Sea of Thieves had another fun and exciting outing at this year’s E3. The nine and half minute trailer that was shown during Microsoft’s E3 Briefing took us on a treasure hunt that involved a shipwreck, sharks, riddles, treasure, a daring escape from a skeleton occupied cave, an epic storm at sea and of course, a run in with another player controlled crew. What was great about this year’s trailer for Sea of Thieves was everything shown in it was available on the E3 show floor and to the Technical Alpha players at home.
So while just I highlighted a few of the new features shown off in the trailer and latest build of the game, let’s dig into them a bit more to see what’s new in Sea of Thieves!
Let’s start with what lies beneath the ocean surface. Previously, players were not able to dive below and explore the depths of the ocean. Now when players use their newfound swimming abilities, they will be able to plunge into the water to encounter shipwrecks, beautiful vegetation and hungry sharks. The shipwrecks are easily spotted from the deck as there will be a colony of seagulls circling above them. The shipwrecks are not only worth exploring for possible treasure chests left aboard, but also for resources such as bananas and cannonballs. More on resources in a bit. While below the surface exploring these shipwrecks, players will need to be cautious of how much time they have spent in the water as it can be easy to run out of air. Once the player has run out of air, their health meter will be chipped away at gradually until they have no health left and die.
On top of managing lung capacity, players will need to keep an eye out for sharks! A shark encounter does not necessarily mean instant death as there is time to fight back between chomps with either a pistol, blunderbuss or sword. With sharks now patrolling the waters, players are more likely to think twice before jumping into that beautiful water.
So about those resource that were mentioned. Resources consumed by the player are also a brand new addition to the latest build of Sea of Thieves. While wood planks were available last year, there is now a set amount that can be carried and they will be taken away from the player’s inventory as they are used like the rest of the new resources. Bananas are eaten to regain lost health. Cannonballs must be loaded into the ship’s cannons before firing. Previously, each player could fire as many cannonballs as they wished without the worry of running out. Now, players must fire with great precision and intent as a crew can find themselves without ammunition for a ship battle before they know it. These limited resources can be found aboard ships, in barrels stationed around islands and in floating barrels scattered across the sea.
The addition of resource management makes ship encounters much more interesting. Before, players knew they had infinite cannonballs and infinite wood planks to withstand a battle so the risk of fighting was very low. Now if a ship is carrying several treasure chests and running low on resources, players are more likely to give the idea of engaging an enemy crew a second thought.
Along with the bananas, wood planks and cannonballs are more new items including a compass for treasure hunting, a lantern for visibility in darkness, a shovel for digging up treasure and a bucket for bailing out water. The bucket is a much wanted addition to last year’s build. Even if you managed to plug up all the holes in your ship, you were stuck with whatever water you had taken on. Now, players can use the buckets to empty out their ship and start on an even playing field with a brand new ship. There is of course the oldies but goodies. Each player still has a cup of grog and two instruments to play.
Players in Sea of Thieves are also equipped with the three weapons mentioned earlier. A flintlock pistol, a blunderbuss and a sword. These weapons add a lot to the Sea of Thieves sandbox as last year there was no way to kill an enemy crew member without sinking their ship. Now players can engage in a gun fight, at a distance and close range, or sword battle and send their opponent to the Ferry of the Damned. Currently, the player can carry five bullets for each gun which you can fill up on from an ammo box aboard any ship. As for the sword play, there is currently a standard slash, a charge attack and a block maneuver.
Right now you might be asking yourself, what is the Ferry of the Damned? The Ferry of the Damned is a social space where every player who is killed visits in ghost form while they wait to respawn. While waiting for doors back to the physical world to open, players can communicate with the other players aboard the ghost ship, friend or foe. War stories can be swapped, a plan for a truce to join forces can be hatched or ill wishes and promises of vengeance to a rival crew member can be uttered.
Back in the physical world, after you are done being distracted by shipwrecks, sharks and ghosts, you can work towards completing the available objective items. These objectives are framed within a voyage. Currently, voyages are segmented into three chapters. Each chapter has a varying number of objectives that must be completed to advanced to the next chapter in the voyage.
The objective items that players will embark on at the moment include two different kind of maps. The first kind of map you have is your typical pirate, X marks the spot kind of map. These maps have a picture of an island drawn on it with varying amount of red X’s scattered about the drawn island. These X’s as you guessed are buried treasure. Using the map table in the haul of your ship, you can match the island on your treasure map to an island on the map table to find your bearings. Using features of the island and your compass, you and your crew can hunt down these X’s on the physical island.
The other kind of map is a riddle map. These riddles usually give you an island name you must travel to, followed with vague, puzzle-like steps to the treasure located on named island. These unclear steps include finding a landmark on the island and walking a certain number of paces away from the landmark to the treasure. An example of the landmarks is “a lovers resting place” which happens to be two tombstones crossing over each other on an island. The puzzle like structure to these maps lend themselves easily to co-operative play as the crew can band together to solve them.
Once you sail to the island, you can start your adventure on land. Now many of you might be thinking to just jump off the ship and swim over to the island, but Sea of Thieves provides a much more stylish approach. Showcased in the E3 trailer was the mechanic of shooting yourself or other crew mates out of a cannon. Yes, that is right. You can become a human cannonball in Sea of Thieves. Shooting yourself out of a cannon isn’t only useful for quickly getting on land, but as seen in the trailer, also for boarding enemy ships from a distance.
The addition of this gameplay mechanic is very exciting! This break from realism opens a lot of doors to other silly and fun gameplay mechanics that could be included in Sea of Thieves. Sea of Thieves is all about becoming any kind of legendary pirate you wish to be. The moments that will come from shooting yourself out of a cannon could definitely lead to some legendary stories. I hope we see more outrages mechanics like this added to Sea of Thieves in the future that will easily lend themselves to epic situations.
While on the island and hunting for treasure, you might encounter skeletons. Other than sharks, these are the only other enemy AI you will find in Sea of Thieves at the moment. The skeletons are currently equipped with blunderbusses so keep your distance as a shot up close by one of their guns could end badly for you. If you are quick enough you could get in close yourself and turn that skeleton into a burst of bones with your own blunderbuss or sword. These skeletons are not only a threat to you while you are on the island though. Many of the islands in the game are equipped with cannons that can be used by the enemy skeletons to shoot down your ship as you sail by.
After defeating any skeletons or rival crews, players will hopefully have found the location of a treasure chest that can be dug up. Much like the capstan on the ship, the more people that help the faster the job goes. With four people digging up the treasure it will be in a crew members hands in no time. Now not all treasure chests are created equal. There are common chests that will net around 400 gold to mythical chests that will net over 2000 gold.
Among the different classes of chests are cursed chests. These cursed chests are very intriguing and while already throwing players for a loop have a lot more potential. One cursed chest, The Chest of Sorrow, will leak water onto your ship while it is aboard. Players will have to constantly keep an ear for the sound of dripping water and if they hear it, run below deck with a bucket to bail it out if they don’t wish to sink. Another cursed chest is the Chest of a Thousand Grogs. This chest gives the player holding it beer goggles. The player will feel the effects of being drunk in the game as if they had taken a swig of grog themselves. Both of theses cursed chests throw a curveball that the crew must keep in mind as they try to cash their chests at an outpost. Yes, even though a player has managed to secure a chest, they do not have the gold yet. Players must take the chests to an outpost where they will exchange the chest with a shipwright NPC for gold. The purpose of the outposts create an area of the world where there is more likely going to be crew confrontation. Knowing a ship has to return to one to actually retrieve the gold gives opportunities to the more wicked of pirates. There is more than one outpost so if players see one being guarded by an enemy crew, they can just sail past to a different one.
While at sea there is another threat to add to the list. Storms are now present in Sea of Thieves. With the storms come violent wind and lightening. The wind will try and take control of the ship so if no one is steering, the ship wheel will spin round and round turning the ship in which ever direction it pleases. While a player is at the helm, they will constantly have to battle the wheel from the wind. The wind from the storm is definitely worthy opponent, but there is also that beautiful lightening seen lighting up the dark grey sky. It isn’t just for looks as it can also strike you!
Those are some of the key additions we saw this year from Sea of Thieves at E3. While last year was focused on ship fighting, this year the ocean depths and islands were opened up for exploring and filled with life. The addition of shipwrecks, sharks, weapons, treasure maps, storms and more to Sea of Thieves gives a richer and more complex sandbox for players to fulfill pirate fantasies with. As more features are added, there will be more opportunities for players to create legendary stories. Right now we already have such stories like a player hoarding three Chest of Sorrow chests aboard their ship and cashing them in at an outpost without sinking and another player being fired out of a cannon, flying over an island, only to stick the landing on the crow’s nest of an enemy ship. These antics are what is giving players smiles as they play and leaving them with thoughts on what they want to do next time they play.
Thanks for reading and be sure to be on the look out for more Sea of Thieves content here as we look forward to the early 2018 release!