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