As you might expect, the closed beta for Sea of Thieves only has a small amount of the content we can expect to see from the full game. This means that the closed beta amounted to a few missions and a focus on the ship controlling and exploration aspects. While that sounds rather simple, the amount of fun to be had with what was given to players in the closed beta was surprising.
Upon starting the game you’re given three ship options. I could captain a ship of up to eight other players, another for about four players, or control a ship on my own. The solo option warned that only experienced pirates should pick the solo option, and so I took that as a convenient yet empowering excuse to show off my pirate skills and have nobody question my lack of social life and friends. Thanks Rare!
However, that’s where the helpfulness ended. I spawned in a pub on an island with a few stores, but didn’t yet have money to spend in them. There’s absolutely no hand holding, and so I wandered around the island until I eventually found my ship in a nearby dock. Without any knowledge of what to do or how to control the ship, I took to the seas and headed toward a nearby island. With my expert pirate navigational skills, I didn’t make any rookie mistake like accidently looping back toward my starting island without ever noticing that the compass had completely changed directions. I also didn’t scrape my hull on the island as I left, not repair the holes, and then brag about my expert boat parking skills just before my boat flipped over and sank.
In all seriousness, this incident made me try harder to figure out the controls. I got aboard my ship and fiddled around until I figured out that I had the means of repairing my ship all along and just didn’t realize how to switch items. I had also discovered that there wasn’t much to be found on the islands without “voyages” which are treasure hunting quests. I picked one up, went back to my ship, and started out. The choppy seas no longer scared me, and I seemed to be getting better at controlling the ship, even if it became a bit hectic with just one person. Sailing the ship can be pretty involved as you redirect your sail and open or close it to change speed. There’s a compass by the ship’s wheel, but the real map is below deck. Every time I left my wheel to check the map, I was a bit scared that I might hit some rock in my absence. I was about to discover that hitting a rock was the least of my worries.
While cheerfully sailing my ship to my voyage’s destination, it soon became apparent that I was being hunted by a much larger crew when sniper shots and cannon balls began flying overhead. My pirate confidence melted as a tried to desperately defend myself and guide my ship safely away from rocks and islands. I was killed and respawned, only to be hunted down again before ever leaving the dock.
Eventually I managed to complete a few voyages. It was fun to try and figure out the clues given, navigate to the probable area to find the treasure, and successfully dig it up. Currently, you cannot open chests, but you can take them to a store and sell them. Making it back to an island to sell the chests felt like a mad dash across the sea while avoiding other players who might board or sink your ship and take it for themselves. Sadly, I was only able to complete a few voyages before they stopped working for me entirely. What little I completed was really enjoyable, but there are still some issues to iron out.
It may sound like I encountered many misfortunes while playing Sea of Thieves, but I took it all on laughing hysterically. The boat controls (especially playing solo) were so engaging that any mistakes that sent me crashing into things felt like my own mistake. Likewise, getting that perfect boat parking job felt very rewarding due to how involved controlling your ship is. And in those rare moments when I wasn’t scrambling to keep my boat afloat, the scenery was very enjoyable to just take in. The sea can be deeply blue as the waves crash around your ship. The islands are extremely colorful and, well, it really makes you feel like you’re living a pirate fantasy.
This is just a small bit of what Sea of Thieves has to offer, and I enjoyed it immensely. I do hope that there is an option for solo players to only be matched with other solo players, as the odds feel stacked against you when put up against bigger crews. Moreover, I hope they add places of peace so that players can’t be spawn killed. I want to see voyages expanded upon and I also hope that islands become more interesting to explore without voyages to guide you. I think Rare is about to deliver a truly special game, and I can’t wait to see what Sea of Thieves has in store next time.