Platforms: Xbox One, PC
UPDATED 13/06/2017: Microsoft may have had recent criticism for its’ lack of ‘decent’ Xbox exclusives but Sea Of Thieves is one exclusive that stands out from all of the others, especially after it’s latest outing at E3 2017. This is a game that relies heavily on teamwork and a real sense of exploration as a team. Basically living the pirates life by finding treasure and taking out anyone who stands in your way from being the best pirate crew to sail the seas! Such a refreshing concept but with the game still going through various technical alphas it would be unfair to give this game an overall score since plenty will be added before the final game launches. Have we seen enough to suggest this game will become one of the great Xbox exclusives?
Learning The Basics
After signing up to join the Xbox Insider program I was lucky enough to be selected to try out Rare’s latest technical alpha for Sea Of Thieves V0.1.1. Having seen a few videos of previous alpha’s I was excited to see how far the game was progressing and went in with high expectations.
My first thoughts when entering the game revolved around finding out my purpose on the ship where I was randomly placed. I joined a crew of two people who had already formed a partnership and preparing to set sail to find some treasure. Only by learning from these seasoned veterans of the game was I able to learn what I needed to do to become a true pirate. Most of my first 20 minutes of gameplay was following orders such as lowering the anchor when we arrived at islands and searching for cannonballs in barrels scattered across each island.
It is fair to say that there is a steep learning curve for Sea Of Thieves which gave an unfairly dull representation of the game. I spent a good proportion of my time on the game trying to understand the map and where to find treasure. When I finally understood this the techincal alpha had come to an end. This unnecessarily cumbersome method of learning the basics of the game did affect the enjoyment factor but should not put off newcomers as it does provide good reason for you to meet and talk to the other players on your ship.
Excelling At Combat
The game may have been hard to understand at first but it really came to life when it came to combat. I experienced two variations of combat which included enemy AI’s on each island we visited that made your target of finding treasure that much more difficult and there was also PvP combat out on the open seas.
When exploring islands for treasure, my crew of wannabe pirates were often attacked by skeletons which meant teamwork was vital to escaping with our new found treasure. These enemies were challenging to defeat at times but this did not make the game any less enjoyable as it made getting that treasure a more rewarding experience for all involved. However, I was disappointed to not see a variety of enemies. Rare have added in sharks as additional perils in the game but where at the mythical sea creatures and enemy varieties. Recent showings at E3 hint that there are sea monsters and storms to navigate through as well but who knows if the only enemies on islands will be the skeletons!
Travelling the seas was also a treacherous experience as there was always the treat of running into another pirate ship filled with other players. It is completely the choice of the players to engage in combat but the thrill of firing cannonballs at enemy ships was too tempting to pass up and sometimes these battles were made of more than 2 enemy ships all attacking each other. This PvP combat was incredibly fun, especially since sword fighting has been added and it looks like more fun game play mechanics are being added as soon you will be able to shoot yourself out of a cannon and onto enemy ships! The recent showcasing of Sea Of Thieves at E3 2017 really makes the game look fun.
Requests For Future Alpha Sessions
There was plenty of positives from my first experience of Sea Of Thieves but there was also plenty of improvements that will help make this game great! Here are a few of my suggestions to help provide an overview of where the current game is and what may be just around the corner:
- Tutorial – This game is not a story based game so this suggestion is not pertaining to adding a tutorial based around a story but if there was a small run through of how to use your weapons, use the map, sail a ship then this may help new players get straight to the fun elements of the game instead of potentially giving up during the inevitable early grind.
- NPCs – whilst it is suggested that quests are given to you through exploration, it would be nice to get quests from NPCs or have the ability to upgrade ships or items using the gold from your hard earned treasure.
- Emotes – The game is predominantly team based using headsets and mics but the ability to communicate with other players without the need for a headset would be a nice feature to have and could even help break the ice when starting a conversation with a stranger.
- Quests – Currently, all crew activity is determined by the player and this can be a good thing. At other times though this can hinder the gameplay. Imagine 4 newbies all deciding what they should do and ultimately getting no where due to lack of experience. Quests could be given out by a new NPC character to help get players to understand different aspects of the game. For example, you could deliver an item to another character on a different island or defeat 3 enemies to earn some treasure.
- Map Improvements – You will always have a map available in your inventory but this map has no real information or clues other than an X (which obviously marks the spot!). It is up to you to determine which island this refers to from your ship map and then travel there to find treasure but it would be really helpful if this was made more intuitive by showing your position on the map or your team’s position on the map. That way you can all react to enemy attacks or when someone has found treasure.
- Mythical Sea Creature Bosses – Many pirate stories included mythical sea creatures which meant only the toughest pirates could survive. With hints suggesting this will be coming to the game then we should be preparing for a real battle before the game launches next year.
- Upgradable/Customisable Gear – Each character has access to their inventory with various items included from the start such as a musical instrument or a shovel. These are all nice to have features but it would be good to be able to upgrade your current items or be able to swap out some items in the inventory wheel for others. Upgrading your weapons to become more powerful would be great or swapping out the musical instrument for a telescope would be incredibly useful.
- Islands With Specific Purposes – This may be my OCD kicking in but having islands that were for specific purposes such as trading or getting quests would be nice. These islands could even provide a gateway to open up ranked PvP matches or something else entirely.
- More island themes – Currently every island looks largely the same. Adding some mythology or urban legend to the game could make exploration in the game that much more exciting. These could even be ‘Easter Eggs’ that only the most dedicated players will find. The themes could include the Lost City of Atlantis or Aspidochelone (the island on a whale). If these islands were connected to achievements in the game then I would be a very happy man!
There are plenty of other suggestions that could help make this game even better but this may all change as the game evolves. Keep your eyes peeled for future updates and new features on the Sea Of Thieves website.
Verdict (So far)
Sea Of Thieves is impressive so far but it is clearly a work in progress project. Based off my experience to date I am thoroughly enjoying the game and have high hopes for what this game will become. If you stay committed through the long and tiresome learning experience at the beginning then the game opens up plenty of exciting prospects but be warned, you need a reliable crew to take you on this journey! Don’t forget, you can help shape the game before its release next year by getting involved in the Insider Programme! Join here and you may be selected for one of the upcoming technical alphas.
I will keep updating this article after each technical alpha so stay tuned for updates on new features and additions and as always, let me know your thoughts in the comments!