I'm ten seconds into my Sea of Thieves demo, and I’ve already downed a mug of grog and become staggeringly intoxicated.
As a I bust out a cheerful sea shanty on my accordion, gloriously blue waves lap up against my feet.
I stumble into a palm tree as the rest of my crew make their way towards our ship, and I wobble after them through the golden sand, with a huge grin on my face.
Already, it's plain to see that Rare has created something rather special...
Our Rare chaperone asks if I want to be captain, and I gladly accept. Having watched the previous group lose to an onslaught of cannon fire, I want to try something a little different. I want to kamikaze-ram our ship directly into our enemies.
We jump on board, and I head straight to the wheel. I order my crew to raise the anchor and lower the sails.
Watching them scurry around and work together to man individual ropes and controls, it becomes apparent just how involved the gameplay is, while highlighting the importance of team work.
The anchor is raised and lowered by a spinning wheel mechanism, which requires the combined effort of crew members to turn. The sails, on the other hand, are released and lowered by a system of ropes and pulleys which, again, need to be controlled manually.
Before long we set off, and I realise I can’t see a damn thing. I suggest cutting a hole in the sails, then realise how stupid an idea that actually is. Thanks, jet lag.
Thankfully the fellow playing next to me takes pity on me, and offers to man the crow’s nest above, verbally guiding me through two gigantic rocks.
We are on our way.
The calm before the storm
As we carve through the waves, I take in our surroundings. Rare’s opted for a cartoon-like game design, resulting in a fun, happy, beautiful world, making a welcome change from the gritty, unsaturated tones of more serious games.
Within a few minutes two other ships are spotted, and I tear my eyes away from the lull of the waves. We don’t have to attack them of course, but when you’re in a short E3 demo, you make every second count.
Someone whips out their accordion and fires off a merry tune. It’s hardly X ‘Gon Give it to Ya, but it somehow seems fitting, rallying us for battle.
Guided by Mr Crow’s Nest, I line up the ship and attempt to set a ramming course directly for the side of the enemy.
Having never sailed in my life, I judge the turn completely wrong, and we end up parallel to each other.
Oh well - it’s cannon time.
Balls of steel (Well, iron, if you want to get technical)
As both of our ships line up, my crew scurry over to their individual cannons. Within seconds the air is filled with gunpowder smoke, as our ships pepper each other with cold hard iron.
It’s not long before someone has the bright idea to go below deck to check for damage, and after a slight hesitation, they inform us that we’re taking in water. Balls.
I can’t leave my post at the wheel, but a couple of crew members go below deck to patch up leaks with wooden planks, while the battle rages on above.
Suddenly, someone spots a third ship coming in from the side, and I jokingly ask the chap from Rare if we can do a 180-degree handbrake turn using the anchor. Smiling, he informs me that we definitely can.
Listening to his instructions, I lock the wheel fully to the left, and he quickly drops the anchor, slinging us around in an instant. 2Ship2Furious - you heard it here first, folks.
As amazing as our little manoeuvre was, it actually offers no tactical advantage in our current predicament, and I very nearly ram our entire ship into some nearby rocks.
As both enemy ships begin to circle us like vultures, I start apologising to my fellow E3 crew, but the demo ends before we reach our watery graves.
I live on to fight another day.
I wish I could do nothing but play Sea of Thieves all day. The single 15 minute demo alone was enough to get me hooked, and it’s clear that it barely scratches the tip of the iceberg.
The beauty in what Rare appears to have created, is providing the freedom and power for players to make their own adventure. No two E3 demos I watched panned out exactly the same.
In one, I watched a drunk sailor fall overboard, swim to an another ship, and surprise the unsuspecting crew behind enemy lines. In another, I watched the entire crew get sloshed on grog while playing music on accordions and hurdy-gurdies. The power to create your own adventure is in your hands, and the fun nature of the game itself only strengthens its appeal.
Full details on the rest of the game are still fairly scarce though - it’s not clear what objectives we’ll have or how missions tie into co-op gameplay, but from what we’ve seen from the trailers and E3 gameplay so far, there'll be plenty of ways to plunder the seas and explore islands with a crew, in your hunt for pirate glory.
Sea of Thieves looks set to be a huge exclusive for Microsoft and a potential console-seller. Let's just hope we get a release date soon though, because the wait now will be agonising.