Sea of Thieves: release date, extended gameplay, and details for the pirate ship simulator you've always wanted

Fast facts

  • Sea of Thieves release date: Early 2018
  • Formats: Xbox One, PC
  • Developer: Rare
  • Price: TBA

Update: Microsoft confirmed at its E3 2017 presentation that Sea of Thieves will hit Xbox One and PC in early 2018. The company showed off an extended gameplay demo that took a group of buccaneers from deep sea diving to island treasure hunting to open-sea barraging. And all with some rather nice looking weather and water effects. Take a look.

Being a pirate comes with its perks. Booty (not that kind), grog, the fresh salty air battering your face, and the song of adventure in your heart (let's just ignore pirates' dubious historical reputation, shall we?). Unfortunately what with international law covering most large bodies of water on the planet nowadays, it's a lifestyle few of us will ever be able to pursue. Fear not, though, as Sea of Thieves is being carefully crafted by Rare. This upcoming game all about co-operative online piracy is coming straight to Xbox One and PC, giving players with a vast ocean full of riches to claim and - most importantly - fellow buccaneers to befriend or betray. 

Imagine Destiny meets Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag, minus the philosophical technobabble and Dan-Brownian conspiracy theories. If you're still not quite clear on how those ideas would ever fit together, then stop counting your doubloons and get reading, because we've roped together everything we know about Sea of Thieves.

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Sea of Thieves release date is early 2018

Sea of Thieves has been pushed a bit further into the horizon. The Xbox E3 2017 press conference confirmed that Rare's swash-em-up will arrive in early 2018, not 2017 as previously announced. It's a bit of a bummer of a delay, but at least you can still try to get into the technical alpha if you're on PC.

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Sea of Thieves beta isn't around, but there is an alternative...

The Sea of Thieves technical alpha is only playable on PC right now. If you want to throw your tricorne hat into the ring for a potential key, you'll need to sign up for the Sea of Thieves insider program on the game's official website.

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Sea of Thieves trailer has us ready to chug some grog

Here's the first public gameplay trailer from Microsoft's E3 2016 press conference, as played by fans of the game. But the nautical fun don't stop there! Read on for more juicy details from Rare and what we thought about the hands-on time we had with this oceanic odyssey. 

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Sea of Thieves' price is not in doubloons

If you're ready to adopt the mantle of salty sea dog, then we have some good news: you can pre-order Sea of Thieves on Amazon and Game. Microsoft loyalists will be pleased to hear that it's slightly cheaper on Xbox, being £39.99 on both websites. PC is a little pricier at £54.99, and all those of you in the U.S. of A. will have to shell out $59.99 for both platforms. 

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Each ship has tons of roles to fill

It's theoretically possible that you could run a pirate ship all by yourself in Sea of Thieves, but you'd be extremely busy. And probably quite stressed. Every ship has a number of roles that will need to be filled at any given time: first things first, you'll have to haul up the anchor (moving with it down is a little like forgetting to take off the handbrake...); then it's time to drop the sails, and man the steering wheel to pull and push the ship whichever way you want. Every one of these tasks is pretty involved - you need to walk up to each mast and let them down individually, for instance - and many hands make light work.

Like with many things in life, having a group of buddies around will make things easier. Getting a crew full of your friends on board all coordinating via voice chat is sure to pump up the fun factor, especially if you try your hand at pirate accents. But even working with a group full of randoms can be chaotic fun - as long as you're not too serious about getting things done in a hurry. Fortunately, Sea of Thieves will use the new Xbox LFG feature to help folks find groups that complement their own playstyle, so hopefully your hardcore privateering party won't be torpedoed by a subset that would rather sit below deck and drink grog.

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Everybody gets their own upgradeable ship

Every pirate in Sea of Thieves gets their own ship to call home. Rare plans to let players choose from a variety of vessels, and each one can be customized and upgraded to your salty heart's content. Whether you want to redecorate the interior and dazzle your guests or fit a reinforced hull and improved cannons to become the scourge of the seas, you'll be able to do it all - assuming you've got the treasure to pay for it. And don't worry too much about (literal) sunk costs, as you'll always be able to retrieve your boat from Davy Jones' Locker for a small price.

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There are ship-to-ship battles

Once you're out on the high seas, you'll regularly encounter ships full of other players. The matchmaking all happens behind the scenes and acts just like running into other players in Destiny, so how you react to your newfound naval neighbour is up to you. But let's not kid ourselves: the first time you see anybody else, there's going to be a copious exchange of cannon fire. Probably while everybody shouts about splicing main braces and battening hatches. Whatever that means. 

Don't expect Black Flag-style coordinated blasts with handily precalculated arcs - if you go to man a cannon, you're on your own. You'll have to compensate for the speed of the ball and the enemy ship all by yourself (though mercifully the cannons are self-loading), and whoever's at the helm will need to set up good firing angles. If you're hit below sea level you'll quickly start taking on water, so somebody will have to rush down to the lower decks and patch up the hull.

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Combat can get up-close-and-personal

A pirate game would be remiss to leave out the clash of cutlasses and the boom of blunderbusses. Somehow, boarding an enemy ship and playing a menacing accordion tune just doesn't have the same effect. But unlike the impressive ship-to-ship combat, we haven't seen these handheld implements of destruction in action yet. First-person melee combat can be tough to pull off, so hopefully Rare has its thinking pirate caps on for making Sea of Thieves' swashbuckling fun. However, we do know that once you get better weapons, you'll be able to share them (probably temporarily) with your crewmates. Nifty. 

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The sea is full of danger, but also loot

If you want to get any of those upgrades, you'll need to save up treasure. This is Sea of Thieves, not Sea of Investment Bankers, so most of your winnings will be pried from the boney fingers and/or slimy tentacles' of Sea of Thieves' NPC enemies. This is an area that Rare is keeping a bit quieter about for now, but the final game should have a bunch of different non-player foes: skeletal ghost pirates (LeChuck says "what's up"), mermaids (not the pretty kind), and sea monsters, to name a few.

You'll be able to take on some of these enemies all by yourself, and some you'll need a crew to stand a chance against. The toughest foes in the game will even require a flotilla's worth of vessels and seadogs to overcome. Or you could just wait for somebody else to kill the big nasty, then sink the weakened victors and take their loot. You are a pirate, after all.

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The water looks and feels good. *Real* good. 

No, seriously, the water feels really good, and not just in the usual "it looks so wet and splashy" sense. Sea of Thieves would like you to remember at all times that you are in a tiny boat on top of a gigantic ocean. Waves will pound your ship, causing it to sway to and fro as you stumble across the deck, and your helmsman will need to adjust course appropriately. Rare's still working on getting massive tropical storms working, but they're bound to be even more dramatic and potentially deadly. You may want to take it slow if you get seasick easily.

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