GameTech: Doing your worst on high seas

WE don’t know which is worse, high seas, or high expectations. Microsoft’s big release for March, Sea of Thieves, has both.

Sea of Thieves is a multiplayer pirate adventure in which you’ll face the open ocean, skeletons, sharks, and the most loathsome adversary of all — online gamers. The potential for teamwork and fun is tremendous, but the success of this particular expedition will rely almost entirely on the people you play with.

The basic premise of Sea of Thieves seems fairly straightforward. There is no HUD and very little to get in the way of just starting the game, which is a welcome feature in this age of endless icons and upgrade screens. In the beta release, players simply start in a pub without any fanfare, where they can have a few ‘beers’ (which leave you dizzy in-game) and then set out to sail without much in the way of further prompting.

You take control of a pirate ship in teams of two, three, or four. In the large four-player ships, each player will have a different role to play and, according to early gameplay reports, working together is essential to success. For example, players will need to raise the anchor, change the angle of the sails to gather speed, and so on.

In fact, the player steering the ship can’t even see the map, so they will need to listen to directions from their team member on deck in order to get anywhere.

Once on the waves, things start to get a little more interesting. Players can take on a variety of quests, like hunting for treasure or skeletons, each of which are intended to inspire their own freeform stories that a crew of friends can enjoy on the fly.

A storm might brew on the way to treasure, for example, causing unexpected navigation problems, or a horde of sharks might intervene while swimming to the shore of an island. Like many online experiences, and perhaps piracy itself, the enjoyment and success of Sea of Thieves will depend largely on the people you set sail with. If you’re in a crew of friendly, carefree, and imaginative gamers, then (let’s face it) you’ll make terrible pirates. However, you will have a lot of fun. On the other hand, if you’re in a crew of bloodthirsty, highly competitive maniacs, the likelihood is that you’ll make excellent pirates — and get bored of each other very quickly.

Here’s hoping Sea of Thieves finds a home with the right group, attracting Jack Sparrows over jackasses. With a release date of March 20 on the horizon, we find out soon enough.

TAKE THE LEAP

The Magic Leap ‘mixed-reality’ system has been on the horizon for years, without ever showing a single proper demonstration of the technology. Magic Leap is claimed to be the next step in augmented reality hardware, attracting roughly $2bn of investment behind closed doors. In theory, the technology is like virtual reality, but layered over the real world.

If Magic Leap can be described as Pokemon Go on steroids, then it’s no surprise to learn that developers might be interested in the hardware. More surprising, however, was to learn that Weta, the legendary New Zealand special effects team, have been working on a Magic Leap title for six years now. The game, called Dr Grordbort’s Invaders, is a humourous take on a ‘retro’ invasion theme, filled with ray guns and tanks that burst through the walls of your home.

The wait for Magic Leap will supposedly end this year. The Magic Leap One headset has been announced for 2018 and pictures of the hardware were released online in recent months. The headset will supposedly cost the ‘price of a premium phone’ and is likely to be targeted at early adopters.

CALL OF VR

Meanwhile, PlayStation VR continues to rule the high seas in virtual reality. Hitting the market this week is Bravo Team, a game that’s sure to please Call of Duty fans. Bravo Team is a two-player co-operative shooter that allows you to literally duck for cover and work with a partner to take out military objectives. You can use the PlayStation Aim controller to replicate the feel of real hardware in a ‘guerrilla warfare’ setting. There are now over 150 VR games available to buy. Bravo, Sony?


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