The sun has set on the Sea
of Thieves Closed Beta as Rare sails towards its next horizon – launch
date. After a week of plummeting the high seas with our crews, digging and
stealing treasure, mashing skeletons and sinking our ships – accidently of
course, the Sea of Thieves Closed Beta had us all hooked with its brilliant
levels of surprise, delight, and humour. It became the most viewed game on
Twitch and Mixer throughout the Closed Beta period on multiple occasions, and
it even reached maximum server capacity over the weekend as well.
So, you may be asking yourself – what’s all the fuss about?
Why are people so eager to play Sea of Thieves and watch others play it,
finding treasure and firing cannonballs at other ships? Well, that right there
is why. The idea of manning a ship with your friends on an epic pirate
adventure in search of hidden treasure and mythical beasts is what makes Sea of
Thieves so much fun. The sense of discovery and awe as you find something you
never expected, or when you see another ship heading towards you on the horizon
makes you eager to continue playing.
The frantic rush of loading and manning the cannons to
defend the ship, lifting the sail and dropping the anchorage as you prepare to
dock, and repairing the holes and gathering up all the water in buckets and
throwing it overboard to prevent your ship from sinking. There’s a real adrenaline
rush to it, but in the process, a ton of laughs, and a new tale and story to
share. That’s the thing with Sea of Thieves that you don’t see often, but that
constant need to talk about what you did with your friends last night, or perhaps
with a random group of pirates you found online.
When our ship accidently sunk for the first time, I wasn’t
mad, or annoyed, or even sad. I was dying with laughter as the sequence of
events that led to that were hysterical. The adrenaline rush of seeing the boat fill up with water as
we began to lose control of it, capsizing over as it dropped into the ocean and
hit the bed of the sea as deadly sharks came and attacked us before we were
miraculously saved by a mermaid – who teleported us back to an outpost with a new
ship ready and waiting for us to man so we could hit the high seas once again for some more plunder and adventure. It's moments like that with your friends that you treasure in games.
Sea of Thieves highlights what’s most important in games,
and that’s to have fun. Part of me feels like we’ve almost lost that over the
years, and to see Sea of Thieves put that at the forefront of its core gameplay
experience puts a massive smile on my face. It’s not just me, however. Over the
last week, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing other folks share their stories and
tales from Sea of Thieves, and some of these have been really funny, whilst
others are incredibly heart-warming.
One of these stories saw a family playing Sea of Thieves
together and having fun as a pirate crew in search of hidden treasure, whilst
another saw a crew tame a shark and teach it unique tricks. The shark was calm,
and part of their crew, and one of the screenshots they shared even showed it
with skeletons on top of it, looking as if they were almost dancing. It was
brilliant. Speaking of dancing, before one of our long voyages, we met a random
stranger at the outpost. They were waving towards us, and instead of the usual
griefing you come to expect from online games, we started playing music on our
accordions, jumping up and down, and drinking grog.
It brought me back to the early days of Xbox Live, when
everyone you met online was friendly and happy to engage with other players,
help them out, and learn new things from them in the process. It’s a nice thing
to see, it really is. Rare has created something that brings players together
and showcases their emotion. Sea of Thieves perfectly captures our emotions, it knows
what makes us happy – such as finding hidden treasure, completing a quest, and
being duly rewarded. It knows what makes us sad, such as another crew coming to
attack us and sinking our ship, leaving us as food for the sharks that roam the
seas. In the process of all this, we’re still having fun and enjoying every
moment of it.
Perhaps we’re sailing into a thunderstorm with lighting and
uncalm seas, with darkness capsuling the skies and fear being spread throughout
every bone in our pirate bodies, or maybe we’re anxious as we see other ships
around us. Sea of Thieves can really depict and bring out those emotions, but
it does so in a way that works well and keeps us engaged. It’s a nice change
whenever I log into Twitter and see people sharing their stories, videos and
images from Sea of Thieves, rather than whatever is going on in the real-world
that I’d probably prefer to not know about to be completely honest.
The folks who played Sea of Thieves with their friends and
formed a crew are the ones who loved it the most, and I saw that in the
screenshots people shared online and many of them had fellow crew members in
them. It’s no surprise, but seeing their antics and discoveries felt nice, it
was special. I saw one user who shared a photo of three incredible and vast
ships side by side – three different crews proudly posing their ships, and
rather than attacking each other, they simply wanted to play together and have
fun. Tell their own stories and explore the world of Sea of Thieves in a unique
way. Another image from the same scene showed all the pirates lined up on one
of the bows on the ship.
Another one I liked featured a group of pirates sitting by a
campfire in the final few hours of the Closed Beta, and before long, they were
joined by another pirate crew there as well – after an epic two-hour fight of
course! I also saw lots of pirates posing with their treasure throughout the Closed Beta, with someone having more than 100 chests at once! Blimey heck, even I didn’t get close to
that, but to have that many chests in one haulage shows real pirate skill and
courage. Emotes, such as waving farewell to the Closed Beta in its final hours
was also something I saw a lot of in my feed as the technical test concluded.
There were also plenty of videos shared, including some that
saw pirates being shot from cannons, and even ships being sunk and destroyed. There’s
this real sense of happiness and joy when you browse these screenshots and
videos posted from Sea of Thieves, but it also makes you wonder, what exactly
happened and what inspired these scenarios? It goes back to how Sea of Thieves
emphasizes fun and the idea of crafting your own adventure to be a pirate
Sea of Thieves offers you unlimited freedom, to explore and
conquer as you please, and with no set objective until you start indulging
yourself in the brilliant questlines, there really isn’t a greater expression
of freedom out there. Sailing the high seas with your friends in search of
pirate treasure and mythical legends. It’s what Sea of Thieves is in a
nut-shell, but regardless of what you’re doing, the key element of having fun
is always at the forefront of the overall experience.
I will say, I do hope the full game offers some simple
objectives for newcomers initially, giving them a helping hand with the core
gameplay mechanics and introducing them into the world of Sea of Thieves. It’s
important that players are drawn into the experience and become engaged, and
don’t feel lost when they first start playing, as that’s how myself and a few
others I know felt for the first hour or so of playing it. Once we knew how
everything worked in Sea of Thieves, we were hooked and out exploring this vast world on epic voyages.
Whilst Sea of Thieves focuses on online and shared
open-world experiences, the game can still be enjoyed in solo play in the same
shared environment. So, whilst you’ll have a smaller, but faster ship that
you’ll have to control yourself, you should be able to outrun any larger crews
that may try to hunt you down and feed you to the sharks. Quests can also be
completed in solo, and in fact, the entire game can be enjoyed by yourself if
you desire. Now obviously, Rare doesn’t recommend playing in solo all of the time, and I’d also
advise to avoid it if possible.
All my biggest laughs and moments of joy in Sea of Thieves
so far have come from co-op play. I love the 2-player crew sessions with
another friend as it feels like a proper co-op game, where it’s you and your
mate having to find treasure whilst fending off other ships and skeleton
enemies. I like that idea a lot, but it also meant we could both figure out the
controls in the game easily and enjoy quests whenever we desired. It took us
about an hour or so to figure out the ins and outs of Sea of Thieves, from the
controls and overall mechanics to the idea of finding quests, enabling them,
and then finding their relevant locations on the map to sail towards.
Solo play allows you to do all this as well, and if you’re
focused on the types of quests and objectives you want to complete, it’s still
an enjoyable experience and retains the charm that makes Sea of Thieves so
special. I loved being in control of my own ship, fixing any holes that might
come through, and just sailing into the sunset or navigating through a massive
storm, and watching the transition from night time to a beautiful sunrise. Like online, it's still a lot of fun, but it's also very relaxing, and allows you to soak in the athmosphere and really enjoy its georgous world. It's almost a form of meditation, and I appreciate that a lot. Just sailing through the waters with your mind relaxing and enjoying the beautiful vistas and scenes on offer in Sea of Thieves.
Because Sea of Thieves supports HDR, the lighting and contrast looks incredible
on a 4K HDR display, and I love how it all blends so well with the unique Rare
art-style found in the game. Playing in solo allows you to soak in the enviornments and graphical features of Sea of Thieves, and really appreciate what Rare has done here with the game. Sailing is so much fun, and it's so relaxing. If you want some time alone, perhaps just you and your thoughts, or even if you just want to escape the real-world and any responsibilities that you have for a bit, taking command of a solo ship is something to appreciate, and I can even imagine this being the definitive way of a parent and child enjoying Sea of Thieves together. It's something that's really special.
Sea of Thieves looks great on Xbox One, but it’s sure to
look even better in March when the game will be playable in native 4K with
improved visuals across the board with the Xbox One X
Enhanced release, the features of which weren’t included in the Closed Beta
except for HDR, as mentioned earlier. It’s also on PC, where it can be enjoyed
at the same level of visual fidelity at 60fps, and because it’s an Xbox Play
Anywhere title, fans can play Sea of Thieves on both platforms with the one
digital purchase, or even for $10 a month with the Xbox
Game Pass subscription service when the game launches on March 20th, 2018.
There’s also seamless cross-play integration between Xbox
One and PC, so you can play with those on both platforms in the one crew, which
is sure to lead to even more stories. You may be on Xbox One but encounter a
ship of either friendly of thieving pirates who are all playing on PC. Perhaps
your crew has players from both PC and console? The beauty is how Sea of
Thieves and cross-play work together in harmony between Xbox One and Windows 10, so you can play with your
friends regardless of their platform choice.
Rare has also excellently
optimized the Windows 10 version so it’s even playable on low-end hardware. Regardless
of how you play or the platform your friends are on, you can all enjoy Sea of
Thieves together without worry, and you can even switch between Xbox One and PC
with all your collectable loot and progression saved thanks to profile
synchronization. The above video from Greenskull showcases some cinematic shots of the relaxing views at sea in Sea of Thieves, and these have been captured on both Xbox One X and PC.
When you add it all together, you have the ultimate Rare
experience in Sea of Thieves. Something which defines fun, happiness, and
expresses feeling and emotion. It’s a game that’s well-built and optimized –
created with the community in mind. We saw how the Technical Alpha had players
in the community testing out Sea of Thieves over the last 12 months, finding issues to report and
providing feedback on their experience directly to the development team so they
could deliver a game built with the community and fans in mind.
Heck, there’s even tons of community Easter eggs in Sea of
Thieves, including immortalising players into the game itself that will be
there forever. For example, there’s one cliff with a few skeletal feet sticking
out of the ground with a rock above them, and the Xbox Live Gamertag inscribed
here was the first person to die of fall damage in the game. Meanwhile, the
first person who died in the Technical Alpha had their Gamertag inscribed on
the Ghost Ship. There's even a book beside some skeletal remains in a cave that features popular community members 'Xbox Pope,' often know as 'Gerodie Tommy,' and 'Xbox Addict' inscribed onto it. Now that's what you call true fan-service, and it's something that will be featured in the game forever.
Sea of Thieves doesn’t have its own Blackbeard yet, but the
idea of having a player who becomes that person, that legendary pirate, is
something Rare and the community itself would love to see happen – the most
feared, notorious and villainous pirate to roam the high seas. But of course, they'll need to venture out in search of buried treasure and take down other pirates in order to attain that title and rule the high waters. The typical adventure in Sea of Thieves will see four
players go out on a voyage, and perhaps they’ll come across a shipwreck, find a
riddle map and solve whatever is inscribed onto it – firing themselves out of
cannons to board another ship and go through a storm, before eventually falling
into the ocean and being eaten alive by sharks. If it sounds familiar to you,
that’s because it’s what was shown during Microsoft’s E3 2017 briefing last
year – it’s your typical Sea of Thieves adventure, where it’s all fun and
What you don’t know is how your crew will react to
situations, and this is where every story starts to be different, and what
makes videos and livestreams on Sea of Thieves so intriguing to watch. You
might be helping a streamer solve a riddle, or watching a player shoot
themselves out of a cannon into a cliff-face, before falling onto the ground
and being attacked by skeletons. These are the types of stories we’ll see people continue to
share from Sea of Thieves, and once the full game releases – which features far
more content, quests, pirate customization, and locations, then there’s going
to be even more unique stories to tell. With the emergent gameplay of Sea of
Thieves, you might also experience different variations of quests where your
crew gets distracted as you see another ship on the horizon, or perhaps a
shipwreck or an odd-looking island.
Overall, Sea of Thieves see you on a quest to become a
pirate legend. There’s no objective set in stone because how you get there is
up to you. Whether you want to be the most feared and notorious pirate out
there, or someone who knows how to explore the high seas and solve riddles, there’s multiple
ways to get there. It's all about the journey and the story behind it.
A crew who cooperates will always be far more successful
than one who doesn’t, and that can be especially seen in the basic gameplay
mechanics, such as how multiple players are required to lift the anchor and
sails, or how chests are held with two hands, so you need one player to watch
your back, and another to hold a lantern to offer visibility. It’s why solo
play will come at a disadvantage to you, but if you’re a skilled enough pirate,
that may not be an issue.
Whether you’re playing every night with your best mates, or
you discover a crew of new friends, Sea of Thieves is about bringing people
together, sharing stories, and having fun. The Closed Beta over the last week proved
that, and it showed how eager players are to dive into the experience of
becoming a pirate legend. With Sea of Thieves launching on March 20th, 2018 on
Xbox One and Windows 10 PC, we have about seven weeks to wait before we can hit
the high seas with our friends again. Just remember, the full game will have a
lot more content included, with more quests to tackle, new customization
options to personalize your pirate and ship, and new locations to discover with
mythical creatures to take down. I simply cannot wait.
Sea of Thieves has shown what’s most important in games, and
it has done it in a way that’s authentic and heart-warming. It really does put
a smile on my face seeing the stories, videos, and photos shared onto Twitter,
and then watching the livestreams and YouTube videos as players discover new
and exciting features they didn’t know about before whilst the chat helps them
solve clues and riddles. It's so remarkably brilliant, and from what we've played so far, Sea of Thieves is shaping up to be the must have Xbox One exclusive this year.
2018’s Game of the Year might just be around the
corner, and it’s fair to say that Rare are back, doing what they love most, and
doing what they’re best at. Making incredible games, crafting vast worlds with their
unique art-style, and of course, bringing people together to have fun.
Alan is the co-founder and co-owner of FullThrottle Media. As someone who enjoys spending all his free time playing video games, he keeps the website updated with new and relevant content, including news stories, reviews and opinion pieces for the games he likes writing about the most. He also tweets too much, probably.