Despite the promise of an open world, the ability to gather friends onto a pirate ship and sail the internet seas looking for plunder and sinking ships, I haven't been able to muster much interest for Rare's Sea of Thieves.
At a recent Microsoft event in New York City, I sort of avoided the play stations for the game, instead spending a bit of time with the upcoming Middle-earth: Shadow of War, checking out Age of Empires: Definitive Edition, messing around with a PC build of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. Finally, reluctantly, I settled into a chair for Sea of Thieves to give it a go.
It wasn't long before I realized how wrong I was about the game.
Sea of Thieves, at least the Sea of Thieves I played, didn't have any sort of objective, campaign, even guiding principals. I popped up on an island near a tall ship and then hopped onboard to await the rest of the crew - three other players sitting nearby at different stations in the event. Across from us, four other people sat, all aboard a different boat, but in our world.
There was a Microsoft handler among our crew who sort of urged us along, explaining how things worked and getting us to land an island to travel to; one which held a buried treasure.
As the ship set sail, one player at the ship's wheel, others wandering around below on the two sub decks, I climbed the rope ladder to the crow's nest, then carefully hopped out and dropped down onto one of the lower yards. Once there, I selected one of the two musical instruments and by holding in a button, proceeded to play music. Also, I jumped around a bit like a loon.
There was no point, but that's sort of the point of the game: You don't need a point to have fun. You can, for instance, drink grog and get drunk, making it difficult to move or do anything in a timely manner.
The game also has you doing a lot of little bits and pieces to achieve bigger goals. They sound sort of annoying, but the result is rewarding. For instance, you need to go down to the lower decks to grab a cannon ball, which has to be carried topside and then loaded into a cannon before you can shoot it at another boat. When you're ship is hit by cannon fire, you may need to go down into a lower deck to repair the damage with boards and then take time bringing water up to the top deck and dumping it overboard to prevent your boat from sinking.
All of this running around, fills up your time and gives meaning to the game, on some level. It also helps slip players into the mood of being on a ship. It wasn't long before we were all lightly cosplaying our roles, pretending to be who we were meant to be in game.
After a time sailing, we found the other player ship, went to battle and eventually sunk the thing. Then we made our way to the island to search for the treasure. But before we set off looking for buried plunder, we drank some grog and played some songs. Why? Because we could.