Xbox One’s ambitious open-world pirate game, Sea of Thieves, recently wrapped up its closed beta. Game Informer interns Jon Bowman and Robbie Key got a chance to brave Sea of Thieves’ vast waters. They pore over details of their voyage such as how they fared in running a two-man boat, how terrible a drunk accordion player sounds, and whether or not Rare’s title is worth buying at launch.
Jon – It probably goes without saying, but this game is a lot more fun playing with buddies rather than randoms. Even if we weren’t rewarded properly …
Robbie – Absolutely. Our two-hour tour was enough to tell me this game is meant for goofing off with friends. Though, I will say playing with a random crew can be fun. Right before we joined up, I played and talked with a guy who was actually on PC, which was a pretty surreal cross-platform moment for me. The other two didn’t have mics, but we all worked well together in our voyage. That made things a thousand times better. It makes a world of difference when you have good teammates in any co-op-heavy game, and this is no exception.
Jon – Totally. So, let’s talk about our journey when we actually connected on Saturday. What would you say was your favorite part of our quest for “The Stash of the Lame Grog Mayles,” or as I like to call it, “Two Super Salty Males Miss Out on Treasure”?
Robbie – For me, it was progressively learning how the game works by simply playing it. For games, I almost always want some kind of tutorial to at least point me in the right direction. Sea of Thieves doesn’t really have that, but it turns out to be a high point in the game because it adds a weird social element. You get to bounce knowledge off and on your crew, and you get to work together to figure out how everything works. It helps you create little, memorable moments. Oh yeah, and how could I forget when toward the end of our quest I vomited all over your face from drinking too much? In the game, not real life.
Jon – The vomit was definitely a highlight for me, too. That and drunkenly playing the accordion. Between playing distorted notes and stumbling around the room, it’s easily the creepiest and funniest way to go about doing that. But maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. Should we talk about what brought us there?
Robbie – Of course! Our quest led us to three different islands, one very small and the other two huge. The time it takes to travel in between islands was a great way to learn the ropes.
Jon – Definitely. I felt that my docking skills vastly improved by the time we got back.
Robbie – Your lack of docking skills before then also helped me to become a master at plugging up holes in the ship. That’s when I realized that maintaining the ship – something I wouldn’t normally like – is actually fun to manage with a good crew. Whether it’s being high up on the ship to watch for enemy vessels, helping the captain navigate, or playing zany tunes from a hurdy-gurdy for giggles, the roles each person plays is important and makes each quest rewarding in its own ways, even more so when you score some sweet loot.
Jon – Other than learning to sail and repair the ship, finding the treasures along the way was pretty cool. I liked solving the riddles in order to find the chests and how each time we would discover a chest, more parts of the riddle would be revealed for the next one. I do wish your controller would vibrate as you approach treasure, or provide some other way to let players know when they’re getting warmer.
How about that Sorrow Chest?
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Robbie – That was a hilarious surprise! The last chest we picked up in the quest was crying the entire time, which was already strange enough. When we loaded it on the boat, we noticed the lower deck was flooding with water and tried to pour it out with our buckets, but it wouldn’t go away. After looking around the ship and realizing nothing was wrong, we were both like, “It’s the chest!” We had to keep a close ear out when it cried so we wouldn’t end up in a watery grave.
Jon – So after swashbuckling skeletons, solving riddles, playing the hurdy-gurdy underwater, and consoling the Sorrow Chest, I docked us almost perfectly back at the outpost, excited to get that crybaby out of our boat and get some gold. Unfortunately, our reward was nothing!
Robbie – I felt so swindled by that stupid mcbeardy face. The journey to get those chests was so much fun and obviously the main point of the quest – and probably all quests – but I really wanted that gold to not only buy some cool swag, but also get better quests since you acquire those by collecting treasure. And to be clear, this seemed like a bug in the game. The pirate didn’t actually steal from us.
Jon – It was an epic tale all around. And I still had enough gold to buy a tankard, which led to some pretty fun antics in the pub. I was laughing so hard while playing the accordion and struggling to stand in one place. Not to mention throwing up in each other’s faces. Probably the only instance I’d laugh about that happening.
Robbie – I was dying from laughing when our screens were suddenly covered in vomit.
Oh yeah, and what about the combat? I’m honestly not too excited about that part. It was a cookie-cutter formula when fighting skeletons. You maybe block and swipe three times to take them down. It was hardly engaging.
Jon – Yeah, I’m not the biggest fan of combat either. I think what was most jarring about it for me is that sometimes before landing the killing blow on a skeleton, the camera would pull its focus and almost lock onto that skeleton. It almost made it feel like I was playing a quick-time event with no prompts.
That said, I’m not into this game for the combat. The things I’m taking away from our excursion are playing some shanties on the open seas, learning how to manage ships, and finding treasure. I hope combat improves, but if it doesn’t, I’m okay with it because that’s not what Sea of Thieves was about for me.
Robbie – So, based on our journey, do you see yourself buying Sea of Thieves when it comes out?
Jon – I do. I mean, let’s face it: We did not have the best experience Sea of Thieves has to offer. Neither one of us enjoyed fighting the skeletons; we didn’t run into any rival crews, either on land or at sea; our big quest rewarded us with zero gold; and in spite of all of that, I still walked away feeling like I had a great time, ready to get back out there and find more treasure.
I think having a good crew makes all the difference. If I had gone through the same issues we faced while manning a solo ship, I would’ve left the beta with a bitter taste in my mouth. But being able to goof around with your buddies, learning to work as a unit to take care of the ship, sailing the open ocean to tunes from the hurdy-gurdy, and solving treasure riddles are the things I keep coming back to, not the shortcomings.
What about you?
Robbie – I’m not 100 percent sure I would get this at launch, but I’m certainly more optimistic after having hands-on time. I had a blast when we played, so I can only imagine how whimsical it is to play with a four-person crew. The journey to and from each island felt like mini adventures between the quest itself. The small discoveries, like realizing you can’t play the accordion well while you’re drunk and adopting a role in running a ship, added so much to the experience in a way not many games have done.
Yet, I can’t help but wonder: Is our initial experience a honeymoon phase? These moments could easily lose their luster after a short time, and that’s partially because I fear the game is one giant fetch quest. However, if Rare keeps up the joy of discovery in hilarious and unexpected ways after a few dozen hours into the game, then Sea of Thieves is something shared-world enthusiasts could absolutely love.