Sea Of Thieves

De­vel­oper Rare Pub­lisher Mi­crosoft Stu­dios For­mat PC, Xbox One Re­lease 2017


This is the sec­ond time we’ve had to bring the ship to a lurch­ing halt by drop­ping the an­chor, and it’s for the same rea­son as be­fore: one of our crew has got­ten so ad­dled on grog that they’ve fallen over­board, and their flus­tered yelps into the head­set mic have roused our sense of ca­ma­raderie. Hav­ing an un­lim­ited sup­ply of booze in your in­ven­tory is rather dan­ger­ous, it turns out, as we dis­cov­ered to our cost ear­lier af­ter filling our boots with wa­tery rum in the crow’s nest and top­pling out of it while try­ing to spot for the nav­i­ga­tor. It’s a pi­rate’s life for us, cer­tainly, but we may have to rein things in a lit­tle.

Still, if you’re go­ing to make an in­her­ently so­cial game, there’s bound to be some mer­ri­ment. Rare’s mul­ti­player pi­rat­i­cal romp seems to be some­thing of a re­turn to form for the vet­eran Twycross stu­dio, which has pre­sum­ably fi­nally bro­ken free of its Kinect shack­les and tossed them over­board. Sea Of Thieves de­lights from the mo­ment we step into its world as we look around at our new crew and dis­cover that we can all play a nau­ti­cal-flavoured cover of Ride Of The Valkyries to­gether on our se­lec­tion of mu­si­cal in­stru­ments.

It’s not long be­fore the five of us make a bee­line for our shared galleon, which sits re­splen­dent in the sparkling wa­ter a lit­tle way down the cliff path ahead of us. On ar­riv­ing, how­ever, there’s the small task of fig­ur­ing out how to make it do any­thing other than look pretty. The an­chor must be raised – a job made sig­nif­i­cantly quicker if more than one per­son jumps on the cap­stan to help – and the sails dropped by wind­lasses along the edges of the top deck. We need some­one on the wheel, of course, but with the sails down they’re not go­ing to be able to spot land or ap­proach­ing ships. And when you do see an­other ves­sel, it will be crewed by an­other five play­ers (ine­bri­ated cast­aways not­with­stand­ing) who may or may not be friendly.

In this first hands-on with the game, there’s lit­tle chance of en­coun­ter­ing the for­mer, so when we do spot an­other schooner, we draw in close, pull a hard left by quickly drop­ping the an­chor, and then man the can­nons to bom­bard the en­emy. Un­sur­pris­ingly, they have a sim­i­lar plan and the air fills with smoke and can­non­balls as each crew tries to dis­able the other. It’s not long be­fore we’re des­per­ately try­ing to patch holes in the hull be­low deck as wa­ter pours in and fills the hold. Our craft sits lower and lower in the wa­ter un­til there’s fi­nally no op­tion but to aban­don ship and swim for nearby land to re­group. We may not have a ves­sel for the time be­ing, but we saved some­thing more im­por­tant to­day. No, not our lives, but the grog. Time to drink and dance, then.

Hav­ing an un­lim­ited sup­ply of booze in your in­ven­tory is rather dan­ger­ous, it turns out

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