First Impressions: Sea of Thieves (PC, Beta)
I'm calling it now: Sea of Thieves is going to be one of the best multiplayer experiences of 2018. Having played much of the most recent scale test this past weekend (and being devastated when I couldn't play it on Sunday), with both friends and on my own, I am incredibly excited for the full release of this game. However, my message regarding pre-ordering is always the same: do it at your own risk.
The very first thing that grabs pulled me into this game is the music. I've talked about the importance of music in video games before (and have mentioned it as the only redeeming quality of Destiny 2), and the music in Sea of Thieves is both incredibly important to the overall experience and is also incredibly good. From the main theme on the home menu, to the instrumentals that play when sailing the open sea when you set the sails just right, to the beautiful sweeping "Becalmed" that you can play with your friends on an accordion and a hurdy-gurdy, the music is just absolutely fantastic. Even if you don't end up purchasing this game I highly recommend you listen to the soundtrack, composed by Robin Beanland. On its own, it really is that good.
Sea of Thieves also seems to almost perfectly understand what you want out out of a game that you can play with your friends. Galleons can have a max crew size of 4, so that means you can play with up to 3 friends, or you can auto-fill any empty spots with other folks from the internet. I played both with friends and with auto-filled slots and have to say had a blast either way. It was fun having to work together with people to ensure our ship got to where we wanted it to go so we could claim some treasure and bring it back to an outpost. The only moments of frustration were when the person driving the ship really didn't know what they were doing and would crash the ship by mistake. Obviously I was playing during a beta weekend, so some learning curve required, but that one role of driving the ship is pretty important and one where the mistakes really mess up the ship (crashing causes holes to pop in the hull, which have to be boarded, and a ton of water can flood the bottom decks that then has to be bucketed out and thrown overboard).
That little annoyance aside, I loved pretending to be a pirate with my friends and sailing the high seas. It was never boring to be sailing from one island to another, as there's always something to do on the ship: adjust the sails, look at the map, look out for other ships, load cannons, play music, look at your quest riddles--the list is seemingly endless. The setting of the ship coupled with the beauty of the sea in this game makes for an amazing experience.
The environment also adds layers of engagement and immersion that enhance gameplay even more. Getting caught in a storm, for example, is incredible, and I loved every moment of it: the rain pouring down, the ship wheel spinning out of control, navigation completely lost--it was such a thrilling experience. Rare did a great job at incorporating variation into the open waters, and that's part of what makes sailing so great in the game.
What we need to look out for as the game moves towards release is content, content, content. During the beta there was only one faction to complete quests for, and they were all based around finding an "x" on the map and retrieving the chest there; or solving a very easy riddle to find a chest in the dirt. There's tons of potential for more factions, which they've said are in the game, and also quest variation. I could easily see there being a "Marauders" guild where all of the quests are related to attacking other ships and stealing their loot, or an "Explorers" guild where you have to solve a riddle to find a hidden area. I'll be very interested to see how they build out the content during release and subsequent updates, but I'm hopeful that the game will be fully built out with tons to do.
Right now, Sea of Thieves is not without its minor issues: I had a few server connectivity problems (failed matchmaking) over the weekend, but it that is to be expected with scale testing. Also had some very weird interactions when my boat sank: items in the boat were glitching in and out, and overall it was just an odd experience. I would say that needs to be reworked.
All-in-all, I'm incredibly excited for Sea of Thieves' full release on March 20. I will be gathering my crew, and setting out on the high seas, so stay tuned for our full review coming out post-release.