One Night at Sea
London Gaymers take to the seas in the Sea of Thieves final beta.
Last night I stayed up until 3am playing the final beta of soon-to-be released swashbuckling adventure, Sea of Thieves.
It was a lot of fun.
Joining me aboard our ship, the Jolly Rogering, were Captain 8BitBear and First Mate CavemanJames. We took to piracy like ducks to water, quickly setting sail for a distant island and the promise of buried treasure. With one of us taking the wheel, another standing sentry in the crow’s nest, and the third looking after the sails and navigational charts, we were at risk of appearing competent as we cut through the water.
As we sailed, we all remarked on the beauty of the sea as it rose and crashed against our hull. Developer Rare has clearly spent a long time perfecting the ocean physics and textures, and the result is impressive. One moment tranquil, a sudden storm can quickly whip the waters into a frenzy.
We did a little island hopping, dug up a few chests, and dusted a few skeletons. Weapons in Sea of Thieves are crude by design — and after weeks of playing PUBG, I found myself missing the pinpoint accuracy of a Kar98 equipped with an 8x scope. Instead, cutlasses and muzzle-loading pistols are the standard pirate load out.
A bell rings in the crow’s nest high above the ship; “land ahoy!”
A skeleton fort looms on the horizon, flanked by defensive towers that open fire as we approach. A cannonball whistles past my head, missing by little more than a foot, and crashes into our deck. We return the favour, aiming for the towers. Eventually the barrage ceases allowing us to draw close, drop anchor and swim ashore. Here we face wave upon wave of angry skeletons and we are quickly backed into a corner and overwhelmed. Luckily, we spawn back on our ship where we can restock on health-restoring bananas and quickly return to the battle.
A few minutes into our raid, we spy another ship approaching the island. We’re naturally cautious — as most encounters with other players tend to result in one or both ships relegated to Davy Jones’ Locker; but on this occasion it’s ok — just some friendly Americans who jump ashore and ask if we want help clearing out the skeletons.
Whilst they help the remainder of my crew defeat the skeleton captain, I hop aboard their ship and start to pilfer everything that isn’t nailed down. Cannonballs, ship repair materials and, the ultimate prize, two chests full of booty. Having cleared the fort, everybody returns back to their respective ships and, for now, nobody is any the wiser. I confess what I’ve done to my crew; there’s an awkward silence for a moment, then: “Oh no, I feel really bad for them”
“Wait a minute,” I argue, “we’re pirates right? I just did really good pirating and they’ve learned a valuable lesson!”
“I dunno man, what about the pirate code?”
Wait, yoinks! Is there some long-standing pirating code of conduct that I’ve overlooked? Some set of commonly held rules that say one pirate shall not pillage from another? I thought that was what being a pirate was all about!
I do some frantic Googling; phew — it’s ok. Whilst pirate codes are a very real thing, it seems they mainly exist to prevent pirates stealing from their own crew and bringing women aboard the ship in disguise. There’s nothing about stealing from other pirates — I’m in the clear!
We return to the nearest outpost, haul our chests ashore and flog them to the local merchants for a good chunk of gold. Our new-found wealth lets us buy cosmetic upgrades, and Captain 8BitBear emerges from the general store feeling very proud of himself:
“Look! What do you think of my new hook? It’s gold!”
We return to the dock just in time to see the tip of our mast sinking beneath the waves. Pulled up, where the Jolly Rogering used to be, is the Americans’ galley. That’s karma for you.
We lay down on the beach, stare wistfully out to sea, and reflect on our adventure.
Sea of Thieves is due to make land as a cross-platform release for Xbox and Windows 10 later this month. There is a lot of hype surrounding it, and the game has received extensive coverage across Twitch, YouTube and other social media platforms. The air in the gamesphere is heavy with the weight of anticipation.
It would be unfair of me to share an opinion of a game based on a few hours of gameplay. I certainly enjoyed the experience, but I also feel that there’s a lot of distance to travel between the most recent beta, and a game that I’d be happy to pay £50 for (the current pre-order price).
It ultimately felt like a very polished tech demo; and I’m hopeful that the finished title will be packed full of exciting, engaging and progressive content that justifies the price. But, now and then, a small niggling doubt creeps into my head that Sea of Thieves could be the next No Man’s Sky — all style over substance. I truly hope this is not the case, as I’m convinced there’s a little pirate in all of us just waiting to be set free.