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E3 2016 – hands on with Sea of Thieves

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I genuinely liked the look of Sea of Thieves when I first saw actual gameplay of it unveiled at Microsoft’s E3 conference this year. It looked like a legit pirate simulator, and let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to play that? Alessandro and I had a good laugh at them and the footage we saw on stage, so much so that we couldn’t wait to try Rare’s latest game ourselves at some point during the conference.

Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait too long to do that. We had the opportunity to play it the very next day, along with three other journalists who would round out our scallywag crew. The demonstration kicked off with the five of us standing on a random island. I took a little longer to get my headset on, so by the time I looked up, the others had already got onto our nearby ship.


Alessandro was already drunk by the time I climbed on board only a minute or so later. He had stopped playing his accordion, and was downing his grog as if the world had ended instead.


The others meanwhile, were preparing the ship for launch. They had already expanded the sails, and were in the process of raising the anchor to get things going. Wanting to pull my weight (and avoid a potential walking of the plank), I joined in with the preparations.

Soon enough, we were moving and ready to face the open sea. I looked around for Alessandro, but he was nowhere to be found. I checked below the deck, in the captain’s cabin, along the figurehead, and sadly, found nothing.

sea-of-thieves-screen-3I eventually gazed to the skies and lo and behold, guess who was up there in the crow’s nest drinking? I joined Alessandro, and together, we watched the open sea for a bit, and discussed life, philosophy, and Portuguese steaks. It was a truly beautiful moment, made even more so by the musical instrument I had pulled out to play.

After a minute or so, we saw another ship docked at another island. Oddly enough, it wasn’t moving. That crew (other people at the Sea of Thieves booth) had clearly not figured out how operate the wooden beast. That, or they were elsewhere, getting just as trashed as Alessandro and I were.


As a crew, we decided to leave them be. We were a nice bunch of pirates after all, and we didn’t believe in bullying.

We carried on our way, right up until another ship popped up on the horizon. Panic set in (seriously, Alessandro and I jumped straight out of the crow’s nest and onto the deck without a second thought). Thankfully, we had a developer on our team. He knew exactly what he was doing, and the communication he instigated between us was helpful, and prepared us accordingly.


With his help, we had somebody behind the wheel, a spotter, and everybody else on a canon. It was here that a bit of depth began to show in Sea of Thieves.

After a pass filled with destructive cannon fire (in which we somehow avoided damage), the developer (who I will now refer to as captain) told one of us to drop the anchor, and the person steering the ship to lock the wheel to the left.

This combination of the heavy weight smacking the ground below and the ship changing direction resulted in a handbrake turn of sorts. We angled around and made our pursuit.


For some reason, our ship felt a little bit flat- it wasn’t moving very quickly. We needed speed, and we needed it fast if we were to catch our opponents. To pick up the pace, we were ordered to angle the sails to catch the wind better. We did so obediently, and our speed picked up significantly.

Then, out of nowhere, those previously island-bound opponents we saw earlier appeared. They bombarded us to pieces as they sailed past, which meant Alessandro and I needed to get down below to patch up the damage with wooden planks. Meanwhile above, the pursuit of the other ship continued.


After a little while, our own vessel was looking a lot better. I thought it safe, so I resurfaced to see what was going on exactly. To my surprise, we had ended up right behind our target. I decided it was time to take the situation into my own hands. I walked along the mast, and boarded our opponent’s ship.

I had every intention to steer them into an island, and to their destruction, but the captain said I should drop their anchor instead, which would bring them to a halt. I did exactly that, and bought the enemy to a standstill.

My crew flew past, and rained all sorts of hell from our own canons into the vulnerable hull of the ship I now rode. The enemy panicked and ran around trying to sort the situation out, and figure out what exactly had happened to bring them to a dead stop.


They later got the anchor up, and the ship going again. Seeing as I was still on it though (for some reason, nobody was steering), I repeated the process. The anchor was dropped, and the enemy suffered horrible attacks as a result.

That right there, is just a small slice of how my Sea of Thieves session played out. It’s wacky, unpredictable, and quite honestly, some of the most fun I had at E3.


What my hands on time taught me about the game is that there is a certain level of depth hat I never really expected from it. For example, the angling of sails, or the handbrake turn I mentioned above – that was something I never anticipated. Alessandro and I spoke about it afterward, and agreed that we’d never thought the game would feature those cool little touches before we played it.

But it does, and now that we’ve had taste, we’re quite excited for more. This demo was just a vertical slice showing the game’s ship combat. What else are Rare planning to pack into Sea of Thieves? We can’t wait to find out!


Last Updated: June 17, 2016

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