Sea of Thieves is less than two weeks away, and after experiencing dozens of hours in the Closed Betas and the Final Beta, I’m still eagerly anticipating the arrival of Rare’s pirate game. While my time spent sailing around engaging in ship-to-ship combat and hunting for treasure has been some of the purest forms of fun I’ve experienced in a long time, there are mechanics and features I would love to see included in the game. So, on the back of my excitement about the final beta, here are 12 things I want in Sea of Thieves.
Imagine this: it’s been a long voyage, you’ve just managed to deliver a whole pile of treasure chests and now you and your crew want to unwind at the Outpost. You walk into the tavern, fill up your tankard, and sit down to play a game of cards. It’s decided that you’ll play for coin, so you choose the buy-in, and get to gambling. In the end, you win enough to buy that hat you’ve been eyeing off, so you stagger over to the shop to and spend your winnings.
Bar games, tavern games, pub games, whatever you want to call them, they belong in Sea of Thieves. With a tavern on every outpost, and a dedicated grog-dispenser on every ship, it’s downright surprising that there’s currently no evidence of gambling in the game. It wouldn’t necessarily be a problem from a rating perspective either, as Sea of Thieves has a Teen rating, and according to the ESRB site, anything with a T may contain: violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
If Rare needs some inspiration for adding tavern games to Sea of Thieves, they can take a page out of Lionhead Studios and what they did with Fable back in 2008. An Xbox Live Arcade game called Fable 2 Pub Games was released, which allowed players to earn money to spend in the full game! Imagine being able to win a rare legendary map off of some chump you beat at dice? Better yet, don't stick with standard games from the real world (Blackjack, Poker, Roulette), create some games that would only exist in the universe of Sea of Thieves!
Though the main bulk of Sea of Thieves' gameplay involves going around collecting chests, animals, and skulls in exchange for coins so you can buy and collect cosmetic items, the game could benefit from your typical collect-a-thon style of collectible items.
Rare is no stranger to filling worlds with various items to collect, and the fact it has a rich history of games where this is the prevailing mechanic (Banjo-Kazooie, Jet Force Gemini, Donkey Kong Country) means there is a good foundation in place for this type of gameplay to appear in Sea of Thieves.
There is presently a real-world quest underway where entrants must find and solve riddles for a chance to win a collection of golden bananas. It’s a bit of fun that will conclude around the release of Sea of Thieves, but it’s something that could have an in-game version: collect all 100 Golden Bananas to unlock a pirate hat that looks like Donkey Kong, it would fit nicely into the idea that Sea of Thieves could have been a Donkey Kong game.
Systemic Fire Effects
It’s safe to say that Rare has conquered water effects in Sea of Thieves. The way the ocean rolls, the swell of the waves, the white caps and crystal clear lagoons, it all looks gorgeous and behaves as you would expect the sea to behave. But now, some deeper fire effects would do well. We don’t need to be burning down islands in a Far Cry 3 weed-farm burning ritual, but it would certainly be nice to be able to set an enemy ship’s sails on fire so they stop following me, perhaps by using something like…
A Flare/Flare Gun
Anyone who’s spent a moment playing Sea of Thieves appreciates how dangerous the ocean can be for a single player, a duo, or even a galleon hoarding precious treasure, so a multi-purpose flare or flare gun would work wonders.
At the moment, Rare has stated that there is an ideal rate at which players should encounter other players, which means worlds connect and overlap, sending two ships in close proximity to one another every so often. When a passive player encounters a hostile team there needs to be some means of escape or assistance, other than fleeing until the hunter becomes bored. Were a flare gun introduced, it could act in a sort of Dark Souls asynchronous manner, connecting worlds and increasing the chances of additional ships to spawn, who could spot the flare and sail to assist or attack.
It would add another element of excitement, not knowing what awaits you at a flare — is it someone looking for help or perhaps a trap set by a crafty crew of blood-thirsty pirates? Furthermore, when hunting for treasure on an island, trying to call out a position to friends is oftentimes difficult, so setting off a flare would offer some risk-reward.
Adding a flare system to Sea of Thieves is certainly not out of the realm of possibility, as the mermaids already wave around a flare to help you back to your ship when it sinks. Now imagine if you could fire said flare at an enemy’s sails to slow them down…
For a game with the word “sea” in the title, surprisingly little time is spent below the surface of the water. If we’ve learned anything from our time playing Subnautica, thriving underwater environments are beautiful, and walking along the sea floor and looking up at the water effects Rare has created would be incredible.
I’ve only just learned of underwater relics and temple-like structures, so there’s a good chance we might see some more being discovered once Sea of Thieves releases. But for the time being, let's let our imagination wander…
It might look like nothing on the map, as there is no island marked there, but deep below the rolling waves is a sunken city. You may very well drown reaching it, but if you bring enough bananas and swim quickly, you’ll enter a cave system with a pocket of air, and connected to it is Sea of Thieves’ own Atlantis. Unique vendors can be found, along with limited-time events and quests, rotating gear, and a myriad of other mythological wonders. While this is just a fanciful dream, I certainly hope something like this makes it into the game.
Another idea worth mentioning in regards to underwater activities is underwater breathing. Having your own SCUBA gear doesn't make a lot of sense in the universe of Sea of Thieves, but what does make sense is a three-person device where one users is encased in a diving suit, while two others pump air. Needing to keep your diver alive while also keeping an eye out for hostiles would create a lot of tension and offer an excellent opportunity for cooperation.
Any players with a kill count that is far above average should be under threat of being tracked down and killed for a bounty. This would create a kind of police system in Sea of Thieves, where players who wanted to role play as “good” pirates, but still want to engage in combat without picking on smaller teams, could pursue some notorious targets. A similar system already exists in GTA Online through its Mental State mechanic, whereby killing a dangerous player rewards greater XP. This would further Rare’s desire for players to create their own stories, bringing to the world a real sense of legendary status.
As of the most recent beta, there are four weapons in Sea of Thieves: cutlass, pistol, blunderbuss, and sniper (called the Eye of Reach in-game), each with their own strengths and weaknesses. While all the bases are seemingly covered, it would be nice to offer some more variety, even if it was limited to ship-based weaponry.
I’d love to see a type of smoke grenade added to the ship-to-ship combat. One of the most important aspects of firing a cannon accurately is being able to see the enemy ship, so having your vision occluded by a smoke bomb would render your accuracy moot. This could be used offensively and defensively as well, and considering Sea of Thieves is a horizontal progression game, it would come down to strategy for how and when to use it.
Following on from the pure utility angle, we have the Captain Ahab special: the harpoon. Imagine being able to spear an enemy ship with a rope, limiting their movement but also attaching yourself to them. Players could prevent other players from fleeing, and it would also offer another means of attacking the mighty kracken. In order to keep vulnerable players safe, it would have to have some steep skill requirements, perhaps with a slow travel time or a massive traversal arc. Either way, as a pirate, we need more ways to attack and defend ourselves.
There are a lot of blank spaces in the inventory wheel, so I’d love to see one of these holes filled with a camera. Right now, the only way to capture a clean screenshot is to go into the settings, switch off the HUD, and then use your console, PC, or capture device software to take an image. This takes you out of the moment, so adding a camera to the game would help with immersion. Ideally, it could be used to immediately take HUDless, 4K screenshots (Sea of Thieves is absolutely gorgeous and deserves to be captured), but it could also offer another valuable use: collectibles.
In case it didn’t come through in what I wrote above, I’m a collectible fiend. I’m someone who enjoyed collecting all 500 Agility Orbs in Crackdown, taking photos in the original Dead Rising, and playing through Pokémon Snap, so the idea of tracking down specific things and taking photos of them is incredibly appealing. In fact, Sea of Thieves already has the basics in place to take advantage of this type of gameplay.
Hidden around all the islands are cave paintings and markings from a bygone era. These images tell a story, and a collectible quest to capture them all using a camera would make sense. Perhaps some kind of anthropologist vendor at the outposts?
There are skeleton forts, skeleton chests, and even a ghostly Ship of the Damned, but I’m going to need to see some PvE skeleton ships sailing the seas. Aside from the odd player encounter, wild storm, and the mysterious kracken, there is very little danger to your ship when you’re actually sailing (unless you crash into an island or rock). Throwing in some AI-controlled ocean-borne combatants would create a little bit more danger while island hopping. Besides, there’s bound to be some great loot on a skeleton ship and I would love to see a skeleton being shot out of a cannon by another skeleton, and have it land on my ship and start wreaking havoc.
Looking further down the line, all games eventually end as a playerbase dwindles, so having skeleton-run ships sailing the seas would ensure Sea of Thieves could transition comfortably into retirement.
Sea of Thieves does offer a few puzzles as part of its quests. Maps you receive from the Gold Hoarders are sometimes nothing more than lines of a riddle, requiring you to read and solve them, but it doesn’t take a genius to decipher them. In fact, the most trouble I’ve had figuring out a riddle is when I’m wandering around the island looking for a painting.
More cryptic puzzles and wording, longer directions for orienteering, physical puzzles requiring me to push blocks around, and anything that requires communication with a team on separate ends of an island. Developers should never underestimate gamers, and personally, I think they should skew their puzzles harder, because even though singularly something might be difficult, we’re a collective who enjoy working together.
This one is a bit of an odd one, especially given Sea of Thieves’ horizontal progression. Crafting would have to fall into an area that doesn’t interfere too heavily with the customization while also ensuring players weren’t crafting something that would make them quantifiably more powerful than another player to the point where if you do not craft x-item, you’ll be at a disadvantage. Despite this, crafting in games, especially as part of long-term builds, creates a goal for players to work to over the course of several hours, days, and potentially even weeks.
More Enemies and Creatures
So far, players have experienced the joys of fighting skeletons of varying pedigree, fending off sharks, rounding up chickens, and capturing pigs, and though the kracken has been confirmed, there is room for so much more. Merlock creatures, ghosts, banshees, sea serpents, sirens, zombies, stingrays, octopus and squid, giant crabs and jellyfish, there is so much from the real world that can be woven in the fabric of Sea of Thieves.
- Foot presence, anchor presence, and crouching/sneaking
- Instruments: piccolo, banjos, etc
- Rogue waves
- Navigation via stars, quadrant, sextant, etc
- Row Boat
Sea of Thieves is set to launch next week, March 20, and with the final beta behind us, all we have to drive us until then are our sweet memories and dreams of what will be in the full game. Be sure to let me know in Chatty what you would like to see in Sea of Thieves!