As one of the first through the doors at EGX2017, the world was my oyster as to what I could get my hands on. The game I rushed straight to and didn’t even have to queue for was Rare’s Sea of Thieves. I have been a huge fan of the UK developer since the halcyon days of the N64. Through the ups and the downs of their relationship with Microsoft I have kept faith with them and Sea of Thieves seems to repay my support for them. The game is quintessentially Rare. From the visual style to the unique humour, and great gameplay, this is a game that only they could make.
I started off in an inn waiting for the rest of my team to show up. After an impromptu sea shanty session, everyone appeared, and it was off to our ship. Everyone assigned themselves to the different roles required to sail the ship. Someone took control of the wheel; another went up the crow’s nest to keep a lookout, I assumed control of the sails (adjusting their length and angle), while a couple of others continued to serenade us with more sea shanties. After some advice from our guide that it would help to raise the anchor, we were away, sailing the high seas.
It’s recently been announced that Player Unkown’s Battlegrounds will be “borrowing” the water tech that Sea of Thieves uses. This seems like a really smart move as the water and waves in the game are phenomenal. Waves swell and retreat just like they do in real life. They affect the pitch and roll of the boat in a truly authentic manner. Water also makes its way into your vessel and is then itself affected by the movement of the ship. Once water is in the boat it’s up to you and the rest of your crew to bail the water out with a bucket and to repair any holes in your ship.
Having completely ignored our game guide who suggested that we take part in a mission that was available to us, we found land and made our way onto the island. While on the highest part of this area, one of our crew spotted another ship not too far away. This may have been stated as a piece of information, but it had the effect of a rallying cry as our whole crew stormed back to the ship and we set off in pursuit of the mystery boat.
Thanks to some solid sailing, and obviously my superb sail management, we were soon within firing range of the unknown boat. Our men using the cannons had mixed success as some forgot that they needed to lead the target and take into account that we were moving as well. We managed some successful hits on our prey, but they were still operational and returned fire, knocking some of our crew into the murky brine of the ocean. Unfortunately, it appeared that our more accurate cannon operators were the two that got thrown from our ship and the remaining crew kept firing and missing until we were out of cannonballs.
It was at this point that we did the only logical thing; we loaded ourselves into the cannons and tried to fire ourselves onto our enemy’s vessel. Many tried and failed; I decided to leave my station and try it myself. I lined my shot up, put myself into the cannon, and fired. As I flew through the air, I was so excited as I was flying straight for the ship. Even our game guide was holding his breath as I hurtled through the air towards our prey. As I made contact with the ship my hopes sank as I bounced off the side of the boat and into the water below. The chuckle and pat on the back from the Rare staff member were little consolation as the ship sailed away from me faster than I could swim.
With all of us in the water, and the other boat floating away, we were informed that we had reached the end of our session (and that cannonballs do more damage than flinging yourself at another ship). I was left wanting more. Not because the game was lacking, but because I wanted to carry on the experience and create my own adventures with friends. Rare is still being a little cagey about how big the game world will be and how many people will be able to play in the same world simultaneously. I don’t care though, because I just want to be sailing these seas with my crew, finding treasure and danger in equal measure.
Sea of Thieves is now my most anticipated game announced for Xbox, and I can’t wait to play more. It looks gorgeous, plays brilliantly, and has enough variety to keep my attention for many hours to come. Rare is back, and it can’t come soon enough. Microsoft has shown faith in the developer by letting them create whatever they wanted, and they’re going to be rewarded with a console exclusive which is unlike anything else around.