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Sea of Thieves: How It Starts, What You're Aiming For, and Kraken Attacks

Sea of Thieves: How It Starts, What You're Aiming For, and Kraken Attacks
From IGN - February 13, 2018
By Joe Skrebels

The more weve seen of Sea of Thieves, the clearer its become that the simple act of playing it will be fun. Its mix of gentle action and almost hardcore seafaring (seriously, you try manning a galleon with three people who dont know how sails work) is immediately engaging and, more importantly, hilarious.

But what bookends that moment-to-moment play has remained resolutely mysterious since the games announcement - how does Sea of Thieves begin, whats the story, and what are we working towards? After visiting Rare and talking to several of the games developers and producers, finally we have some answers.

Lets begin at the beginning. Sea of Thieves will open with you choosing your pirate. Choosing is a deliberate choice of words - this isnt character customisation. Rares made a purposeful decision not to include slider-filled menus. Instead, you begin in a tavern, with eight procedurally-generated pirates to inspect. Theyre created based on twenty different parameters - everything from age, to body shape, to overall wonkiness (essentially, how asymmetrical they are) - leading to a practically infinite number of variations. If you dont like the 8 youre shown, you can regenerate another 8 as many times as you like until you find a favourite.

The idea is to get players to choose a character theyd like to role-play as, rather than simply trying (and, as in most games, failing) to create themselves. If possible, Rare wants players to choose someone theyd never normally make. While I have to admit that Id love to play with a wonkiness slider, I can understand the thinking here - the selections we see are full of appealing oddities, from pistol-wielding old ladies to crooked little guys toting hurdy-gurdies the size of their torso. Just make sure youre sure you want to spend hours with your pirate - you never get a chance to alter their physical appearance again.

Once you have a pirate, youll need to choose a ship - and here we finally get an answer on how boat ownership will work. Like the beta, your selection essentially boils down to a galleon (built for four players) or a sloop (built for one or two) - but the ship you choose only lasts as long as the gameplay session youre in. You can try manning a galleon alone, log out, and then over-fill a sloop with four players. The point here is that in a game built around the flexibility to sail alone, with strangers or with friends, everyone owning a boat doesnt make sense - whose would you pick?

The compromise is in how boats are customised. Players can buy cosmetic upgrades - figureheads, sail designs, and specific hulls - that they keep forever, in the same way as clothing or equipment. They can be applied to any boat, meaning each time you play, you and your crew can decide on the look of the ship as you sail. You might want to make it known that youre a threat, rigging black sails and making clear to your server that youre bad news. Or maybe you could do up your sloop as a merchant vessel, hoping that players will take mercy as you pass. If youre disappointed by that, lead designer Mike Chapman hints that theres a more concrete sense of boat ownership as you get further into the game - well say more on that later.

We also, finally, have some description of the storyline, too. Set a little before the Golden Age of piracy (which began around 1650), the actual Sea of Thieves is pitched as a physical place in our world, a mystical land that can only be found if you know where to go. Think Wonder Womans Themyscira, but where everyone has way less fashion sense. Chapman sums it up in evocative fashion by saying it could be found in the crease of a map - your pirate has found their way into that crease at the beginning of the game.

As with any good pirate yarn, theres a massive treasure haul to be found, Athenas Fortune (no developer would elaborate more than giving me a name), but your immediate goal is something weve heard a lot of from Rare, but never had truly explained - to become a Pirate Legend.

Pirate Legend is a much more tangible title than the buzzwordy E3-speak its previously felt like. Weve already been told about the games three factions: the Gold Hoarders, the Order of Souls and the Merchant Alliance. Each broadly offers quests along different lines - the Gold Hoarders focus on treasure hunting, the Order on bounty hunting and the Merchant Alliance on gathering and trading. Completing the three types of actions increases your reputation with each faction - but increase your reputation enough with all three, and you attain Legend status.

A lot comes with that status - were shown a snippet of footage of a secret pirate hideout (players wont know where it is, says Chapman, and when that word spreads around the community, thats going to be an awesome moment), where players will be able to take on legendary voyages - Sea of Thieves closest equivalent to other MMOs Raid content. The hideout also becomes your standard spawn point, including a waterfall that your ship explodes out of like Batman leaving the Batcave.

Speaking of transportation, becoming a Legend offers another major perk - you get a legendary ship, a different model to the standard galleons and sloops. Rare wont tell us the specifics of what this entails, or exactly how it works with a mixed crew, but Chapman provides a hint that owning a ship is entirely different after you become a Legend. This is a whole other game type, says Chapman. The ship starts building reputation, the ship has access to things other ships dont. The idea is that when players see a legendary ship its like seeing the Black Pearl.

Legend status can help other players, too - legendary voyages arent locked off from lower-level players, so a set crew wont be fragmented if one player progresses further than the others. Even better, players can hide being a legend - Chapman excitedly discusses the idea of a player dressing in rags, removing any titles that would mark them out, matchmaking with strangers, then walking into the captains cabin presenting a legendary voyage scroll to be voted on.

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