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It’s been a while since we’ve seen a game from Microsoft-owned, UK-based studio Rare that wasn’t Kinect-based. From 2009 to now, the studio has been tasked with Kinect Sports Rivals, a remake of ‘90s fighting game Killer Instinct and the Xbox avatars, but now they’re back to their old tricks with new tools, making the fantastic-looking open world MMO, Sea of Thieves. 

In true Rare fashion the game features a charming art style that embraces the lighter side of the seven seas. This is not a game world that's in any sense dark and realistic, you can fire yourself out of canons to get around quickly, and you eat bananas to restore your health. 

Read on for everything we know so far about Rare's pirate odyssey. 

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? Rare's upcoming open-world Pirate odyssey
  • When's it out? March 20 2018
  • What can I play it on? Xbox One and PC

Sea of Thieves trailers 

The latest trailer to be released from Rare studios gives good insight into the kinds of quests we'll see in Sea of Thieves and what individual player progression will involve in the long term. Much of the player progression system will involve building a reputation at NPC-run Trading Companies.

All of the trading companies will appeal to a different play style and each will offer their own quests for players and their crews to pursue. As your reputation builds with each trading company, the rewards you get from pursuing their quests will become more valuable but the quests themselves will also become more difficult.

If you and your crew are sitting at different reputation levels it will apparently still be possible to play quests together as Mike Chapman has promised "there are no barriers in place preventing players playing together."

News and features

You can become a legendary pirate

The end-game for Sea of Thieves at the moment is to become a legendary pirate. By working hard to get through quests and increase your level, you'll increase your notoriety as a pirate. If you reach the ultimate, you'll become a legendary pirate with your very own ship, hideout, captaincy and outfit (it's up to you whether you wear it or not). You'll also have access to legendary pirate quests which you can choose to pursue on your own or share them with other players. 

After you've achieved this status, Rare says there will be further progression added to the game and you'll be able to customize and enhance the ship you captain. 

There will be no lootboxes, but there will be optional microtransactions

Rare has confirmed that in Sea of Thieves, there won't be any lootboxes or pay-to-win purchases. There will, however, still be items that you can purchase in-game. One of the first things you'll be able to buy, for example, is a pet. 

When we asked executive producer Joe Neate about the game's microtransactions, he told us “everything is optional; it doesn’t affect power or progression, and you’ll know what you’re getting – ie. not loot boxes.”

Instead, his team is aiming to “add more fun and social things that benefit you if you buy [them], but also benefit your crew and lead to everyone having a stronger social experience.”

When we asked for examples of what kind of things we could expect to see in this category, we were told pets is likely to be first on the cards.

“The ability to buy a pet – a monkey or a cat to accompany you. But we want it to benefit everyone and we want it to be a part of the fun social side. So if you’ve got a monkey you'll be like ‘oh I’ll be able to pick it up and hold it!’ But that also means someone can run off with it. It’ll come back, obviously, but that bit of play between people and messing around is key.”

There will be more quests, items and timed events

The first major Sea of Thieves update will come after around three months, after the team has had the chance to listen to player feedback and react accordingly. After this, updates will range between small and large, with new item additions coming at a more regular pace than, say, large world changes.

During a studio visit to Rare we were told that there are plans to add new guilds on top of the three that are already in the world in order to allow for more diverse quests. There will also be new items and timed events. For example, you might find when you sign in one weekend that there's an NPC in a tavern for a couple of days with a quest that's never been available before and perhaps won't be available again.

It'll be this mix of big additions and temporary events that will encourage players to continue to log in and explore the Sea of Thieves. 

No VR or local co-op planned

Though Sea of Thieves is a first-person game with an unobtrusive UI, there won't be a VR version. The reason for this, we've been told, is that sea sickness is very real, even in a virtual world. There also won't be any local co-op in the game. Rare told us that the game's cross-play and low minimum specs means that households with more than one laptop or a combination of laptops and consoles will be more than able to play the game together, without the need to split a screen. 

There will be a Kraken

That's right, a Kraken. Sea of Thieves is a game that embraces the romantic and mythical side of piracy rather than the gritty realism of scurvy and keelhauling. 

Naturally, that means a Kraken will appear in the game. It won't be possible to hunt down the Kraken, and there's predicting when it'll appear. Instead, Rare has said that it will be a sporadic and unpredictable force in the world to make things feel more organic and dynamic. It could appear to make wrangling a storm worse, or it could sneak up on your just as you're finishing a quest and trying to cash in your chests. 

You can play solo or with a crew

Though Sea of Thieves is a game that not-so-gently encourages you to play with others, you can play alone on a small single-man ship. While you're playing solo, you can still come up against ships manned by crews of four and though they can be taken down, it's not easy. Playing solo requires some playstyle adaption and you might find yourself adopting more sneaky tactics (such as sneaking aboard a ship at night to plant explosive kegs) rather than sailing straight into broadside ship-to-ship combat. It's also a good opportunity to form a temporary truce with other single players to work together to take down a larger enemy.

When you're playing with others you have the option of creating a closed crew comprised of only your friends, or an open crew with strangers.  No matter who you're working with, communication will be key. 

About that communication

Sea of Thieves is heavily co-operative, although there are combative elements with other parties, too. You and your crew will have to figure out how to man a ship, with people taking over different jobs, which means that you'll have to communicate if you want to avoid accidentally doubling up on tasks. 

At our hands on session at 2017's E3 conference we found out the dangers of this first hand. Our ship came under attack from enemy pirates, who promptly used their cannons to blow a hole in the hull of our ship. When this happens you'll need crew members to patch up the ship using timber, and others will need to use buckets to get rid of the water flooding the hull. 

Fail to communicate and you'll find everyone switches to dealing with the biggest problem, which lead to our cannons being completely unmanned while everyone ran around with buckets filled with sea water. 

What's interesting about Sea of Thieves is how minimal the UI is. The quests were listed on a piece of parchment that our character held, and looked at, within the game's world, and when we picked a quest the game relied on us literally telling our teammates what were were doing rather than having an immersion-breaking arrow appearing in the environment. 

Then, when you get to the island with the treasure on it, you'll need to read your map alongside your compass to work out where you are since the game gives you no clues as to your location on the map itself. 

This meant our team had enormous difficulty finding the treasure, and eventually we were forced to leave the island empty-handed and in serious need of some rum. 

You have the option to communicate using your microphone or in-game voiceless commands – both work well. If you're looking for an open crew, Sea of Thieves will attempt to match you with players using the same communication method as yourself to make things easier. 

Progression doesn't determine which quests you can do

When playing the game, you'll be able to do quests for three guilds. Which guild you choose determines the nature of the quest: Gold Hoarders will have you hunting treasure, the Merchants Guild will ask you to fetch and return items, while the Order of Souls are more combative bounty hunter missions. You're not locked into any particular guild, but you will get progression points for each one.

These will allow you to level up in the game, unlock higher level quests with better rewards and get closer to becoming a legendary pirate. That said, when you're a lower level pirate you'll still be able to take part in higher level quests. Rare has said that there's no level barrier in Sea of Thieves and as long as higher level players are willing to share their quests, there's nothing stopping new or less committed players taking part and earning their share. 

Naval combat is present

Naval combat is another key element of the game, and in these instances your canons are your best friends. Your team will need to work together to get the cannonballs from beneath the deck into the canons themselves, after which point you'll be able to fire them at enemy ships to try and send them down to Davy Jones' Locker.

If you prefer a hands on approach you can board enemy ships to take on their crew using a combination of swords, muskets, and flintlock pistols. You can either swim aboard other ships, or, if you're feeling brave, you can literally fire yourself out of a canon to get there quicker. 

You can customize your avatar

Though you'll select your avatar from a pre-made lineup, it will be customisable with the ability to change gender, physique, appearance, and outfits, although the game does not have skill trees or character classes. You’ll be able to further customize your character as you play with new, fancier outfits and even prosthesis. 

The world is open and explorable

Sea of Thieves is not a multiplayer game with matches – this is an open world and every ship you come across will be crewed by real players. It's up to them and you whether they're friend or foe. Between quests there will be plenty of opportunities for bonding with your crew and sailing freely. 

Dying is...interesting

And what if you die? Well, in true pirate fashion you’ll be booted to Davy Jones’ Locker, where you can swap stories with fellow ghosts and attempt to board a ferry back to the world of the living by performing quests for the ferryman. Your sunken ship can be plundered in the meantime, so don’t take too long. 

How can I play it?

Sea of Thieves will be available on PC and Xbox One on March 20 2018. It'll be possible to purchase the game outright, or pick up an Xbox Game Pass subscription as the game is included in its entirety through the service. 

If you're not sure whether Sea of Thieves is for you, picking up a Game Pass trial for free and playing the game for a short time through it is a good way to find out.

The game is not a port for PC or Xbox, it works equally on both and supports cross-play. While the console version has locked frame rates of 30fps, the PC version's are unlocked. Mouse, keyboard and controllers are all supported across console and PC. 

For those who missed it, there was a short Beta Test for Sea Of Theives last weekend and lots of new features were added for the enjoyment of all you land luvers! Arrrhhhhh!  Check out this fun video from JackFrags as he and his band of pirates cause mayhem in game. 

I for one have pre-ordered the game and hope to join other ENG members when the game is released later this year. It's gonna be a "Pirate Life for Me" :)

shardsta looks to be a load of laughs

Take part in the daring British raid on the Belgian port as rough waves and heavy fire batter a strategic German mole.

What is Zeebrugge? Zeebrugge is one of the final maps for the third expansion, Battlefield™ 1 Turning Tides. This map, along with Heligoland Bight, focuses on the North Sea battles between the German and British forces.
Where and when is the map set? The map is concentrated around the Zeebrugge Raid, which took place on the night of April 23, 1918. British forces attempted to block the port of Bruges-Zeebrugge, in conjunction with a surprise attack on a defensive mole.

What armies are available? The British Empire’s Royal Marines and German Empire are the opposing forces for Zeebrugge.

What are the starting locations for each army? The British forces launch from a warship, in the open sea, to reinforce the raid on the mole. The German forces start by controlling all points on the mole, but have no HQ in the Conquest Assault game mode.
What are some of the map’s strategic locations? The landing point of the British cruiser against the mole should prove to be all-out bedlam. The Lubeck Battery is a powerful defensive position for the Germans located on the waterfront at the base of the mole.

What makes Zeebrugge fun and challenging to play? Both the British naval forces and the German gun emplacements face a powerful enemy in the inescapable darkness and pummeling rain that envelopes the map. With tons of vehicles, including powerful Destroyers and the almighty C-Class Airship, you can take the fight to air, sea, and land – just beware of brawny AA guns and shoreline cannons.

While the battle is full of strategic options, the intensity that boils up as both armies converge on the fortified mole is an incredible experience. Vehicles and weapon emplacements will change with each game mode, so keep your eyes open.