Sea of Thieves finally made its way to Steam recently and as a result the game has received a surge of new players and people returning to the game. A few of us in OP started sailing the seas together earlier in the month and it’s fair to say the game is not known for holding your hand or pointing out what to do and how best to do it. The tutorial is a short and sweet quest that teaches you the bare boned basics.
The game can comfortably be described as easy to learn and hard to master, on the surface it’s a first person pirate simulation, pitting you to sail the seas in search of treasure and fame. But the deeper image is an experience that turns player vs player battles in to intricate dances to the beat of echoing cannon blasts and clinks of swinging cutlasses. Monster boss battles are less about mashing buttons and more about remaining calm and believing in you and your crew to coordinate themselves and their cannon shots. Sailing the often dangerous seas relies on the collaboration of a crew that equally pull their weight and work on tasks that play to their strengths, without ever being pigeon-holed in to specific roles or classes.
It’s unfair to call Sea of Thieves simply a simulation; it has just as many elements of open world exploration, competitive PvP, survival and strategy. But what it simulates (pirate life), is quite possibly the most endearing experience the game has to offer, with a solid crew and an agreed objective, you can very quickly start to feel like a genuine real life pirate, if any such thing did exist.
But enough of our accidental mini-review, the game is a unique and wonderfully rewarding experience if played correctly, with the right people and some realistic expectations. To help you have the same level of fun and less disappointments, we’ve put together 10 snippets of guidance and advice to help you on your way to being a limb limited, vision impaired, regularly intoxicated, booty addicted, sea dweller!
Stock up or you’ll feed the fish
One thing even the most veteran pirates forget from time to time is to stock up your ship with supplies before leaving your first outpost in search of bounty. Food, cannonballs and wooden planks are an absolute necessity for surviving out on the open seas and your starting levels of stock is very limited.
No matter whether you encounter enemies or not (human or otherwise), you’re almost guaranteed to take damage while on voyages, fall damage, explosions and thunder storms all lower your health. And enemies only make the situation worse. If you run out of food the simplest tasks become a chore to complete. Each food item heals different amounts, with pineapple and cooked fish healing some of the highest per bite. Also in the food category is bait such as grubs and leeches, which help catch particular breeds of fish when used in conjunction with the fishing rod.
Another must have before you leave an outpost is a fair stock of cannonballs. Single battles between sea monsters or player controlled ships can easily blow through 30-40 cannonballs. If you run out of these mid-battle you may as well walk the plank!
Equally as important, your ship won’t last a single encounter if you run out of planks to fill the peak-a-boo holes appearing beneath sea level. You can only hold 5 of these at a time, so they’re harder to stock up on from island to island without doing multiple runs.
Tools of the trade
Besides your weapons there a lot of tools and devices that can help you interact with and navigate the world around you. Let’s briefly explain each one.
Probably the one item you imagine you’ll use less than you do. A heads up display (or HUD) is almost non-existent in Sea of Thieves but you’ll need to know in which direction you’re looking on a nearly constant basis. It also pulses to help count your steps.
Used to dig up clues and treasure in the majority of voyages and quests you will undertake. If only we could opt for them as our melee weapons too!
This little fella will save your ship more times than you can imagine. Used primarily to remove sea water from your ship’s lower deck or to put out fires above.
This primitive handheld telescope will help you keep your eye further in the distance for upcoming islands or approaching dangers. Most handy when used in the crows nest for better visibility.
Street lights are a rarity in Sea of Thieves (I’m yet to find one), so night time can cause there to be less of that light around. Lanterns provide illumination of your surroundings and are used to ignite camp fires and beacons.
Used to catch fish. Yup. That’s it. You also reel in the occasional key to special treasure chests. Use worms etc. as bait to catch specific types of fish.
The ability to tell the time actually has less uses in Sea of Thieves than you’d expect, though some missions need you to turn in goods before a specific time, so the watch gives you a good indicator of how much time you have left.
Drinking is a big part of pirate life, and it’s no different in SoT, aside from it not being a particularly big part, so in that sense it is quite a lot different. Fill it with the local grog and drink up!
Sea of Thieves is a social game and although your crew won’t have much problem hearing you from the other side of the ship, other pirates will mostly be relying on your body language. The Speaking Trumpet gives your vocal audio waves a little more stamina meaning they’re more likely to reach the ears of the seas!
Ain’t she a beauty?
Sailing your ship is not just a case of steering it left to right like a car. It has many moving parts that need to be operated in tandem to sail at the speed and direction appropriate for where you are and what you’re doing (piratey stuff I’m guessing?). Let’s go over some of them.
Sails are the engine of all ships and are the stand out feature of most. Lowering them gives you momentum and turning them according to the wind direction increases your speed further. Raising them allows for tighter but slower turns and helps with coming to a steady stop at islands or outposts.
Otherwise known as the steering wheel, again not responsive steering like in a motor vehicle, helm wheels are slow to respond to your input and take time to get used to. There’s a distinct clunk (and vibration for controller users) when the wheel is in the centre positions to help you keep in line.
This lowers and raises the anchor. Lowering the anchor takes no more than a few seconds but raising it can be a slower and also tricky process if you’re currently under siege. Cranking the wheel to the far left or right before lowering the anchor can spin your ship in to a 180° turn, allowing for last minute manoeuvres or escape attempts.
Near the front of each ship is two harpoons, these allow you to pull yourself closer to islands and docks, but can also be used to draw you closer to sea creatures and enemy ships. Some useful features of the harpoon are pulling in loot, crewmates and even grabbing rocks or the ocean floor to assist in tight turns.
The number one offensive mechanism of any ship in the game, these powerful weapons assist in taking down sea monsters and blow holes clean through enemy ships, flooding them with sea water. Each ship size has room for 1-3 cannons on each side and can even be used to launch crewmates sky high!
A platform on all ships placed high above the sails, this small area can be used as a scout tower, a sniper position, or to store expensive loot and/or explosive gunpowder barrels.
Used to plot voyages and places of interest, there is no mini map or world map key bind so besides small handheld maps of islands, this is the only way you can see where you’re going in the world. It also flags certain human player ships on high risk missions.
Quests and missions have to be agreed to by the majority of crew members, and this is the table that you suggest which adventures you’d like to go on.
Getcha balls in order
There’s more than 10 variations of cannonball in Sea of Thieves and it’s important that you know which to use and when.
This classically devastating cannonball should be your main choice in ship or monster battles alike. Specialising in tearing holes through enemy ships, this is the go to cannonball if you want to turn your enemy’s ship in to a sea water bubble bath.
This specialised ammunition is two cannonballs chained together; they do limited damage to the hull of ships, but do lasting damage to masts, helms and capstans – even bringing masts crashing down to deck level.
These bombs can be hand thrown or shot from cannons, doing marginal damage and causing knockback on ships or players. Used primarily to knock pirates off their ships, or your own if timed right.
Shot from cannons or thrown by players, firebombs ignite anything they hit, causing fire to spread across the deck and setting pirates that cross its path alight. Useful for keeping enemy pirates busy while you shell them with cannonballs.
These are cannonballs with unique special abilities, purple balls having an effect on enemy ships and green balls taking effect on players. These can range from dropping a ship’s anchor to putting players to sleep.
These supernatural cannonballs are collected from ghost ships and work like cannonballs, blunderbombs and firebombs respectively, with noticeably larger impact.
Raise yer flag
You’ll sell most your treasure in Sea of Thieves to trading NPCs on outposts dotted around the sea, and while they’re pretty generous most of the time, there’s ways to increase your income nearly 5 fold. A number of outpost merchants sell what they call Emissary Flags that you can purchase for 20,000 gold, it sounds like a lot but it’s a one off payment and the definition of money well spent. Vote to fly the flag on your ship and you’ll earn your 20k back in no more than a couple voyages.
It is however more dangerous to fly these flags as they’re viewable by other players, if they sink your ship they can get a pretty penny for your flag, not to mention that it basically advertises that you’re hoarding treasure. Some flags even show your exact position and where you’re facing on the world map.
Spend yer coin
There is not a single item you can purchase in Sea of Thieves that gives you any sort of advantage over others players, and the game is nothing short of refreshing as a result. All your victories and failures come down to strategy, skill and ultimately… practice.
Therefore there is no reason at all not to spend your hard earned coins and doubloons. Whether it be clothing, weapon skins, ship cosmetics or furry companions – all purchasable items in game are simply for show and nothing more. We’d suggest leaving it a week before you start spending large amounts of coin as it can take a while to discover all the stores that sell various cosmetics, but once you’re comfortable with where everything is, empty that wallet on your favourite pirate bling!
She’s gonna blow!
Gunpowder barrels are an extremely volatile and dangerous item in Sea of Thieves, they can just as easily be used against you if you don’t look after them appropriately. A single stray bullet or cannonball can trigger a gunpowder explosion and sink your ship in seconds.
The flip side of that, is it has the exact same effect on enemy ships. We advise keeping 1-2 barrels in your crows nest and when you’re alongside an enemy ship, taking a leap of faith with a barrel in hand and detonating an explosion on their deck – an unexpected explosion of this size can completely overwhelm unsuspecting players and give you a powerful advantage. Use at your own risk.
The lunge movement
Movement in Sea of Thieves can be slow at the worst of times, especially when swimming or carrying loot back to your ship. To get about quicker when you know you’re going to be slowed down, we advise getting used to lunging with your sword. When leaving your ship or entering water, first charge your sword by holding down attack and jump just before your character lunges forward.
It’s also extremely useful in battle as it closes the distance between you and other players incredibly quickly while landing some high damage. If you see another player charging a cheeky lunge of their own, get ready to sidestep that bad boy or at the least try to block some of the damage.
Don’t start what ye can’t finish
It’s very tempting after a long, quiet sail to charge in to battle against the first enemy player or AI ships you encounter, if you’re new to the game you might win less than 25% of all battles you get involved in, which can be demoralising if it happens often, particularly if you lose all the treasure you worked hard to plunder. Balance your risk vs reward and bear in mind that larger ships will more often than not have more pirates on board.
We suggest early on avoiding human players and taking on a few AI controlled ships while you have nothing to lose. If the ship is distant you’ll be able to spot the difference by the coloured lights on the deck; AI controlled ships have green and blue lights and are controlled by skeletons or ghosts, player ships have orange lights and are controlled by human pirates. Keep any special cannonballs and food in your inventory so that even if you sink you’ll be able to stock your next ship with more than just the essentials.
In the event that all our advice hasn’t worked out for you and you still end up overboard or sinking with the ship, look out for floating mermaids carrying signal flares. They will take you back to your ship or spawn you on a new one if your last one is on a trip to the bottom of the ocean. You need to be a fair distance away from your ship and you cannot take held loot back with you, so drop that before you try to interact with one. And while you’re waiting, keep eyes on your feet from time to time, sharks need to eat too.
If you find yourself in the water a lot though, try not to be discouraged, its part of pirate life after all! Sea of Thieves is all about learning from mistakes and trying new strategies, the most you ever lose is some cash to spend on cosmetics and the most you gain is an absolutely exhilarating and adrenaline pumping experience of plundering pirate life on the open seas! Arrr!
Aye aye captain!
Shiver me timbers!
Davy Jones’ locker!
(just a few we couldn’t shoehorn in)