Pirate games aren’t really my thing. I’ve tried a few like Sid Mayer’s Pirates and Outlast II, but I usually end up getting bored and washing my hands with them. So my excitement wasn’t exactly high when I sat down for a 30 minute round of Sea of Thieves. I know that they’ve already been nominated for ‘Most Wanted Game’ at the Golden Joystick Awards, but genres aren’t for everybody right? But boy was I wrong, and it proves you should never judge a book by its cover.

Sea of Thieves puts you into a team of six pirates, with the aim of finding treasures by using clues that are obtained throughout your adventures on the high seas. As this was only a 30 minute demo we had very limited time with the game. The team I was placed with went for the easiest objective. It was a riddle, that initially pointed us towards an island. We had to solve each stage of the riddle to find the treasure at the end. The other puzzles included images of islands that you had to locate on the main map inside your ship.

Starting off our team was a mess. There’s various jobs that need to be worked during sailing. I was in charge of sails at first, and I had to angle the sails to catch the wind so we could travel faster. Our ship quickly became under attack from an enemy, which were the second team of six sitting opposite. Ultimately we sunk, but we didn’t go down without a fight. During battle you still have jobs. Plug holes in your ship to stop water, attack enemy pirates and they reign cannon fire down on you, direct the ship into battle… there’s loads.

So after plugging the ship up with planks of wood, I went for a swim towards  the enemy boat and boarded it. I managed to kill one pirate before meeting my doom and finding myself in the underworld respawn zone. It didn’t go well and we all died in the end. But still, we respawned and went on with our journey.

This time round I found myself in the crows nest, pointing out rocks and obstacles in the sea.  I thought it would be a good idea to drink some grog while up there, making my character stumble all over the place. You literally lose control of the game, and I ended up falling overboard, drowning fast in the intense waves. Fortunately my team were nice enough to drop anchor and wait for me to struggle back to the ship.

Finally, we made it to the cove. We fired ourselves out of the cannons and ended up on land, following the next clue to the treasure. Once we got there, we were greeted by skeleton warriors. After a short clumsy bundle, we were darting back to the ship, treasure in hand. At this point, the demo ended and we didn’t end up handing in the treasure, but it didn’t matter. We all felt a great sense of achievement having made it that far.

Now Sea of Thieves I can’t see being a single player game. There’s just too much to do, and really does require a full team to pull off all the jobs needed just to sail, let alone finding treasure and battling with other pirates. There was a real sense of community, and although the other five players I was experiencing this with were complete strangers, once we pulled together, the game worked superbly.

The new sea adventure game also took advantage of the 4K graphical power of the new Xbox One S and it looked B-E-A-UTIFUL! I know it looks very cartoony, but colours were extremely vivid, and everything looked very punchy and in your face. But of course you’re going to need a nice shiny 4K TV to go with it.

But it’s not all good. I found the combat to be very unpolished. There’s no tactical element to it that I saw. By that I mean because you’re using old style weapons like flintlock pistols and blunderbusses, it’s pretty much point and shoot. Pulling off headshots didn’t seem to matter, and guns did the same amount of damage, no matter where you hit the enemy. Sword play wasn’t too great either. I would have liked to have seen some kind of skill here too. I killed my pirate enemy by running into him and spamming the right trigger to swipe my sword. There was no need to block attacks and parry either.

But the combat is really the only issue I faced. From what I saw at EGX 2017, Sea of Thieves, although a very early build is going to turn into a wonderful game. If they can tweak the combat to make it feel a little more realistic, then it’ll be great. The content I saw wasn’t very filling, as the riddle was simple to solve and the other quests were as simple as matching up pictures. Some kind of levelling system or even a reason to go after chests a treasure like elite loot or crucial ship upgrades would also be welcome here.

But as I said, I only got 30 minutes with the game, and there was no way I was going to queue another five hours to play again. It’s an MMO, so expect other ships on the ocean. Anyone could be an enemy, or it could be possible in the future to make friends, I’m not sure. Check it out now on their official website.

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Stef Murphy

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