De­vel­oper Rare Pub­lisher Mi­crosoft Stu­dios For­mat Xbox One Re­lease 2018


Sea Of Thieves, Forza Mo­tor­sport 7, Crack­down 3, Ori And The Will Of The Wisps, Cup­head, Play­erUn­known’s Bat­tle­grounds, Su­per Lucky’s Tale, Minecraft, State Of De­cay 2

Nav­i­gat­ing our way to the Mi­crosoft booth this year is easy: we sim­ply have to fol­low the laugh­ter. Chuck­ling groups stag­ger away from it in droves, telling tall tales of their time at sea. Clearly much has changed in the last 12 months. Sail­ing the seven seas at last year’s E3 was a de­light soured only by the lin­ger­ing ques­tion of what else there was to do in Sea Of Thieves. But this time, our demo is packed with pos­si­bil­i­ties: trea­sure to hunt, rid­dles to solve and chunky lit­tle blun­der­busses to fire at skele­tons. At some point, we might even get around to them. Sim­ply board­ing the ship is an up­roar­i­ous strug­gle: our crew­mates find a bar­rel of grog and the in­evitable hap­pens, the arc of our stag­ger now wider than the jetty lead­ing to our ship. Once we’ve sobered up, dried off and got on board, a crew­mate holds up a map and flips it round to show the others, like a proud tod­dler with a crayon draw­ing.

We run aground on rocks, and wa­ter pours in: a cou­ple of us plug the holes, an­other be­gins to bail us out, the fourth ad­justs the sails to

put us back on course, and the Rare staffer as­signed to us strug­gles to keep it to­gether as our group of­fers up enough in­nu­endo to power a Carry On film. Sea­far­ing con­trols are agree­ably sim­ple; the dif­fi­culty comes from the need for team­work and com­mu­ni­ca­tion, the com­edy from the slap­stick re­sults of fail­ure.

The trea­sure hunt be­gins. Ours is a good old-fash­ioned ‘X marks the spot’ job, but there are also rid­dles, pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated based on a given lo­ca­tion’s to­pog­ra­phy and scenery. We’d have pre­ferred the lat­ter, to be hon­est, as our group, head­ing to­wards the rocky out­crop at an is­land’s east­ern­most point, starts dig­ging around a likely spot in the sand. When a shovel fi­nally hits the wooden thunk of a trea­sure chest, it’s not sat­is­fy­ing in the way that solv­ing cryp­tic clues would have been. Still, we lug our haul back on board, and are pleased with our lot, though con­cerns linger. Chiefly, what is it all for? Are we work­ing to­wards an ul­ti­mate goal, or are we meant to sail the seven seas, loot­ing and pil­lag­ing in­def­i­nitely?

Yet this is a much-im­proved show­ing for a game that has pre­vi­ously strug­gled to make a con­vinc­ing case for its own ex­is­tence, and when it all comes to­gether – in those mo­ments of spon­ta­neous co­or­di­na­tion that make it feel like you’ve been with your crew for years – Sea Of

Thieves is a de­light. The po­ten­tial to cre­ate your own ridicu­lous leg­ends is there. As the game en­ters its fi­nal months of de­vel­op­ment, Rare still has plenty of ques­tions to an­swer. But even with­out sight of the full map, it’s al­ready look­ing like some­thing to be trea­sured.

If sail­ing to shore doesn’t ap­peal, you can al­ways travel there by can­non, though you’ll need a crew­mate to change tra­jec­tory

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