It’s been a while since we’ve seen a game from Microsoft-owned, UK-based studio Rare that wasn’t Kinect-based. From 2009 to now, the studio has been tasked with Kinect Sports Rivals, a remake of ‘90s fighting game Killer Instinct and the Xbox avatars, but now they’re back to their old tricks with new tools, making the fantastic-looking open world MMO, Sea of Thieves.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? Rare's upcoming open-world Pirate odyssey
- When's it out? At some point in 2017
- What can I play it on? Xbox One and PC
What is Sea of Thieves?
The pirate-themed action-adventure game will group you up with friends or strangers to plunder the seas and islands together, fighting others in big ol’ pirate ships, landing on sandy beaches, discovering treasure maps and having to work with your crew to figure out where the booty’s at.
Sea of Thieves is heavily co-operative, although there are combative elements with other parties, too. You and your crew will have to figure out how to man a ship, with people taking over different jobs - steering, sails, anchor, cannon-firing and so on - and it seems likely that people will develop skills and favourite jobs over time, advertising themselves as a navigator or lookout to form teams with friends.
However, the fact that matchmaking can pair you up with strangers also means you may have to be skilled at more than one activity if you don’t want to get thrown overboard for being a waste of space.
What piratical things can you do?
You’ll be pleased to know that all the greatest hits from a life lived on the seas and beyond the law can be found in Sea of Thieves. From sailing around with your grog-soaked crew, singing shanties of wenches and booty, to getting scurvy (according to the Wikipedia page, anyway - but who knows what wretched sea-dogs have been editing that), there’s everything you might want from a pirate’s life.
But what do you actually do in Sea of Thieves, beyond sailing around and causing trouble? In an interview with Eurogamer, here's what the design director Gregg Mayles had to say:
“We know some players will be happy to sail around and have a good time, spot things like shipwrecks, go find washed up things on beaches to take advantage. But we also know many players will want some kind of known goals - who will want things to do and quests to go on.”
So there will be room for self-directed plundering, but less disciplined folks may be more inclined to get their direction from the game’s quests, which will include seeking loot, bounties and shipwrecks.
There is no overarching story, though, which is probably pretty accurate for the piratical way of life. Who needs romance and intrigue when there are lost islands and buried riches to be found?
What if I don’t want to have a crew?
Solo pirates are more than welcome - there are ships ranging from massive ones that take a whole crew to the tiny ones that take one or two pirates to manage. And you won’t be at a huge disadvantage either - if many, many tiny ships gang up on a larger one, you just may be able to take them down with the advantage of speed and maneuverability and share the booty between you. Or...not. You’re a pirate, you don’t have to share.
How can I play it?
You can actually play it already, if you’re part of the Insider Program - which is sort of like an open beta granted to some of the people who apply.
Because Sea of Thieves is being developed in close partnership with the community, to ensure that the game is what the players want, the team hold development play sessions with the “Insiders” to find out which parts they enjoy, which parts need fixing or changing, or what the community discovers along the way.
Think of it a little bit like Minecraft - Mojang, the studio behind Minecraft, gave players a bunch of tools, and couldn’t have predicted some of the things they ended up doing or making with them. As a result, they invested time into creating more and more things to go in the directions that the players were already beginning to explore - and that’s what makes these kinds of games unique.
Who can I play as?
The character avatars are customisable, with the ability to change gender, physique, appearance, and outfits, although the game does not have skill trees or character classes. You’ll be able to further customise your character as you play with new, fancier outfits and even prosthetics. There will also be opportunities to deck out your… decks, with new cannons, sails, flags and all the other fancy ship accessories your little pirate heart could desire.
What's the world like?
The focus of the world will be on its vast oceans, which will be dotted with islands from Caribbean-style archipelagos to dense jungles. Some have NPCs, ready to dish out quests; others will be deserted; some may even have a rival pirate crew on the same mission as you.
The treasure maps that will feature heavily in the finished game are not the kind of map-marker slog you might expect. Instead, they will require actual, geographical orienteering - looking for trails, landmarks and recognisably shaped rocks. Even when you find that treasure, you’ll have to then take it back to your ship, with all the animal, human and physics-based treacherousness that that entails.
And what if you die? Well, in true pirate fashion you’ll be booted to Davy Jones’ Locker, where you can swap stories with fellow ghosts and attempt to board a ferry back to the world of the living by performing quests for the ferryman. Your sunken ship can be plundered in the meantime, so don’t take too long...
- We're hoping to see more of the game at E3 2017, check out everything else the show has on offer.