I can finally get myself to string a coherent sentence together. Since the E3 reveal of Sea Of Thieves, it’s been hard to vocalise my thoughts beyond some random gurgles. That jungle! The pirate ship! The waves! Dear lord, those waves ... I must have watched the SOT trailer dozens of times, and each time I find myself grinning like a pirate who’s just spotted a bottle of grog. Here it is again for those of you who haven’t seen it. If you have already seen it, watch it again anyway because it’s beautiful.
“The following footage shows gameplay captured in real-time”. It’s so important to remember this as we go. Every single thing is in-game, with not a cut scene in sight. Every time I watch it I’m staggered by how much detail is in there and I drink it in each and every time. It’s gorgeous. Look at how luscious and *alive* that jungle looks. You can almost feel the heat from the sun on your face. Look at the shadows cast by the trees! You know what really makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck? The moment you remember that this is just the reveal trailer! Imagine what the finished product is going to look like a year from now?
The burst of flare as our gloved hand is brought down from our eyes, the sandy beach coming into view as we accustom to the light. The slow walk past those smoking logs from the previous evening’s camp fire. Who sat here last night? Was it us and our merry band, shanties sung late into the cold evening with only tankards of rum to add to the heat from the fire? We look into the jungle and the ominous cave we’re approaching. A flaming torch marks the entrance. Who lit it? Who, or what, is waiting in that cave and potentially watching from within the darkness? We don’t get the chance to consider this for long. A noise disturbs our train of thought and we spin to see the cause. Parrots scatter from their perches and fly away. We go to investigate, treading slowly through the foliage. We discover the skeleton of some poor soul skewered to the tree by a cutlass. Who was he and will such a fate await us if we continue? Moving forward we see a painting on the rock face up ahead. A mighty sea creature is daubed on the wall. It dwarfs the small boats shown beneath it. Is this a depiction of battles fought in the past or a warning of the peril to come? Then a loud boom followed by a bell ringing out and we turn to see a fellow pirate running at full pelt down the path. We give chase down an incline leading us through the trees and as they clear we can see an awesome sight; a ship anchored in the bay. The music swells and goose bumps run down our arms. Others can be seen running towards the ship. We stop and gaze at the vessel. It’s a beauty ...
... and then the action cuts to us standing on deck. We’re out on the open sea now, waves rushing past us with spray filling the air. We can see the crew getting on with their jobs. One is hoisting a sail while the other is climbing up to the crow’s nest. We move to the front of the deck as the ship cuts through the waves.
Now we make our way through the dark jungle, searching for treasure. We find the chest, and by opening it we summon up skeletons possessed by the souls of dead pirates, cursed to eternally guard the treasure they wanted for themselves but now can never have. They surround us and one lunges forward with its claw-like fingers!
A crewman is ushered towards the plank. There’s no choice in the matter. It’s the sharp end of a cutlass or a dip in the briny with sharks circling beneath.
We see our rival sail past us on the starboard side, prowling and menacing, waiting to strike with a hail of cannon fire. WAR! Cannons fly past our heads, catching parts of the ship’s hull, splinters whizzing in all directions. Shipmates run for cover, explosions are everywhere as we are rocked by more cannon fire and our vessel is slowly reduced to flotsam. Our enemy has run out of options and has decided to ram us. As his prow rushes towards our side, there’s nothing we can do but hold on and hope for the best.
Wow. Just ... WOW! How cool is that trailer? It’s as if Rare plugged in an Inception-style device to my head and plucked out the wishes and dreams of the ten year old me and gave them form and function. I’m sure we’ve all gone through that phase of being fascinated by pirates at some stage in our lives. The life at sea, plundering and pillaging. No rules (apart from the Pirate Code of course) and no-one to tell you what to do. Some of us outgrow these fantasies ... but for those that don’t, the call of the ocean echoes in the back of their head like the distant hiss when you put a sea shell to your ear. For all of you who still harbour these yearnings for a time long past, this is your lucky day. Rare are creating the ultimate pirate simulator. You will get to be the buccaneer you’ve always dreamed of being. You will hunt for buried gold. You will take to the high seas and engage in colossal battles with other ships. Imagine getting together with your friends to form an immense armada, ready to battle the opposing force. Form a fleet of ships to become the most feared pirate crew on the seven seas? You’ll come across islands, yet to be charted, and attempt to lay claim to ones already on the map. The more I sit and think about it, the more excited I get by the potential of it all. Do we get ships by stealing them from their moorings in port? Is there a ship yard where you purchase your first schooner with your ill-gotten gold? Can we visit taverns and shops to make our pirate avatars unique? How many islands are out there waiting to be discovered? What happens once you get to an island? Can you build camps? Do you infiltrate and commandeer existing bases all the while hunting for loot? Can you name your own ship? Design your own flags? On and on the thoughts go, spiraling on to the giddy conclusion that I simply cannot wait for this game.
The thing I take away the most from watching this trailer is just how effective it is at establishing a sense of place; a proper lived-in environment with people ready to interact with in fully realised world. You know that Rare will go beyond this though, to establish a history, a lore. Legends and tales of pirates long-since departed but of whom tales will go on to be told, just as our own adventures here will spawn their own myths and stories for us to recall in decades to come. We are being given a vast sea, islands peppered throughout to discover and explore. Sure, there will be quests and missions and raids to steal gold ... but the adventure is ours to create and to pursue. Thanks to the trailer we know we can make some mutinous dog walk the plank, and that we can take on the skeletons guarding the treasure, but it’s the details and the story behind these that make the game such an attractive proposition. Why is that poor sod being made to jump into shark-infested waters? As a player, what happens to me if I’m put in that position? Is there a chance to escape? In all my years playing games, never have I seen such an opportunity laid before me as I have with Sea Of Thieves. Such potential to live the life of a pirate, skewed through that unique Rare lens. I can feel the goose bumps rising on my arm again as I write this, imagining myself standing on the bridge of my ship, humming away to that epic Robin Beanland soundtrack that elevates the trailer from amazing to pure awesomeness, and I dream of what lies beyond the horizon. I sail on towards adventure, towards the Sea Of Thieves!