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  • Hands On with Sea of Thieves (PC)

    During the most recent beta for Rare's upcoming high seas pirating adventure, Sea of Thieves, I was fortunate enough to be given a key and test the waters for myself. My first go at the game included two of my friends and a random person teaming up for a four man crew aboard a large and worthy vessel.

    We collected our supplies from the port at which we spawned. Supplies that included bananas to help us replenish our health if needed, cannonballs to engage in piracy on the open waters, wooden boards to patch up any battle scars on our boat, and ammunition for our weapons. Plus, who could forget the pre-launch celebratory grog that swiftly caused me to lose control over my character as he threw up all over the tavern. It was just another day in the life of a pirate!

    The sun was shining through some sparse but great looking clouds and the seas were calm. A distant storm could be seen forming but it was of no worry to myself and the rest of the crew. With our supplies gathered, we take a look around the island. Some of the structures were full of odds and ends but no people could be found manning the storefronts. What we did find was a merchant that sold a handful of cosmetic pieces. I'm talking about new coats, shoes, pants, and the like. Another NPC was located in a small hut. It was here that we were able to select our potential quests.

    These quests, mind you, can be easy, one stop affairs that typically task you with finding a treasure and returning to claim your reward. These are free and are a great way to get your feet wet, so to speak. Other, more difficult quests are also listed there but they will cost you a bit of gold to begin them. Naturally, the potential rewards for successfully completing these harder quests will be far greater than the simple freebie ones.

    With the crew ready, we boarded our boat. The first order of business was to vote, as a group, on which mission we wanted to go with. As we were all talking with each other, the vote was unanimous and set in stone. Our inventories now had a set of clues and maps showing us where we need to go. While there is no GPS for pirates, we simply needed to head to the large world map table to find the island that looked like the one in our new maps. All crew members could easily see the map table even if they weren't the ones moving it around. Once we found the piece of land that looked the closest to our first target, we marked it and noted what direction we needed to head from port.


    The random player we were with took charge as my friends and I had no clue what we were really doing. Sadly, due to an issue with my privacy settings, I was unable to hear him in game (this was fixed afterwards through the Xbox account website). Fortunately, my friends did hear him and relayed the instructions to me. Having a four person crew made raising the anchor a breeze. Afterwards, we lowered the sails from front to back, rotating them to catch the wind for maximum speed. As we entered into open waters, the wind kicks up a few light waves and our boat reacts accordingly, rocking and rolling with each crest and valley.

    As the trip goes on, the clouds shift and change. The sun rolls through the hours nearing the horizon, changing the lighting from being great to gorgeous as the sky turns orange, God rays filter through the clouds and tops of trees from nearby islands, all as the sky melts with the distant ocean waters. Some of us continue to adjust the sail directions to keep our speed going. Others occasionally play a few sea shanties on one of two instruments at our disposal. While music isn't playing, we keep an eye out for danger and our destination island through our spyglasses, some of us even climbing up to the crow's nest for a better vantage. Some of us even used the crude scopes on our sniper rifles to keep an eye out for danger.

    We sometimes spot distant ships, easily recognizable by the glow of their ship's lanterns against the dark backdrop of the sky. It was then that I made sure to turn our lanterns off to make our own detection a lot more difficult from other crews out in the wild. A short while later, we arrive at our destination island. Sails were quickly raised to reduce our speed enough that we could drop anchor. While some of us swam to shore, others decided to load themselves into a cannon to blast their way onto land from the ship.

    Using the maps provided to all of us from our selected mission, we all set out to dig up some treasure. All we have are some X's marked on these maps and our wits. To find these treasures, you have to recognize where you are on the island, match up recognizable landmarks and try your best to find where the treasures are buried. With shovels in hand, we begin to dig where X marked the spot. A few moments later, our first treasure was unearthed. The island inhabitants, a group of generic skeleton baddies, tried to stop our would be payday by attacking us with weak sword slashes. Our pistols and our own swords made quick work of them. Sadly, these encounters, while common, are far too easy to deal with due to the low health pools for the skeleton pirates and rather extreme lock on, even on the PC version of the game.

    The chests we dug up were picked up and transported back to our waiting ship. These chests cannot be opened then and there, no sir. They must be taken back to a friendly port and turned into the quest giver that is convientntly located at each of these ports. It doesn't matter if you return to the original port or not, which is a very welcome gameplay feature. Just beware that some of these chests are cursed. Sure, you have your basic treasure chest that will net you a few coins upon turn in. Others are more ornate and will give you a considerable boon to your coin pouch. The ones you really need to look out for are the ones that turn your character into a wobbling drunkard all without taking a sip. Another cursed chest will begin to wail while you're in the middle of nowhere. This tears generated from this wailing chest will begin to fill your ship with water. With some quick responses from the crew, we grabbed our buckets out of our inventory, filling them with water that was filling our bottom decks and dumping it overboard. We were able to stay ahead of the rising waters with relative ease. And fortunately, this was the only issue encountered on our trip back to port.


    The trip and danger isn't over once you're back in "friendly" waters. Other players can and will attack you at any chance they get. You aren't safe until you've grabbed the treasure chests off of your boat and turned them in back at a quest giver. With great haste, we unloaded our haul and, working as a team, swam and sprinted our way to the turn in location. We were fortunate. No other ships showed up and no other players took advantage of us at our most vulnerable.

    And this was all just a single part of our adventure. Playing for a few more hours, our crew encountered choppy seas, and plenty of new treasures to dig up. One of the more detailed missions that we underwent had no fewer than four full steps. This meant that there were four islands we could visit and a whole lot of treasure to find and dig up. While some of these islands were nothing more than find the correct spot to dig up from a map, others were more focused on riddle solving. The first of these clues gave you a decent starting point and as you came across the location hinted at in the clues, more of the riddle would be revealed, leading you to other locations until you ultimately found the treasures at the end. These were the most enjoyable because they actually made you think a whole lot more about where these treasures were buried.

    As a last hurrah for the night, we decided that we wanted to round out the experience by attacking another pirate ship. With one spotted, we began our approach, making sure to come in at a point that intersects with their path. We loaded the cannons on both the port and starboard sides. Our captain told us to hold until we were close enough to make sure we didn't miss. The tensions were high as we closed the gap. At long last the time had come. The order to fire was made and using our best estimates of angle and distance, we aimed our cannons and fired. For those shots that missed, it was easy enough to make corrections for our next volley. The cannons were reloaded and another round of shots went sailing through the air. They began to return fire but we did not let up. As we took some hits, one of us ran below deck to grab some boards from storage and covered some of the holes that were created from the return fire. Water that had started to fill the lower decks was quickly removed and more cannon balls were pulled into the inventory from the ship's supply.

    A few shots later and it was all over. The other ship began to sink as its crew abandoned ship. Taking out our pistols and rifles, we took aim at the players that were trying to swim to safety. One attempted to swim to a nearby mermaid. Sadly, while the mermaids found in the wild will transport you back to your ship if requested, this pirate had no ship to return back to. Our shots continued to pelt him as he attempted to hide beneath the surface. Unfortunately for him and the rest of his crew, sharks just love the taste of pirate. While we lowered the health of his friends, a shark came along and finished the job for us. With the seas now calm, we jumped in to recover whatever treasures they had.


    Swimming beneath the surface, I was pleased to find out that there is no "breath" meter. While unrealistic, it does allow you to have one less thing to worry about when diving into the mirky depths. Underwater you are treated to even more impressive visuals as you can see the foam of the waves above you getting churned around. The sun filters through and it all just looks fantastic. After taking a moment to be in awe, the focus returned to the sinking treasures. We grabbed them and quickly started to swim back to our boat. It was a close call for some of us because a shark was hot on our heels. We all made it though and we managed to snag a few extra chests out of the deal. The trip back to a friendly port was tense as we feared retaliation but it was a fear that never materalized in any actual danger. We made it back in one piece, though our ship now bore a few battle scars. With the last treasure chests turned in, we decided to call it for the day.

    The impressions were positive but still apprehensive when it comes to what the full version of Sea of Thieves will offer to players. As I have come to understand it, Rare intentionally left out a ton of content in this beta. What content was removed? Well, it's difficult to say. It seems as though there will be some additional shops in the full release of the game, as hinted at by some of the unmanned but decorated interiors for a number of buildings on each friendly port. The big questions still on my mind though are if there will be other enemies besides the skeletons. Will there be NPC human pirates to contend with? Will there be other mission types besides the two variations of the treasure hunt that were available to us in the beta? Will there be more islands to explore than the many that were already in the beta? Will we have reason to visit islands that aren't part of our actual treasure hunt? Right now, we had no reason to ever stop at any place that wasn't a friendly port or that wasn't the island indicated by our treasure hunt. I'd also like to know if the excessive lock on will stay for the PC version of the game. How many weapons or weapon types will there be? Will those cosmetic gear pieces ever offer up stat bonuses or will they always be for show? And I'd also like to know how microtransactions will play a role in the final release.

    Like I said, the initial impressions are positive. It's a gorgeous game that seems like it'll be great with a group of friends. I just can't definitively say that the full and final game is worth buying without knowing what all will actually be included on its release on March 20.

    The video below sadly includes none of the co-op adventure I detailed above. Instead, it shows off about an hour of solo gameplay. Yes, solo gameplay is a viable option but it does make sailing a bit more troublesome as you are now tasked with doing everything (raising the anchor, setting the sails, navigation, steering, repairs, draining water, and manning the cannons if needed). However, I do talk about nearly all of the gameplay mechanics of the game as I'm doing them, so it should give you a nice visual representation of some of the things I talked about above. I also take a trip inside the heart of a storm and see what's actually going on at an island outpost where enemies fire cannons at you.




    Additional Information
    Sea of Thieves (Developed by Rare, Published by Microsoft Studios)
    Previewed on: PC (Windows 10). Also coming to Xbox One (Play Anywhere title).
    Release Date: March 20, 2018
    Rated T for Teen for crude humor, use of alcohol, violence.
    Game was previewed on: i7-6700K at 4.5GHz, 32GB DDR4-2666, Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti, Windows 10 64-bit
    This game was provided to Total Gaming Network for preview purposes.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Hands On with Sea of Thieves (PC) started by Shawn Zipay View original post
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