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