When Rare announced Sea of Thieves, I shrugged it off. It looked to be little more than a generic, MMO-like pirate game with uninspired graphics. Then when the new trailer hit this E3, laced with YouTubers screaming about climbing ladders and falling off the side of a ship, I groaned and quipped on Twitter that the game 'looked like the best Project Spark game I'd ever seen.' Project Spark being the failed, build-your-own-adventure game that Microsoft is pulling the plug on in August.
I finally got to play a portion of Sea of Thieves on the E3 show floor this year, and boy, was I wrong. So, so, wrong.
Have you ever wanted to have epic ship battles on the high seas with some of your best mateys? Many games have tried it, but none have truly nailed it until now. In my demo, myself and other players boarded our ship and set sail. As we left the dock, we pulled out some musical instruments and started to play a classic pirate ditty. While this served no purpose other than having a laugh and some fun, those are two things many games lack today, and things Rare has always been known for.
I climbed to the crow’s nest at the tip top of the sails to keep a lookout for other ships. "Ship dead ahead!" I yelled down to my mates. "Full speed ahead!" Soon, we were engaged in a massive cannon battle. Some of us fired off cannon rounds, while our captain guided our vessel. Anytime your ship takes damage an actual hole opens in the hull. It must be patched as soon as possible, as water starts to pour in. Everyone has planks in their inventory, and can quickly swap to them and hold a button for a few seconds to patch it up. There were multiple times where our bottom level was completely flooded, forcing me to swim underwater to get to a hole and patch it. It was intense, thrilling, and a boat-load of fun.
Even with this being an in-development build, it felt incredibly polished. The frame rate was smooth as our ship swayed in the most realistic way I've seen in a game. This was especially apparent when on the crow’s nest. I actually panicked a few times, because it felt like our ship was going to tip over from making a sharp turn.
Some features were still not implemented in this build, such as being able to do anything if you board an enemy’s ship, which I did as our ship rammed into the side of another. However, I confirmed with developers that this would be included in the full game.
Even though pirate ship battles are just a small part of Sea of Thieves, my time in one has given me hope that the rest of the game will be just as nautically entertaining when it sets sail on Xbox One and Windows 10 sometime in 2016.