The final beta for developer Rare’s Sea of Thieves ran this past weekend, and was by far the biggest version that has been released to the public to date. I had the chance to get some hands-on time (albeit not enough) with the game and was more than delighted by the progress Rare has made. I thoroughly enjoyed my time playing as a ruthless pirate in this beta.

While I did not have the chance to play the previous betas for the game, clearly a lot of hard work has gone into polishing this game ahead of its March 20 release. Rare has certainly brought its big guns to the table with this one. It’s no wonder gamers are becoming more impatient for the full release of the game. So, to quench your thirst, here are some of my perspectives on the Sea of Thieves final beta and a little of what players have to look forward to at release.

Art Design

While Rare’s specific style has never really verged on realism, the artwork for this game  is masterfully done. Sailing the high seas in Thieves is breathtaking. As a sucker for water physics in games, I found the waves lapping against the ship as you sail to your destination absolutely mesmerizing.

The use of the Unreal Engine 4 is intricately woven in as well, making the experience even more engaging. This, along with Rare’s comedic-yet-detailed art, creates a uniquely beautiful and quirky experience for gamers.

Gameplay

When you first start, you are prompted to choose a character out of eight pre-made models. If the models are not to your liking, you can re-randomize them and choose again. After this, you will need to choose what type of ship you will be sailing, either the massive galleon or the small and nimble sloop. Since I was going solo, I chose the sloop, as one man doing the job of three or four can be very taxing. More on that in a bit.

While teaming up with friends is ideal for the most fun, flying solo (or sailing solo, in this case) can also be very enjoyable. I, for one, played by myself for hours without getting the slightest hint of boredom. I can only imagine what it will be like once I have a full crew to conquer the seas with.

If you are going at it alone, there is a slight learning curve when it comes to sailing the ship, as you must tackle multiple jobs simultaneously to get moving. These include handling the anchor, setting the sails, steering, and navigating, not to mention that if you encounter enemy ships, someone will need to man the cannons and, if hit by cannonballs, someone will need to patch the holes so your ship doesn’t sink. It’s enough to make your head spin if you’re trying to do it all yourself.

In a particular encounter I had with another team of pirates, I attempted to do all of these things by myself. While I did manage to hit the enemy ship with two cannon shots, I wound up crashing my ship into some rocks, causing three holes to form at the bottom of my ship. In the midst of it all, I had left my ship sailing without dropping the anchor to go patch the holes. After a few more shots from my opposition, my ship promptly sunk to reside with Davy Jones. However, while the air of defeat was nothing to be happy about, there was something eerily beautiful about watching my ships sink after I managed to swim out of the wreckage.

Pirate Voyages

In Sea of Thieves, the many expeditions you can embark on are aptly named Pirate Voyages. The Gold Hoarders, named for their obvious lust for the shiny substance, were previously the only company to acquire these voyages from. In these quests, the pirate is either given a riddle to solve or a map with the typical “x marks the spot.” You must then figure out where the island on the treasure map is on your ship map, and then travel to the location. Some of the treasure chests will be easy to attain, as you just go find the spot and dig it up. Others are guarded by skeletons, so you will have to fight your way to the loot.

With their final beta, Rare also added the Merchant Alliance, a more task driven quest giver. Here, the pirate is given certain errands to complete, such as collecting animals or items. While there is a time limit for these voyages, the payout can be quite substantial.

There will also be one more company in the final release, named the Order of Souls. The pirate can obtain a series of “wanted” posters from the Order, in which you hunt down and kill the marked pirate. While gamers won’t see this mode until the release, it is sure to bring even more fun and excitement to the table.

End Game

As you progress and level up in each faction, you will eventually be approached by some NPCs from the Tavern of Legends. According to Rare, this is the first part of the end game for Thieves. These NPCs will grant you access to legendary voyages, which will unlock unique aesthetic items for your pirate and ship.

Once you reach a certain level in the Tavern of Legends, it will become available as your very own hideout, much like the outposts scattered around the map. However, a special legendary ship will also be unlocked, making it that much easier for other players to distinguish you as an ultimate player.

Raids

If you have been paying attention to Thieves at all, you have undoubtedly seen the iconic skull cloud in several pieces of artwork Rare has released for the game. While many have speculated what the cloud could be, it has finally been confirmed that it is Rare’s version of raids.

If you follow the cloud, it leads to a specific island where the raid is being held. Once engaged in the raid, players can either join up or fight each other through hordes of skeletons to a treasure cache. Once there, it’s up to the players to decide how to split it up.

While the raid featured in the beta has been met with a little controversy, mainly based on the lack of difficulty, it can only get better. The full release should bring more raids and, hopefully, a wider range of difficulty for each one.

Conclusion

Rare has surely come back with a vengeance with Sea of Thieves. The game has so much to offer, even with just its pre-release limits. One can only imagine what the full release will bring March 20 – I know I am sitting on the edge of my seat.