‘Sea of Thieves’ Hands-On at E3: Chaotic Pirate Fun on the High Seas


Rare’s next big project, open-world pirate adventure Sea of Thieves, was one of the best experiences I had with a game on this year’s E3 show floor.

Dropped into the shoes of a randomly selected pirate, my fellow crewmembers and I prepared to embark. Our captain was one of the game’s demonstrators, there to provide us some direction so that we could take to the high seas without going through a tutorial. I was pleasantly surprised to see he very nearly wasn’t needed. Sea of Thieves is an intuitive and simultaneously utterly madcap swashbuckling adventure.

In a very piratical turn of events, a crew that was less obsessed with swilling grog and wobbling around on the beach had boarded their own ship before ours was fully crewed and immediately decided to attack. With a couple of us still treading the waves, our ship set sail in an attempt to evade the volley of cannon fire. By the time we had managed to gather everyone aboard, we were already sinking.

As it happened, however, the other crew had terrible aim. While a couple of us ran below decks in an attempt at repairing the holes in our hull, a few of us mastered returning fire and quickly evened the odds.

With a moment to catch our breath, we were free to explore the ship in earnest. Some of us scampered up the mast to the Crow’s Nest, while others ventured into the richly appointed captain’s quarters. Our captain stayed at the helm, directing us to raise or lower the anchor and sails as appropriate, or man the guns and synchronize our fire.

It was immediately apparent how well a coordinated crew could do. Because all cooperative crew actions benefit the whole, there’s strong motivation for even complete strangers to work together. That’s very important for a game that will see most of its play between anonymous parties on the internet, and Rare seems to have nailed it.

Even as the water rose inside our ship, we began to pull away from the inevitable catastrophe. Then a third crew of buccaneers was sighted off the port bow, sails unfurled and barreling toward us at full speed. They immediately noticed us limping away from our first encounter and decided to finish us off before heading for the other ship. Beset on two sides, all our efforts to stave the inevitable encounter with Davy Jones’ Locker came to naught. We unfortunately did not get the chance to experience a melee, though I did manage to climb aboard the enemy vessel before someone knocked me off.

While my time with Sea of Thieves was brief, it was also some of the most fun I had during the entirety of the Electronic Entertainment Expo. From the exaggerated visuals to the simplicity of the controls, Rare has managed to make piracy easy and fun. While I went in without any strong feelings one way or the other about the title, I came out excited and almost rabid with anticipation of the game’s final release. Look for a review on Sea of Thieves as soon as it hits shelves sometime in the first quarter of 2017.

Follow Nate Church @Get2Church on Twitter for the latest news in gaming and technology, and snarky opinions on both.