Sea of Thieves is upon us at last, but if you've hopped in already and started to poke around a little, you might be wondering just how exactly it all works.
It can be oddly unclear at times - although figuring out the analogue functionality of your map and compass is maybe part of the fun - so here on this page we've put together a selection of Sea of Thieves tips and tricks for getting the most out of the experience, based on our collective time with the game so far.
We've bunched all of these good-to-know individual tips into various sections down the page, but if you're after some deeper looks at systems and other general explainers, our main Sea of Thieves guide and walkthrough hub is the place to go.
The basics - character, communication and who's who in Sea of Thieves
To start with the very basics, yes, there is cross play between PC and Xbox players and yes, there is indeed voice chat on both platforms, premade dialogue options on both too, and a text chat option for those with a keyboard.
If a player's name is turquoise, that means they belong to your crew - if it's white, that means they belong to another crew, and can therefore attack you and likewise you can do the same to them. You can chat and help each other of course but, being pirates and all, it's probably best not to trust anyone from another ship.
There are two pages of dialogue options in the radial wheel when you bring it up, as well as plenty of emotes - more on how to use all of these communication options in our page on Sea of Thieves' controls.
In terms of your character, know that once you select one in the character creator at the start that's it - but certain cosmetic modifications, like peg legs, hooks, beards and eye patches, can be unlocked as you progress as well as the basics like outfits and items. That said, there's no third-person perspective, so if you regret your choice at least you don't ever need to look at it again!
What to do first and how to navigate the high seas
We cover this in more detail in our Sea of Thieves guide and walkthrough for what to do first but, in brief, the first thing you need to do is get yourself a Voyage - known to you and I as a quest, basically.
This is done by talking to one of the three Outpost Traders - in-game vendors, one for each faction - and they'll have Voyages "for sale" at 0 Coin to start with.
When you have one, head to your ship - which will be moored up at a jetty of some kind nearby on the starting island - and look for the table that doesn't have the map on it.
From there, interact with the table to select a Voyage you want to do, and physically place it on the table. You then need to vote for it - even if it's just you playing alone - to actually start it.
After that, you'll get a map in your inventory - there's a special Maps radial wheel separate to your inventory one, check our controls guide for more on using that - and you need to use that, along with the big map table, to navigate to your destination.
This bit's important: when you find your loot (like chests, skulls, and so on) that the Voyage has tasked you to find, it'll mark the quest as complete. But you do not get any reward or XP until you return to an Outpost Trader and directly sell it to them, and the game does not save your progress if you quit before doing so. Finish a quest, leave a chest on your ship, and log out, and it'll be gone when you come back. No gold or XP for you. Always turn in your loot!
Anyway, navigation. Like everything else in Sea of Thieves, this is a pretty manual exercise. You need to physically look at that big map, figure out which direction you need to head from where you are now, and then sail that way with the aid of your compass and spyglass - note that there is a compass fixed to the side of the wheel, so you know.
As for sailing itself, you basically need to think about three things: your sails' direction, your sails' height, and the steering direction of your ship.
We'll have more on this in a dedicated sailing guide soon, but the essentials are as follows:
- You want your sails to "catch" the wind. Look for the lines in the air and flapping of your ship's flag to know the direction it's blowing, and turn your sails so that it's as close as possible to flowing directly into them. They'll billow outwards and puff up when they're catching the wind well.
- When sailing directly into the wind, either turn your sails as far to one side as possible, or actually turn your ship to find a route that catches the wind more effectively, as that's actually often the faster way to do it.
- Your wheel has two markers on it, to know when it's lined up straight ahead, and when it's turned to the extreme left or right. Look for the gold handles and listen out for the feint clicks as you rotate it.
- Don't try to park your ship like a car! It's very dangerous to sail your ship close to an island - forget to patch up a hole you caused by crashing into some rocks or land and by the time you return from your little stroll your ship could be fully submerged! Instead, drop anchor a few dozen yards off-land.
- Your anchor is surprisingly useful, too - you can use it for handbrake turns in emergencies, to instantly stop, to stop other ships you're chasing or who are chasing you (fire a shipmate out of a cannon onto an enemy ship and have them drop the anchor, it works an absolute treat and can be hilarious to watch), and most importantly of course, as a parking break.
- It's best to split roles for your crew - division of labour and all that - so that you're not chaotically trying to do the same thing. Communicate, we beg you, and with dedicated roles - sails, steering, map reading and crow's nest scouting are our recommendations - you'll do far better than your disorganised foes.
- On the sloop - the one- and two-player ship - you can view your map from the top deck, by the wheel, by looking through the gap at the back of the ship down to the lower level!
Items, equipment, and interacting with the world of Sea of Thieves
Again, it's well worth familiarising yourself with Sea of Thieves' Xbox and PC controls with our dedicated guide on that, but there are still lots of quirks to interacting with the world of Sea of Thieves that we really wish we knew at first.
Basically, when you play Sea of Thieves you need to think about the world in a very literal, analogue sense. To collect a chest you literally dig it out of the ground, pick it up, carry it to your ship and put it down anywhere you like. By the same token if you want to take something from another player or crew you literally get onto their ship however you can, pick up a chest, for instance, and run off with it.
Your items are accessed by another radial dial if you're using a controller, whilst PC players with a keyboard have the option of using the 1-0 keys as hotkeys for each item, too. Simply bring up the inventory wheel (Q on keyboard, LB on controller) and point at the one you want to equip.
You can carry a handful of each item on your person at a time, and store up to a set amount of each on your ship, too. The storage locations are different depending on the size of your ship, but basically you need to keep an eye out for various barrels, chests and containers dotted around the middle and lower decks.
You can collect items from scavenging around the world and then put them into your ship's containers to stock those up, and likewise take items from the containers on your person with you when you go wandering off on land.
We recommend you stay stocked up on just about everything at all times. Aside from ammunition, which is infinite in your ship's storage (but very finite on your character), you should always think about maxing out your carry capacity of things like Bananas, Cannonballs and Wooden Planks when you're on foot so you can fill up the stores on the ship and be prepared for attacks, storms, and other more subnautical foes.
Here's a very quick rundown of what each inventory item does:
- Sword - Melee weapon for hitting things!
- Firearm - A choice of versatile Pistol, shotgun-like Blunderbuss or long-range, "scoped" Eye of Reach sniper rifle.
- Banana - Cronch on these to restore a chunk of health.
- Wooden Plank - Used for patching up holes in your ship.
- Bucket - Used for bucketing out water if your ship is flooding (you literally need to throw the water off the ship!)
- Cannonball - Used as ammunition for your cannons.
- Compass - A portable compass for telling which direction you're going.
- Shovel - Used for digging up buried items like Chests.
- Tankard - Fill this up to drink some grog (and get drunk).
- Spyglass - Use this as a telescope for keeping one eye on the horizon.
- Lantern - For added light at night.
- Instrument - Play this if you fancy a little jig.
Oh, and to put away whatever you're holding, press X on the keyboard or B on a controller!
Getting loot - and protecting it from pirates
Much of Sea of Thieves, as you'll soon discover, is about going and getting things and putting them somewhere else.
That said, the practise of getting things and moving them around can really be rather fun in the right circumstances. In Sea of Thieves' case it is, because what you're getting is stuff like buried treasure chests and ancient skulls, and other players are quite likely to try and still them if given the chance. Here are a few tips on the basics of collecting things, how to stop it being nicked along the way.
First up, you should get smart with where you put your chests and collected loot - in the crow's nest is one good place, along with disguising them next to other chests, tucking them behind the wheel, or out on the hard-to-reach balcony behind the captain's quarters on the larger ship.
Putting stuff on the bottom level is risky, despite seeming like a good idea. Smart enemies will actually travel down here to try and cause damage to your ship and sink it, or disrupt you as you try to repair damage from canon fire. It's also the first place they look for loot to steal, so if you're going to put stuff here make it the least valuable items you have, so at least they act as decoy's for the real loot you hid somewhere else.
You can still climb ladders, swim, and jump when carrying loot, which you should bear in mind, and note that you can lose it entirely by dropping it overboard, or having your ship sink with it stored there. It'll float in the water for a short period, so there is time to recover it, at least.
Whoever turns in the loot for sale at a vendor is the one who gets all the reward - your Voyage might technically complete as soon as you discover it, but you need to physically turn it over for the real benefit!
You can turn off lamps on your ship, too - this is a great way to stay a little less visible at night if you've something valuable on board and don't fancy the trouble.
Treasure hunting for more guides like this? Best to start with our main Sea of Thieves guide, including voyages, quests, progression and what to do first, or if you're right at the end of the game, take a look at our guide to Pirate Legend rewards and the Mysterious Stranger explained. We also have step-by-step instructions on how to download and install Sea of Thieves; there's also a guide on the Sea of Thieves map and how to find every island location, shape and name, along with our guide to Sea of Thieves' chicken, pig and snake locations for Merchant Alliance Voyages, a guide to loot values and how to earn Sea of Thieves gold fast, info on the full set of Sea of Thieves controls for Xbox and PC, a long list of various Sea of Thieves tips and tricks, an in-depth explainer on the dastardly Skeleton Forts, Skull clouds and Stronghold Keys, a massive collection of advice on Sea of Thieves sailing, ship combat and how to sail into the wind, plus how to find and kill Sea of Thieves' Kraken, and finally some advice for those encountering Sea of Thieves LavenderBeard, CyanBeard and CinnamonBeard error messages, too.
Other helpful things to know about Sea of Thieves before you dive in
Finally, there are a handful of other miscellaneous things worth knowing. Here's a quick runthrough:
- The wildlife is dangerous too - look out for sharks, snakes, and the roaming Kraken in particular...
- If you fall off your ship for long enough and get far enough away from it, a Mermaid will appear. Look out for a glowing green flare - they'll take you back to your ship instantly.
- If you die in whatever way, you'll respawn in a sort of "ship of the damned". Wait for the doors to open (it's obvious when they do) and walk through them to respawn on your ship.
- If your ship gets captured by some pesky griefers - or just pirates, basically - you can sink it yourself from the menu. Choose the option "Scuttle Ship" and note that if you're on a crew of multiple people, it needs a majority vote (like putting peopel in the Brig).
- The map stays the same, but the quests are randomised - all the islands and locations stay exactly where you are when you load into a game, but you'll get told to go to different places and do different things to other people when you get quests.
- Anyone of any level can do a Voyage that their teammate proposes - there's no real scaling in Sea of Thieves, with all characters and weapons always as strong as each other, so a high-level player can propose a Voyage and all of their shipmates can vote for it and do it, even if they're way too low level to get that quest from a vendor themselves.
- It's a shared world, and you load into a different one each time you start the game - like we said, the world itself is identical, but you'll be loaded into a different one with lots of different other people each time you sign in. There's also no way to join a world with friends whilst staying into a different crew to them. You either join a player's crew directly, start in the same crew when you load in, or play in entirely different servers (unless you get very lucky and are matched into the same one).
- You can fire yourself out of a cannon - that's basically it but we thought it was pretty fun and wanted you to know. To do it, go to the end of the cannon and follow the prompt to climb in, but note that you can't aim it while you're in it because, you know, you're already in it.
Additional writing by Robert Purchese.