Electronic Entertainment Expo 2016

Chaotic fun with Sea Of Thieves

Good for gamers who thrive on uncertainty.
Good for gamers who thrive on uncertainty.PHOTO: RARE

Sea Of Thieves was one of the biggest exclusive reveals at Microsoft's briefing in E3 this year, and one of the few notable non-franchise games.

Players form motley crews of pirates and traverse the high seas seeking treasure, taking pot shots at other ships and trading wealth.

Expectations were high. The world looked big, bright and inviting, and the co-op aspect of it looked like a riot.

As a pirate, you start off with a mug of grog in your hand. What does it do? I asked one of the Microsoft staff members while standing in line for the demo. Nothing really, he said, it's just sort of silly.

"Silly" just about summed up the spirit of the demo, for better or for worse.

The moment we got on the ship, my crew of fellow journalists from Singapore and I downed all the grog, laughing as we wobbled around the deck, our screens a blur.

As our facilitator directed us to raise the anchor and adjust the sails, we scrambled to follow his instructions. Someone took the wheel. I climbed up to the crow's nest. Someone climbed up with me, then jumped off and fell into the sea.

This bumbling about was fun enough, but an ominous sail soon appeared on the horizon. Another five-man crew was headed towards us, and they did not look friendly.

Orders were immediately given: "Man the cannons on the left!" As we sailed past each other, both ships fired a volley of cannonballs at each other. Slowly turning our ships around - "They're coming back! Right! Right!" - we both lobbed shots at each other again.

But while the chaos was fun enough, the gameplay lacked a certain sharpness.

When something happened, there was no immediate feedback. When a shot was fired, it was almost impossible to tell if it landed or not. There were no health bars or numbers, so it was difficult to keep track of exactly how damaged a ship was.

This lack of quantifiables works sometimes, when there are other easy indicators of status or visual cues. But for Sea of Thieves, it felt a little like playing the dark.

While other gamers may thrive on the uncertainty, this lack of information was not for me, as it felt uncompetitive.

Discussing the game with a fellow E3 attendee later, she quipped that it felt like a "game for YouTubers". In other words, an experience that is aimed at provoking entertaining reactions and creating hilarious scenarios.

And she is right. Sea of Thieves is not a game that is meant to be taken seriously - it is certainly a barrel of laughs, especially if you are playing it with a group of friends.

Lisabel Ting

•Release date: 2017

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2016, with the headline 'Chaotic fun with Sea Of Thieves'. Print Edition | Subscribe