Sea of Thieves Preview – Swashbuckling Fun with a Ton of Teamwork

Ever watched Black Sails, Pirates of the Caribbean or read Treasure Island and think to yourself: You know, I wish there was a video game that gave me a similar experience? Rare’s got you covered. At Gamescom, we got our hands on the game, along with a special presentation from the team behind this swashbuckling adventure.

Starting off with our initial hands-on session at Microsoft’s premiere event on Tuesday, we set out to destroy our rival teams. Spawning at the beach with our headsets on and our controller ready, it wouldn’t take long till we were climbing the steps and stepped onto the deck of our first ship, which would put our teamwork to the test.Screenshots_0004_SOT_Gamescom_2016_Screenshot_Far-SunsetRaise the anchor, drop the sails, take the wheel, it took most of us to get all of these preparations done as we set sail across the waters of Sea of Thieves. I manned one of the cannons as my colleague went to oversee our surroundings in the crow’s nest, with our captain taking charge as he taught us the fundamentals of the game. Teamwork is key, and maintaining your ship is a task that’s simply too hard to do alone. Together you raise the anchor faster and you simply need your mate to adjust the sail for course correction, because, if you do these things alone, you’re simply the smallest fish in this vast ocean.

It didn’t take long until my colleague in the crow’s nest identified a ship on the horizon and as we adjusted our course we made our way to our first combat encounter of the session. Our rivals had a similar idea, as it didn’t take long for the first cannonballs to hit the waters near us, which set the mood for an intense, yet insanely fun combat encounter that showed us that combat in Sea of Thieves isn’t just a simple game of shooting a cannon but a game of maintaining the damage that you receive as well. Below deck the ship was quickly filled with a lot of water and even though the action was intense above deck, we simply needed part of the crew to keep us afloat as we fought this battle of firepower and wits, of which the latter is a factor that is simply essential when it comes to navigating in naval combat.Screenshots_0000_SOT_Gamescom_2016_Screenshot_Ship-SunsetAfter sinking to ships and meeting our own demise, our hands-on time with Sea of Thieves ended, but our victory wouldn’t be the end of our experience as we were met by the team at Rare for a behind closed doors presentation that would tell us a lot more about the game than we initially knew.

Presented in 4K on a beast of a PC rig, executive producer Joe Neate and PC Design Lead Ted Timmins took us through a demo of the game that was actually connected to the floor demo, which meant that our hosts were presenting us a real-time experience with the public acting as our rivals in this case.

Sea of Thieves is currently in full-on development, with the team at Rare constantly re-prioritizing features based on community feedback, which the team plans to continue doing as we head into the alpha and beta stages later in development. One of the biggest functioning, but currently unavailable features was the inclusion of the Blunderbuss, which has been disabled in favor of balancing the current builds of the game until the team adds quests into the game, which will have players searching for booty and defend themselves as rivals threaten to take their treasure away from them. But with the inclusion of a deadly weapon, one has to ask: what happens after player death in Sea of Thieves? In this presentation, we finally got our answer.Screenshots_0002_SOT_Gamescom_2016_Screenshot_Interior-QuartersAs we die in Sea of Thieves we head into what you could basically describe as purgatory, which puts our damned souls onto a ghost ship akin to the Flying Dutchman where we’ll wait for our return to the land of the living. Here we’ll also meet fellow recently-deceased players, but rather than continuing the fight, this Beetlejuice-like waiting room will consist of games and social activities in which the players will be able to participate in and possibly win items and/or booty to bring back to the land of the living. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any footage of thus post-death feature as of yet, but even without any visual examples, we could barely hold our excitement as we went through the presentation.

A big point of interest throughout our presentation was the focus on PC development, of which our PC Lead Ted Timmins gave us a detailed insight into the work that has been going into Rare’s debut on the platform. Aiming to get the game to run on as wide of an array of machines as possible, Rare has been working hard to optimize the game and to make it look as good as it possibly can on even the lowest end of machines, trying to get the Sea of Thieves experience to as wide of an audience as possible. The development/engineering teams have been giving both the Xbox and PC platforms their deserved attention, and with tons of graphical settings, 4K and 21:9 support and cross-play with the Xbox One, I think it’s pretty safe to say that with the team’s dedication to the platform PC-players will be in good hands.Screenshots_0001_SOT_Gamescom_2016_Screenshot_Ship-DaytimeRare currently has a beta for the game planned in the near future, but they couldn’t give us a timeframe yet as the team wants to work as hard as they can to get the game into a proper shape before they start the next stage of development, which is said to be heavily influenced by the community.

We learned quite a lot about Sea of Thieves this past week and hopefully, soon all of us will be able to take to the seas as we go on our own swashbuckling adventures!