Rare is one of the oldest development studios still in operation in all of gaming. For over 30 years since their early beginnings as Ultimate Play The Game on the humble Sinclair ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 & Amstrad CPC, through the Nintendo 64 years where they were part-owned by the big N to their present fully owned by Microsoft producing games exclusively for the Xbox One family of consoles & Windows 10 PCs.
One thing has remained constant at Rare HQ in dear old Blighty and that’s their ability to make the absolute best games with the hardware and tech available that are also innovative and has a certain style that’s most distinctly a Rare game. Even when faced with challenging technology in Microsoft’s ill-fated Kinect motion-controlled camera Rare made some of the better games for the peripheral with the Kinect Sports series bringing many a fun family gaming time taking some of the sting out of shelling out £100 for it.
From genre leading isometric adventures like Knight Lore & Attic Attac, colourful 3D platforming with everyone’s favourite bear and bird duo Banjo & Kazooie, hungover squirrel’s being harassed by a giant singing pile of poo in Conker’s Bad Fur Day, making outstanding first person shooters like Goldeneye 007 & Perfect Dark; Rare has always made games that are fun, innovative & unique. Sea Of Thieves is no different.
An extremely fun pirate themed open world multiplayer sandbox where rather than scripted adventures telling you exactly where to go and what to do, Rare has instead built a world for you to live out your wildest pirate fantasies, gave you a set of tools, mechanics and rules then pretty much let you have at it any way you see fit. Whether that be alone or with a group of ship-mates, go for a drink in the tavern playing music and dance your heart out, heading out after buried treasure, sought after animals or go after undead pirates of legend or just hit the sea and explore the world however you please.
Whilst on route to your chosen voyage you may spot a ship wreck with treasure or precious supplies beneath the waves, decide to explore another island on the way to your objective that contains more loot, animals or skeletons to fight. You have to keep your eye on the water too as hungry sharks and giant krakens could attack at any moment with the later’s tentacles being large enough to wrap around your ship and pull you under in minutes if you’re not careful. Then you may spot another ship on the horizon…
This shot reminded me of an old PC dungeon crawler RPG called Stone Keep incidentally. See the boxart inset.
Every ship in Sea Of Thieves is populated with real players online and it is entirely up to players whether they want to fight or team up with each other. But beware even a seemingly trustworthy pirate can turn at any moment and stab you in the back to steal all your precious hard fought booty for themselves. Never trust a pirate.
This should be the mantra to keep in the back of your head at all times when exploring the Sea Of Thieves. Ship battles are an epic event and whether you are in a crew of 2-4 pirates or own your own, in a small Sloop or a mighty Galleon Rare has equipped both types to ship to stand a fighting chance and finely balanced them. Galleons with their much bigger size and heft make ramming a Sloop a viable tactic and with 6 canons and up to 4 blood-thirsty pirates makes for a formidable foe.
Chickens are adorable in Sea Of Thieves. They’ll poke their heads out of the cage when you catch one look at you and cluck inquisitively.
The Sloop is faster and more nimble than the Galleon so can more easily turn and fire on it’s broadside with only 2 canons to worry about keeping loaded and less maintenance to do below deck means solo or 2 players can still stand up and be counted. Of course skill is all important and if working as part of a crew team-work & co-ordination are essential and for all sizes of team a headset for voice chat is recommended.
The ship battles in Sea Of Thieves are some of the most frantic, tense and also funniest competitive multiplayer experiences I have ever had in a game and the interaction in other areas with the things you and your motley crew can get up to by using the game’s items and emotes create many a laugh and have lots of possibilities for comedic value with your friends which are all created by the players own imagination in using the game’s various features.
From getting so drunk you projectile vomit all over everyone, sneaking up on one of your friends with a bucket full of sea water and splashing them in the face, playing musical instruments such as an accordion or a hurdy gurdy in unison forming your very own pirate band with a selection of awesome pirate tunes, getting drunk and then having a friendly sword fight when you’re so drunk you can barely walk and playing a prank on one of your friends by locking them in the ship’s brig whilst their away from their console.
These are just some of the humorous things me and my friends have did while playing that makes Sea Of Thieves an incredibly fun social experience. Sea Of Thieves is like a awesome pirate amusement park with multiple attractions you enjoy again and again finding new ways to accomplish your goals.
It is also a live game or game as a service as they are called where Rare plans to constantly add new content in the weeks, months and even years ahead continuing to add new thrills to their pirate theme park for you to enjoy. New islands to explore, new enemies to encounter and new mission types to further satiate your lust for gold.
There will be micro-transactions but only for cosmetic items such as new clothes, weapon skins and ship parts. These can also be earned with in-game currency so it is up to you whether you want to buy items or go out and earn the gold for them the old fashioned way. And yes, parrots have been confirmed for a future update (although, somewhat sadly, probably not those swearing toy ones you used to get, as one person on the forums suggested, if they want to keep their PEGI 12 rating).
I’ve made it this far in the review and I haven’t even mentioned how utterly beautiful Sea Of Thieves’ graphics are! With cartoonish character models for the pirates, skeletons and animals that have a very Rare flavour as does the environments looking like a painted world rather than being realistic. In fact everything in Sea Of Thieves has it’s own distinctive art style and it all just works beautifully making the game aesthetically stunning and a very pleasant and fun world to be in.
The water especially looks amazing with some of the best water physics I’ve ever encountered in a game. The ship physics how it rocks about when traversing the waves means you can almost feel yourself getting your sea legs and the wind direction is highly visible up in the air above and will realistically catch your sails as you find that perfect angle to hit full speed.
The canons and guns too have realistic gravity to cannonballs and bullets meaning you have to aim above your target and how much depends how far away you are with cannonballs even having to take wind direction and speed into account account you may have to aim off to the left or right depending on it’s direction. This means it take skill and practices to get good at it and makes for a meaty and satisfying experience.
Learning when and where to drop your anchor or trim the sails to slow down when coming in to land takes practice too as does pulling off advanced manouvres like dropping anchor to make a sharp turn, getting close enough to board an enemy ship and taking them out in close range combat or dropping a gun powder barrels in the water behind you in the path of a pursuing ship then blowing it up at the right moment to blow a big hole in their hull. All adds to the fun of Sea Of Thieves and the game doesn’t bore you with any tutorials to do any of this. You just get a simple to use toolset, intuitive control layout and polished game mechanics you will be one of the scurviest scallywags that ever sailed the seven seas in no time.
That giant skull cloud represents a skeleton fort which is the game’s public events. Meant to draw players together where they can work cooperatively to take out a number of tough skeletons finishing with a boss captain skelly. Kill him and he will drop the key to his vault, but whether players then decide to kill each other or split the gold equally is always a worry. #nevertrustapirate
Sea Of Thieves is one of the most fun, innovative and unique games of the generation thus far. It is an excellent example of the games as a service model delivering a fun, evolving experience that has finally delivered the full pirate experience many of us gamers have yearned for since the day’s of Ron Gilbert’s seminal Secrets Of Monkey Island series.
Further to that Rare have captured all of the joy, humour and sense of adventure that wonderful series brought us and what I expected from a pirate game. With regular free content updates promised that is sure to keep me coming back again and again for months and maybe even years to come and I cannot wait to get back on the Sea Of Thieves where much more pirating adventure awaits!