Beginner's Guide to Sea of Thieves: Tips for a Pirate's Life Well Lived

By Mark Delaney, 9 months ago
Rare's first new property in nearly a decade has been out for a week now, and though critical reception has been lukewarm in most places, personally I adore the game. You can find my full thoughts in our site review coming soon. If you're curious about starting the game or have already put in a few hours and still need some help finding your sea legs, look no further! Below you'll find some tips for beginning your voyage as a pirate. Some of them are purposefully simplistic for your earliest moments while others will help you many hours later. If you have any tips of your own you'd like to share, post them in the comments and they may get added to this guide with credit to you!

Sea of Thieves

First determine your crew's goal, then decide each pirate's role

A good crew can be all the difference between a lackluster game session and an unforgettable voyage. Whether you're playing with friends or strangers, be sure to delegate roles based on what you each like doing. Talk about it before things get hairy. You'll want to know what is expected of each person so you don't have to scramble amidst disaster. Maybe someone is particularly skilled with cannons, or really likes sailing the ship. Others may be experts at repairing the hull or bucketing water out of the ship to prevent sinking. Whatever you're heading into, you'll want to have a emergency reaction plan before disaster strikes.

If departure need be faster, a hard turn you must master

Given that the game's central loop will have you sailing island to island in search of all sorts of treasures and loot, it can be a pain to not take off with your ship already facing away from the island. If you're approaching an island head on, you'll want to master the timing and maneuvering of a good 180-degree spin. As you approach land, cut the wheel completely to the left or right, depending on your surroundings, and anchor. Time it right, and you'll narrowly avoid a crash, already be facing away from the island ready for departure, and minimize the distance between your ship and the land. As you can't swim fast or sprint when holding loot, you don't want to have to swim too far or take too long to get out of there.

If facing inland is your mast, raise the sails and the ship spins fast

If you do happen to dock facing the wrong way, the fastest and safest way to get turned around from a standstill is to raise your sails, raise anchor, and spin it around in place. Not doing this may often mean you'll anchor up and immediately crash into the island you're trying to leave. If you're still mastering the 180 from above, this is a good Plan B that will keep your ship free of leaks and holes.

Peaceful pirates must still prepare for villains with cannons cutting air

As a non-combative pirate, I spent my review time with the game abiding by a live-and-let-live mantra — but that doesn't mean I was a pacifist. If other players brought the battle to my boat, I was ready. The best way to ensure you're ready for war even if you don't plan on being a warmonger is to prepare your ship like conflict is an inevitability. Before you even leave the first outpost, gather supplies from around the land. Load your cannons right away and have a few spares in your inventory, as well as a whole bunch on your ship. Hold onto a few planks and bananas too, to return both you and your ship to top health when you've taken damage. It sounds simple, but the game is happy to let you find out the hard way. Don't raise anchor until you've prepared as if you're just about to do battle at sea seconds later. Sometimes you will be.

If strong gusts have you pinned, adjust your sails to catch the wind

This one is another simple one, but the game doesn't tell you to look out for it. Hopefully if you've played at least a little, you'll know already, but if you're brand new to Thieves, pay attention to the wind. You can and should adjust your sails to catch the wind. Sometimes you can't help but sail into it, but even in those cases, there's an ideal sail angle to find. You'll know when you find it because the sails will make a whoosh sound and you'll see the ship pick up speed. In a ship battle, this is even more crucial.

Keep safe distance from skeleton forts, for long-range cannons do they sport

Unless you're heading to a fort to raid, never go near them during your travels. The skeletons there don't mind firing at your ship just because you're passing by. You'll want to avoid needless conflict like that because a few hull breaches can really deplete your supplies and take all your focus away from your intended destination. See a fort on your map? Take the long way around.

Lanterns extinguished day and night to keep your sailboat out of sight

No matter which ship you're steering, galleon or sloop, they come equipped with lanterns. They can help in the dark when you're reading a map or down in the hull, but for the most part there's no reason to ever have them on unless you're really asking for conflict (a valid way to play for some, no doubt). You can extinguish your lanterns, and if you want to avoid battles, make sure to do so. From great distances, other ships may not see you through the fog, but your lanterns increase visibility drastically. Lights out!

Voyages will announce some loot, but every island has more to boot

Whatever your voyage is telling you to do — dig for treasure, capture animals, gather supplies, or defeat skeletons, your destination island will always have more than just your listed objectives. At the very least, you'll find barrels of cannonballs, wood planks, and bananas to restock your ship and crew. But often you'll also find lots of other lucrative opportunities. Unlisted treasure chests can be found, wild animals are always running around, and even the gunpowder can be sold to merchants if you don't use it as a weapon first. Just because a merchant hasn't asked you to sell them any pigs or chickens doesn't mean they won't take them if captured. Max out your profits by scouring the whole island each time and you'll make a lot more than just what the voyage instructs you to seek.

The voyage isn't over when you've found just the marked loot.The voyage isn't over when you've found just the marked loot.

If slashing be an ineffective attack, hold the button for a charging smack

The combat in the game is pretty simplistic, but the missions as you level up get much harder, especially if you're playing solo. You'll want to learn each skeleton type's weakness — some are even vulnerable to music or light — but for those lower level bonesfolk, holding down the attack button lets you thrust forward and sometimes take out multiple skeletons at once. The game never seems to tell you this, but it's highly effective when dealing with a horde. Get them to line up single-file and charge at them just right and you can eliminate up to three or four at once. That's crowd control, matey.

When facing tougher bones of note, snipe them from your comfy boat

As mentioned, high-level combat missions from the Order of Souls can get pretty formidable after you've leveled up past 8 or 10. The easiest way to eliminate the boss skeletons is to flee to your anchored ship and snipe them from the safety of your own cabin. There you'll never run out of ammo with reserves on board and your only obstacle is lining up shots while you've got the waves moving you about.

Under siege on particular quests, hide your skulls, loot, and chests

One of the emergent moments that can be alternatingly great fun or maddening is when other players foil your attempts to run a co-op mission free from PVP. If you've already begun digging up treasure or have it ready to bring back to your ship when players arrive to mess with you, hide the loot! Store them deep in foliage, in shallow waters where they won't float, between rocks — anywhere really. If they kill you and sink you, you'll need to return to that island after respawning elsewhere, but if they don't find your loot, it'll still be there for you to retrieve. Priority number one when being invaded by combative players is to hide your valuables, then deliver counterattacks.

If loot be what they're looking for, blend yours in with the ship's decor

If you've successfully got your treasure on board, you're still not in the clear. You have to get it back to the outpost to cash in. This can be quite tense as other players may wish to ruin your plans. In the worst-case scenario, you're boarded by enemy pirates and they're looking for loot, in their dash to find it and escape they may overlook your treasures if you blend them in with your ship's furnishings. Stash skulls down in the hull behind barrels or hide them in plain view on shelves — the one beside your bed in a galleon works well. The same can be done for treasure chests. Align them with your equipment chests always on board or stash them behind the map table or bring them up to the crows nest. Keep them out of sight or hide them plainly in it. There's not a lot of real hiding places for your treasures, but there's room to be creative. For the unobservant pirate, a well-placed chest can easily be overlooked. Of course, there's no easy way to hide those clucking chickens.

Do you have any sugggestions for other wannabe plunderers? Let us know in the comments and they may get added to this guide with proper credit to you!

This game was featured in our Best Xbox MMOs Available in 2018 article. Why not check it out to see what else made the cut?
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a Boston native now living in Portland, Oregon. He's the Editorial Manager on TA, loves story-first games, and is the host of the community game club TA Playlist. Outside of games he likes biking, sci-fi, the NFL, and spending time with his family. He almost never writes in the third person.