I don’t expect a lot out of E3 these days. The show isn’t as much about great new PC games — nevermind MMOs — as it once was, so I only kept half an eye on the proceedings. But there was one game that I started to hear repeated again and again until I finally roused myself to pay attention, and that game was Sea of Thieves.
As far as I can tell, Sea of Thieves is a multiplayer sandbox themed around pirates and the Age of Sail filtered through a movie lens. The key hook here seems to be participating in a crew of swashbucklers working together to operate a pirate ship, although supposedly there will be a single-player option as well for ships.
Two things have impressed me here. The first is the art style — Sea of Thieves has warm, welcoming colors and a slight cartoony art style. It’s a great look, especially with those Caribbean waters and the ship animations. We’ve seen some pirate games before, but many times the looks are more drab than they should be. This feels more like Sid Meier’s Pirates and even the Secret of Monkey Island.
The second aspect is the pirate theme… and how it may crack the grouping experience wide open for players. There’s an anxiety for some of us when it comes to grouping up and a fleeing to the solo life in online games. But the whole piratey veneer could be gaming lubricant to keeping groups silly and relaxed, getting new players in by encouraging them to live the pirate life. It’s kind of like dress up and Halloween, or Talk Like a Pirate Day, where there’s something about pirates that brings out our goofy, acting sides. I can totally see people getting into the spirit of manning ships, drinking rum, walking planks, and all of the other faux-pirate trappings that pop culture has conjured.
I’m also keeping my eye on Sea of Thieves because there are hints that the overlap with the MMORPG genre could be greater than what is currently known. The devs are bending over backwards to try to avoid the MMO label — they wouldn’t discuss server size, for instance — but there are signs that they’ve at least liberally borrowed from MMO concepts, such as progression and a wide mix of experiences. At the least, it might be an ARK: Survival Evolved type of sandbox game, with a bunch of smaller (and privately run) servers. However, wouldn’t it be awesome if there was at least one huge shard with thousands of bloodthirsty pirates sailing the seven seas, battling kraken and mermaids, and decking out ships for their next adventure?
I’m also gratified that this will be coming to the PC in addition to Xbox. The whole Destiny-exclusive thing left a bad taste in my mouth (those console master race people, seriously!).
So yes, Sea of Thieves is now on my radar. Now all I need is a crew and a star to steer my ship by!