Sea of Thieves ultimate beginner's starter guide

Sea of Thieves is an open world pirate adventure game from Rare, known for classic titles like Banjo Kazooie and GoldenEye. It's been a few years since we've seen a big title from them, but they've brought their triple-A game to Sea of Thieves, which has an incredibly promising future.

Whether you're in the open beta or waiting on the full game, here are some essential tips and tricks for newbie pirates striking out on the seven seas for the first time, as well as some general information on how the gameplay loop works. Yarrghhh.


1. Creating a character, choosing a ship and communication

First and foremost, your task is to choose a fearsome pirate from a randomly generated list of several options. The thinking behind the random generation is to get players into the game as quickly as possible, while attempting to keep each and every single pirate unique. Simply hit the randomize button to get more pirates until you find the one you like. In-game, you'll be able to customize things like hair styles, tattoos, and other accessories, but your face and body type will be fixed. Hitboxes are normalized too, so being a larger pirate won't impact your ability to avoid attacks (but it might impede your ability to hide).

When you first start out, you're offered the chance to jump into a game on a larger, four-player ship, or a smaller, two-player ship. You can even choose to captain the two-player ship by yourself, and it's totally doable, but only recommended for more experienced players.

Once you have selected a ship type, you have the opportunity to invite friends using the X button. Don't worry if you don't have a full crew, though, because Sea of Thieves will queue you up with a random stranger to fill up any empty slots in your entourage.

Sea of Thieves uses proximity voice chat as the primary method of communication, but you can also use text-based communication tools by pressing up on the D-pad, while using the right joystick to select a text response.

2. Before you set sail, grab some quests

Sea of Thieves revolves around questing, much like any other connected RPG, but here they work a little bit different. Sea of Thieves quests are called voyages and must be purchased from the game's various trade factions, who each have their own goals and interests. In the game, there are currently three quest types, and Rare is going to add many more in future updates after the game launches properly in March 2018.

The Gold Hoarders are all about treasure. They will pay handsomely for pirates willing to undertake dangerous missions to find buried chests. Quests are purchased using gold coins, but the first one is free.

The Merchant's Guild sends you on quests to find animals and other types of cargo. And the Order of Souls sends you to fight specially named pirates to bring back their enchanted skulls. Each faction has some free starting quests to get you going.

Once you have the voyage information, you travel to your ship and vote for the voyage on the captain's table. Each player can submit a voyage for review and voting. Once the voyage has been chosen, you will receive maps, riddles, and other clues pointing you to where the treasure is. There are no arrows or waypoints in Sea of Thieves; you have to navigate the seas old-school style. Once you have found the treasure, use your map table again to find an outpost, where you can exchange the goods for gold coins.

As you complete more quests for the various factions, they will offer more dangerous and complex quests, for better rewards.

How to complete your first Sea of Thieves voyage

3. How to sail

Sailing in Sea of Thieves appears complex at first but is actually quite intuitive once you get going. Ships are divided into multiple components, depending on size, and players can need to work together to pilot their ship across the ocean.

  • Sails have to be angled and deployed before you can move. Angling sails towards the wind will give you a speed boost, and depending on the length of your sails, you can either go faster or slower depending on the situation.
  • The anchor must also be raised, this can be sped up by multiple people working together. You can also drop the anchor at speed to perform a handbrake-style turn. This can really help in naval combat situations.
  • The larger ships are really slow to turn, while the smaller ones turn much faster, allowing them to dodge projectiles. Each helm has a central position, hinted at by controller vibration.
  • The larger ships are impacted by wind drag more dramatically than the smaller ships, that means a smaller ship will go faster sailing into the wind, but a larger ship will go faster sailing with the wind.
  • Use your map, compass and map table below deck to figure out your heading and direction. Most voyage maps and riddles tell you the names of the places you need to head to.

  • Your ship can, and will, get damaged. Collisions and cannon battles can severely screw up your ship, leaving gaping holes which flood your vessel with water. You can use buckets to quickly throw water overboard, and use planks (found in various barrels) to repair ship damage.

When you've reached your destination, your maps and riddles will offer clues as to where exactly you must dig.

Sea of Thieves ships guide: Tips and tricks for sails, combat, repairs and more

4. Progression

Sea of Thieves' early progression revolves around gold accrual. Rare has already stated that progress in Sea of Thieves will be cosmetic, focusing on upgrading your character's style, weapon skins, ship customization options, and more coming in the future.

There are a few shops around the "outposts" found in the game, which can be discovered on the map table. You can use these to purchase new equipment styles, which can then be equipped either back on your ship or using lockers, usually outside the shops.

Every time you hand in a treasure chest for the game's factions, you gain reputation ranks with their company, revealing new, increasingly perilous quests as you grow your personal pirate legend. Eventually, you will be granted access to new legendary quests, once you have ascended high enough.

5. General tips

Here are a few other tips you should know before setting sail on the seven seas.

  • If your ship sinks or you're lost overboard and can't get back to your ship for whatever reason, a mermaid will show up and offer quick passage back so you can get going again.
  • If you die, you end up on the ferry of the damned with other dead players. You can chat for a bit, but soon you'll be allowed passage back into the realm of the living.
  • In combat, you can block with the left trigger on Xbox, and do a charge attack with the right trigger. Enemies are typically easy to dispatch when alone, but in groups, they can be pretty deadly.

  • The water is full of sharks, but also, sometimes, treasure.
  • Play with your equipment! From the radial menus, you can try out musical instruments, drink grog, and even use a spyglass for viewing the horizon at range.
  • Sea of Thieves is full of Easter eggs inspired by stories and occurrences from within the game world. Keep an eye out!
  • Press down on the d-pad to access emotes.

And that's all for now, matey, yarghhh!

These are the basics you'll need to get started in Sea of Thieves'. While there are still various other mechanics, we don't want to spoil all the fun now do we. Who knows what else is lurking in the ocean depths?

Sea of Thieves Kraken

Sea of Thieves Kraken (Image credit: Xbox)
Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!