Rare is a company that has seemingly been a bit lost the last few years. During the Kinect era of Microsoft, they were tasked with creating the avatars and basic Kinect games. With Kinect seemingly on the way out, finally, Microsoft had to decide what to do with the studios behind all-time greats like Banjo-Kazooie and Goldeneye: 007. Sea of Thieves is that decision. Sea of Thieves debuted at E3 Expo a few years back as a concept for an open world pirate game that was completely online. Fast forward a few years and the game is due out March 20, 2018, with a brand new closed beta for long-time Rare subscribers, or pre-order purchasers to try out. So, what’s in the beta? What is Sea of Thieves?
If you’re looking for a short answer, Sea of Thieves is a lot of fun, but notably shallow in the beta. This shouldn’t be taken as a knock on the game, though, as Rare has noted that they cut out a bunch of content for the beta. As those who have played the Alpha builds have noted, in the full game there are three full factions with quests and merchants galore.
In the Sea of Thieves beta you get one faction, and only a few merchants to purchase items and clothing from. The beta’s main draw is just testing out how the game looks and feels. So far, the melee combat in Sea of Thieves reminds me of a slightly snappier The Elder Scrolls. The combat is a very similar style when using a cutlass, and shooting has a similar feeling to Fallout when free aiming with the rifle or flintlock pistol. It’s not bad by any means but doesn’t feel 100% accurate like a shooter would. The main draw of the game, though, is not necessarily the on-foot combat, but the treasure hunting and boat combat. During my time with the beta I was able to load into a ship (in the beginning you choose a boat size of small (1 person), medium, and large (4 people)) and matchmake my way into a game with 3 other random players. Now, this isn’t necessarily what I’d suggest doing, because voice chat is a necessity in Sea of Thieves, and knowing the other person helps immensely, but it’s nice to have that matchmaking option if you need it.
Once loaded in, we embarked on a few quests to find treasure on various islands in the very large world. We’d get clues, find the location, sail, land, fight skeletons and dig up chests in order to return them to the main city and sell them. It’s quite a fun gameplay loop with the right people. My only concern was if this was all there would be for the complete game. A question which Rare seems to have assured people is not the case. On our way back from one mission we ran into another ship with a four-player crew and began trading cannon blasts. It was extremely intense with one person steering the ship (really a three-person job), one running below decks to refill cannonballs and bail water, and two firing on the enemy. In the end, it was us who came away victorious, and we stole three chests from the enemy players.
Overall the beta gave me a good glimpse into Sea of Thieves and so far, so good. The worry about depth of content will remain until more comes out from press events and then reviews, but the presentation, gameplay, and fun factor is there. If you loved Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag’s ship combat, or just have been waiting for a big open-world pirate game, you might finally have what you’re looking for in Sea of Thieves, and the gaming industry might have the next big Rare classic.