pockets. The voyages they offer come in short jaunts that require a single island hop or larger ones that have you hitting multiple islands in search of larger amounts of treasure. In my time with the game I found two different types of maps, a classic ‘X marks the spot’ map that shows you an island and the location of the treasure, and riddles that give you an island name and a set of instructions to find the treasure. The reward from these specific voyages are gold coins that you can use at the shops on Outposts to buy supplies, new weapons, tools and clothes to customise your pirate. You’ll need to go on more than a single voyage to afford anything more than the most basic of items based on the voyages I completed, so get ready to be in it for the long haul.

Once you have your voyage from the Guild and you’ve got yourself up and running, it’s time to get into the real meat of Sea of Thieves – the sailing. Ever since I played Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag I’ve longed for another game where I could sail the seas on grand adventures and Sea of Thieves feels better than anything before it. The sea looks utterly amazing, waves rising and crashing realistically, moving with the wind and causing your ship to bob and sway just like the real thing. The seas get rougher and the wind stronger as storms roll in and the wind can be harnessed to increase and decrease the speed your ship is travelling at. I played Sea of Thieves on PC in 4K with all settings turned to max and by god does it look amazing. Islands are swamped with plants that move with the wind and as you walk through them, ships look incredibly detailed and characters are fantastic. Not only does the game look amazing, but its performance was also rock solid, with no obvious framerate hitching or drops. While the final release is still yet to be seen, the closed beta points towards Sea of Thieves being an incredibly solid game from a technical standpoint.

I’ve played Sea of Thieves in group situations at a couple of trade shows in the past, but this closed beta was the first time I had the chance to play the game wholly on my own. While I love the social aspect of Sea of Thieves, creating my own adventures with friends, doing stupid things and just having a jolly good time, there’s something to be said for going into the game on your own. The feel changes completely, going from a light-hearted social experience to a true adventure reminiscent of films like Indiana Jones. Sailing to islands, skilfully evading other player’s ships in your smaller, faster vessel, ransacking islands as you search for the treasures you seek and fighting off hordes of skeletons as your try to take that same treasure back to your ship. The stakes are higher on your own, as a single mistake can cause you to lose your hard earned booty from the current voyage. While the feeling is different from being in a group, solo voyaging looks to be just as engaging.

While I once patiently awaited the full release of Sea of Thieves, the closed beta has done nothing but increase my hunger for the game and cause a certain impatience to rise inside me. The beta looked beautiful, performed fantastically and proved to be an engaging experience. I cannot wait to see the rest of the game’s content when it releases for Xbox One and Windows 10 on March 20.

Andrew Cathie

Rocket Chainsaw's premier Fantasy-loving Editor. I basically play anything and everything that looks like it could be fun or interesting.