Update: The official launch of Sea of Thieves is but days away and we now have the official gameplay launch trailer. Looking for a glimpse of the Kraken? You'll find it here.
Scroll down to read everything we know about Sea of Thieves' confirmed features and check out our thoughts on the game's potential.
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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.
In true Rare fashion the game features a charming art style that embraces the lighter side of the seven seas. This is not a game world that's in any sense dark and realistic, you can fire yourself out of canons to get around quickly, and you eat bananas to restore your health.
Read on for everything we know so far about Rare's pirate odyssey.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? Rare's upcoming open-world Pirate odyssey
- When's it out? March 20 2018
- What can I play it on? Xbox One and PC
Sea of Thieves trailers
What will probably be the final trailer before the official release of Sea of Thieves has come on March 16. It's the official gameplay launch trailer and it gives us a glimpse of the almighty Kraken.
The latest trailer to be released from Rare studios gives good insight into the kinds of quests we'll see in Sea of Thieves and what individual player progression will involve in the long term. Much of the player progression system will involve building a reputation at NPC-run Trading Companies.
All of the trading companies will appeal to a different play style and each will offer their own quests for players and their crews to pursue. As your reputation builds with each trading company, the rewards you get from pursuing their quests will become more valuable but the quests themselves will also become more difficult.
If you and your crew are sitting at different reputation levels it will apparently still be possible to play quests together as Mike Chapman has promised "there are no barriers in place preventing players playing together."
At E3 2017 we were presented with another trailer for the game which shows off what we can expect the game to look like on the upcoming Xbox One X.
The trailer highlighted the game's signature Rare visuals and showed off a team of four as they sought to retrieve a chest of treasure to bring it back to their ship. The players explore islands where dangers appear in form of the ghosts of previous player who remain able to attack you, and you'll have to be especially careful while you're busy digging up your treasure, which takes a believably long amount of time.
You can check out the trailer below.
News and features
During the first episode of the new Microsoft show, Inside Xbox, it was announced that there's a special Sea of Thieves scavenger hunt about to begin in celebration of the game's release.
Anyone can take part in the hunt and it'll task players to crack up to 15 clues in order to find where X marks the spot. The winner or winners (because you may want to team up for this one) will receive a bunch of 4 golden bananas valued at £20,000 each.
The quest will begin on Monday, March 19 at 12 am PT / 8am GMT / 7pm AEDT when the first riddle will be revealed. It'll then run over a total of three days with the release of a total of 15 riddles.
On Wednesday March 21 at 1pm PT / 9pm GMT / 7am AEDT (Thursday, March 22) those taking part will have seven hours to input the answers to the riddles at xbox.com/thebananaquest. After this there'll be a final riddle to be solved by the top teams from each of the six participating countries (US, UK, Australia, Canada, Germany and France) and the winner will walk away with the prize.
It's definitely a different kind of pre-launch promotion but it seems to very much capture the spirit and aims of Sea of Thieves itself.
You can become a legendary pirate
The end-game for Sea of Thieves at the moment is to become a legendary pirate. By working hard to get through quests and increase your level, you'll increase your notoriety as a pirate. If you reach the ultimate, you'll become a legendary pirate with your very own ship, hideout, captaincy and outfit (it's up to you whether you wear it or not). You'll also have access to legendary pirate quests which you can choose to pursue on your own or share them with other players.
After you've achieved this status, Rare says there will be further progression added to the game and you'll be able to customize and enhance the ship you captain.
There will be no lootboxes, but there will be optional microtransactions
Rare has confirmed that in Sea of Thieves, there won't be any lootboxes or pay-to-win purchases. There will, however, still be items that you can purchase in-game. One of the first things you'll be able to buy, for example, is a pet.
When we asked executive producer Joe Neate about the game's microtransactions, he told us “everything is optional; it doesn’t affect power or progression, and you’ll know what you’re getting – ie. not loot boxes.”
Instead, his team is aiming to “add more fun and social things that benefit you if you buy [them], but also benefit your crew and lead to everyone having a stronger social experience.”
When we asked for examples of what kind of things we could expect to see in this category, we were told pets is likely to be first on the cards.
“The ability to buy a pet – a monkey or a cat to accompany you. But we want it to benefit everyone and we want it to be a part of the fun social side. So if you’ve got a monkey you'll be like ‘oh I’ll be able to pick it up and hold it!’ But that also means someone can run off with it. It’ll come back, obviously, but that bit of play between people and messing around is key.”
There will be more quests, items and timed events
The first major Sea of Thieves update will come after around three months, after the team has had the chance to listen to player feedback and react accordingly. After this, updates will range between small and large, with new item additions coming at a more regular pace than, say, large world changes.
During a studio visit to Rare we were told that there are plans to add new guilds on top of the three that are already in the world in order to allow for more diverse quests. There will also be new items and timed events. For example, you might find when you sign in one weekend that there's an NPC in a tavern for a couple of days with a quest that's never been available before and perhaps won't be available again.
It'll be this mix of big additions and temporary events that will encourage players to continue to log in and explore the Sea of Thieves.
No VR or local co-op planned
Though Sea of Thieves is a first-person game with an unobtrusive UI, there won't be a VR version. The reason for this, we've been told, is that sea sickness is very real, even in a virtual world. There also won't be any local co-op in the game. Rare told us that the game's cross-play and low minimum specs means that households with more than one laptop or a combination of laptops and consoles will be more than able to play the game together, without the need to split a screen.
There will be a Kraken
That's right, a Kraken. Sea of Thieves is a game that embraces the romantic and mythical side of piracy rather than the gritty realism of scurvy and keelhauling.
Naturally, that means a Kraken will appear in the game. It won't be possible to hunt down the Kraken, and there's predicting when it'll appear. Instead, Rare has said that it will be a sporadic and unpredictable force in the world to make things feel more organic and dynamic. It could appear to make wrangling a storm worse, or it could sneak up on your just as you're finishing a quest and trying to cash in your chests.
You can play solo or with a crew
Though Sea of Thieves is a game that not-so-gently encourages you to play with others, you can play alone on a small single-man ship. While you're playing solo, you can still come up against ships manned by crews of four and though they can be taken down, it's not easy. Playing solo requires some playstyle adaption and you might find yourself adopting more sneaky tactics (such as sneaking aboard a ship at night to plant explosive kegs) rather than sailing straight into broadside ship-to-ship combat. It's also a good opportunity to form a temporary truce with other single players to work together to take down a larger enemy.
When you're playing with others you have the option of creating a closed crew comprised of only your friends, or an open crew with strangers. No matter who you're working with, communication will be key.
About that communication
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, which means that you'll have to communicate if you want to avoid accidentally doubling up on tasks.
At our hands on session at 2017's E3 conference we found out the dangers of this first hand. Our ship came under attack from enemy pirates, who promptly used their cannons to blow a hole in the hull of our ship. When this happens you'll need crew members to patch up the ship using timber, and others will need to use buckets to get rid of the water flooding the hull.
Fail to communicate and you'll find everyone switches to dealing with the biggest problem, which lead to our cannons being completely unmanned while everyone ran around with buckets filled with sea water.
What's interesting about Sea of Thieves is how minimal the UI is. The quests were listed on a piece of parchment that our character held, and looked at, within the game's world, and when we picked a quest the game relied on us literally telling our teammates what were were doing rather than having an immersion-breaking arrow appearing in the environment.
Then, when you get to the island with the treasure on it, you'll need to read your map alongside your compass to work out where you are since the game gives you no clues as to your location on the map itself.
This meant our team had enormous difficulty finding the treasure, and eventually we were forced to leave the island empty-handed and in serious need of some rum.
You have the option to communicate using your microphone or in-game voiceless commands – both work well. If you're looking for an open crew, Sea of Thieves will attempt to match you with players using the same communication method as yourself to make things easier.
Progression doesn't determine which quests you can do
When playing the game, you'll be able to do quests for three guilds. Which guild you choose determines the nature of the quest: Gold Hoarders will have you hunting treasure, the Merchants Guild will ask you to fetch and return items, while the Order of Souls are more combative bounty hunter missions. You're not locked into any particular guild, but you will get progression points for each one.
These will allow you to level up in the game, unlock higher level quests with better rewards and get closer to becoming a legendary pirate. That said, when you're a lower level pirate you'll still be able to take part in higher level quests. Rare has said that there's no level barrier in Sea of Thieves and as long as higher level players are willing to share their quests, there's nothing stopping new or less committed players taking part and earning their share.
Naval combat is present
Naval combat is another key element of the game, and in these instances your canons are your best friends. Your team will need to work together to get the cannonballs from beneath the deck into the canons themselves, after which point you'll be able to fire them at enemy ships to try and send them down to Davy Jones' Locker.
If you prefer a hands on approach you can board enemy ships to take on their crew using a combination of swords, muskets, and flintlock pistols. You can either swim aboard other ships, or, if you're feeling brave, you can literally fire yourself out of a canon to get there quicker.
You can customize your avatar
Though you'll select your avatar from a pre-made lineup, it will be 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 customize your character as you play with new, fancier outfits and even prosthesis.
The world is open and explorable
Sea of Thieves is not a multiplayer game with matches – this is an open world and every ship you come across will be crewed by real players. It's up to them and you whether they're friend or foe. Between quests there will be plenty of opportunities for bonding with your crew and sailing freely.
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 getting back to the land of the living.
Enemy skeletons will have several forms
Mostly Sea of Thieves will have you play with and against other players but there are some AI enemies to content with. These take the form of cursed pirate skeletons and there are a few different versions of them. Of course, you'll get your bog standard skeletons but then there are gold skeletons, heavily armored against damage but weak to water, and shadow skeletons which are tough to beat in darkness but much easier prey in sunlight or lamplight.
How can I play it?
Sea of Thieves will be available on PC and Xbox One on March 20 2018. It'll be possible to purchase the game outright, or pick up an Xbox Game Pass subscription as the game is included in its entirety through the service.
If you're not sure whether Sea of Thieves is for you, picking up a Game Pass trial for free and playing the game for a short time through it is a good way to find out.
The game is not a port for PC or Xbox, it works equally on both and supports cross-play. While the console version has locked frame rates of 30fps, the PC version's are unlocked. Mouse, keyboard and controllers are all supported across console and PC.