GAMING POINT OF LOU – THE SEA OF THIEVES BETA
Rare is one of the most recognized developers in all of gaming, having been around since the 80’s, their catalog reads like a greatest hits album. Games such as Battletoads, Donkey Kong Country, Banjo Kazooie, Donkey Kong 64, RC Pro AM, Wizards and Warriors, Perfect Dark, and of course Golden Eye (still the best FPS ever created) were all massive hits for Nintendo. After being bought by Microsoft in 2002, they kept the hit train flowing with gems such as Perfect Dark Zero, Kameo, and Viva Piñata.
Sea of Thieves was originally announced at E3 2015 during the Xbox press conference. Very little was known about it at the time, other than it was a game about being a pirate. It wasn’t until the following year’s E3 that the gaming public got its first look at actual gameplay. While what I saw looked promising, it wasn’t until the end of January 2018 that I was able to actually wrap my hands around a controller, and sail the high seas for myself.
Keeping in mind that this was only a beta, and according to Rare, featured only about twenty percent of what will be in the full retail release, I have to admit, what I experienced was impressive. Taking full advantage of Unreal Engine 4, the game is absolutely stunning to look at. The day to night transitions are beautiful, and the water physics are the best I have ever seen in a game. Mind you I played this on an OG Xbox 1, not a Scorpio (it will always be Scorpio, I will never call it by its retail name) or a high end PC. The shifting weather patterns, and constantly changing water conditions made me feel like I was in a living, breathing dynamic world. It forced me to constantly adjust my sails, and work to maintain my heading or I would be blown off course. I could have then rammed into an uncharted rock outcropping and damaged my ship, which I would then have to repair. I could go on and on about how good this game looked, but take a gander at some of these pictures:
Progression is always a concern in games of this type, and often times it is THE make or break feature that will either keep people logging in day after day, or abandoning the game wholesale. On this front the jury is still out. The Beta gave us access to only one of the three Trading Companines with which we will build our reputation, The Gold Hoarders, and within that trading company the missions were pretty repetitive. It was pick up a map, go to an island, find the treasure, bring it back, get a new map, go to that island, find a treasure, bring it back. Eventually as my reputation grew, I was able to unlock larger treasure hunts, but after a few hours it all felt the same. Once again, to be fair, Rare has teased that “Becoming a Pirate Legend” is only the start, and that there will eventually be (what I’m assuming is endgame content) a “Golden Age Of Piracy”. However, very little is currently known about it. I just hope that Rare does not fall into the same trap as Bungie and Ubisoft, both of whom launched shared world games of this type without clear cut timelines and plans for endgame, and it almost killed their games.
I was also disappointed in the fact that during the course of the Beta, I was unable to create a four man boat crew with my friends and family to sail the seas together. This was a known technical issue, after all this is what Beta’s are for, working out these technical kinks BEFORE the retail release. It just would have been nice to experience the game in a party and have four people working together sailing on a ship and finding treasure. This is one of the core pillars of the experience that I was unable to take part in, and it did diminish the experience for me. Especially since this game will be a true open world with full drop in / drop out multiplayer and no level or gear score caps preventing people from playing with one another, which to be honest is a refreshing change of pace, especially for people who do not have as much time to play as others. Which in other games of this type forces people to play catch up just so they could play with friends. But on the glass half full end of this, come March 20th I will get to experience the game in a completely new way!!! So I suppose there is a silver lining to be had.
All in all, this Beta did not leave me with a sour taste in my mouth, as the Destiny 2 Beta did, nor did it make me any more excited than I already was for its release (like the Division Beta did). I’m basically in the same headspace I’ve always been in regarding the game. I’ve seen too many promises with these shared world games, and far too often developers fail to deliver. Either because they underestimate the task ahead of them, or through simple hubris. Rare has a long history of delivering high quality games, and nothing I’ve seen thus far has made me question that track record. March 20th will only be the beginning of the voyage, it will be the months and years that follow which will be the legacy of Sea Of Thieves.
Until Next Time
Be Good To One Another,