Sea of Thieves: Is It Time to Take the Plunge?

Impact's Jack picks apart the latest additions to Rare's pirate game to see if it is now worth taking the time to play it.

Upon first release, Rare’s Microsoft-exclusive pirate game was empty, grindy and full of trolls who took the whole ‘pirate’ thing a little too seriously. A year on, with four major free updates under its belt and a fifth on the way, let’s run through all the ways Rare has expanded their horizons…

The Hungering Deep (May 29th)

  • Private crews are added – you can finally play with just your friends, without the fear of immediately being trapped in the brig.
  • A huge Megalodon boss joins the Kraken in randomly attacking ships.
  • A limited-time co-op quest is added.
  • The speaking trumpet lets you communicate with (and laugh at) players far across the map.
  • The drum is added. It makes noise when you hit it.
  • Bilge Rat Adventures start in June, introducing the Bilge Rat trading faction, Skeleton Thrones for you to find with other crews for unique rewards, and exploding gunpowder-barrel skeletons.

Cursed Sails (July 31st)

  • The Brigantine ship type provides for 3-person crews, halfway between the heavy-duty galleon and manoeuvrable sloop.
  • You can form alliances using new flags to share voyages and goals with other ships.
  • Big updates to character customisation, including hair dyes!
  • A time-limited campaign explored the story of a shopkeeper who got turned into a skeleton (and her partner, turned into a parrot) while making cursed cannonballs – drawing crews of skeleton ships into the Sea of Thieves.
  • These AI Skeleton crews sail under ship-shaped clouds for players to engage in combat.
  • Those cursed cannonballs can be used in combat, affecting your ship (raising the sails, lowering anchor) or crew (uncontrollable dancing).

Forsaken Shores (September 27th)

  • A new volcanic region, aptly named The Devil’s Roar, ups the challenge with fiery lava flows, balance-breaking earthquakes, geysers that launch you into the air, and explosive volcanic eruptions.
  • Environmental storytelling details the history of the region’s first explorers.
  • You can now use rowboats scattered across the map to navigate super-heated water and ferry supplies to your ship, then dock them to your vessel and bring them along.
  • A new quest type introduced new characters – Cargo Runs ask you to transport goods (fragile bottles, cloth that rots if it gets wet, and plants in need of watering) in time-sensitive missions. The less damaged the goods are upon delivery, the higher your reward.
  • New sea posts have popped up all around the map – small shops with a randomised collection of items for sale at discounted prices.

Shrouded Spoils (November 28th)

  • The headline feature of this update was the new weather effect – thick fog banks make navigation more dangerous and difficult.
  • Skeleton crews aren’t confined to fixed points anymore, but roam the seas freely, following their own paths for the player to engage with as they choose.
  • A smaller, more manoeuvrable skeleton sloop ship-type makes combat more varied and dynamic.
  • A variety of different Megalodon now roam the Sea – Glowing green? Ghost white? Red-finned?
  • A tougher Kraken now attacks every kind of ship (not just galleons) with new animations.
  • Defeating the Megalodons and the Kraken (per-tentacle) rewards players with massive loot drops, incentivising you to stay and finish fights.
  • 6 new Skeleton Forts (land assault missions) are now available, bringing the grand total up to 9, and they drop new rare loot like Bone Dust and Stronghold Gunpowder Barrels that deliver an especially big BOOM.
  • Submerged Mermaid Statues now reward players with rare coloured gems – the more difficult the statue is to destroy, the more valuable the gem.
  • Ships are now fully customisable – not just your sails, hull, and figurehead, but your wheel, capstan, and cannons, too – and each update has introduced dozens of new cosmetic sets for both your character and ship.
  • There are now many more rewards for hitting Sea of Thieves’ endgame and becoming a Pirate Legend – exclusive cosmetics, missions and commendations make progression more meaningful.
  • The Gold and Glory weekend (March 15th) gave players ridiculous loot and reputation boosts for a limited time, cutting grind for the sake of fun.

“the new threats make the world feel more alive, the new quest-types and narrative drive give the game a greater sense of structure and purpose”

Anniversary Update (April 30th)

  •  They game’s total file size has been cut in half on Xbox and PC.
  • The Hunter’s Call will let you gain reputation and stat boosts with fishing and cooking.
  • Harpoon guns are being added to ships for hunting beasts, speeding up treasure collection and making tight turns while sailing.
  • The Arena is a separate PvP combat area announced back on November 10th, with its own tavern and trading faction – the Sea Dogs – to gain reputation with (plus, they have a hot tub).
  • More destructible ships, including collapsible masts.
  • Tall Tales finally introduces full narrative-driven quests to the game, the first titled Shores of Gold – Caverns! Traps! Puzzles! Navigation by the stars!

So, basically, Rare has added a s***-ton to Sea of Thieves in the past year; the new threats make the world feel more alive, the new quest-types and narrative drive give the game a greater sense of structure and purpose, and vastly expanded customisation and rewards make the grind much more rewarding.

It is, however, still fundamentally the same game it was at launch, which means it still suffers from a too-basic gameplay loop and systems that only truly shine when experienced with friends. That being said, if you do have some crewmates to explore the oceans with, Sea of Thieves is now a genuinely brilliant social experience and there has never been a better time to jump on-board.

Jack Richardson

Featured Image courtesy of Sea of Thieves’ official Facebook page.

Image use licence here.

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