Thank goodness a major game studio is making a multiplayer pirate ship game. Even better news: the very basic version of Sea of Thieves on display at E3 out here in Los Angeles is a lot of fun.
On Monday night, we shot video of teams of five players apiece sailing their big pirate ships into battle in this as yet undated Xbox One and PC exclusive. The video should give you a good sense of how it all works, but for those who can’t watch or listen, here are some basics:
- Sea of Thieves is a shared-world game, which means it’s not quite an MMO but is intended to constantly have players run (sail) into each other as they go on adventures. Think Division Dark Zone, perhaps.
- It’s from Rare, the storied Microsoft-owned studio that has been trying to make a comeback after a multi-year dalliance with motion-controlled sports games.
- The game is very early on. Producer Joe Neate told Kotaku that Rare wants to get toward a beta that lots of players can try but that’ll be pretty raw compared to most modern console betas. Even that doesn’t have a date on it.
- The developers have some small-ship designs for one or two players, but they’re showcasing big five-person ships at E3.
- Players can play music and drink, though the latter makes your character very hard to control
- More usefully, players can assume various roles on the ship: steering, raising/lowering sails, firing cannons, navigating from up in the crow’s nest, raising and lowering the anchor and plugging any leaks below decks. There are more roles than players, and all of them require help from others. The person steering, for example, can’t see where they are going, because the sails are in the way. Someone else needs to tell them where to go. Raising the anchor is faster when two or more people do it.
- The basic gameplay shown at E3 involves sailing a ship amid a group of small islands, approaching and attacking rival players’ ships and hoping to put enough holes in them that they fill with water and sink.
- The game demands teamwork and can be tough. The ships turn slowly. The wind has a major effect on speed. You need to plan moves early, work as a good team and still hope your cannons will hit.
- Players are armed with blunderbusses, but Neate said the developers deactivated that option for E3 to encourage people to do more ship combat.
- Players can also use virtual buckets to get water out of their ship and stop from sinking, but Neate said that too was deactivated in the E3 demo to ensure that matches would end more quickly.
- There will be more of a structure to the final game, with missions and exploration, Neate said. You’ll be able to acquire and upgrade the look and functionality of ships. But that’s not in the E3 demo.
If you want to see even more footage of the game, there’s a direct feed trailer that Microsoft presented Monday morning. This game is fun in its current form, folks. Hopefully Microsoft and Rare can build a good game around it.