March 20th, 2018 Rare; the brainchild behind such series as the Conker games, Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie, and the best James Bond game ever, GoldenEye 007, released their anticipated Sea of Thieves. To say the game launched perfectly would be an overzealous statement, riddled with accusations of lacking content and game breaking glitches, the first few months on the seas were… rough. But, in a move that continues to shock many, the game carried on, releasing update after update to create more content, giving monthly, and even sometime weekly challenges to draw players in. Keeping any game exciting is hard, just ask Blizzard, but Rare seems dedicated to keeping it that way. Week to week they are excited to give us new updates, fixes, patches, and the continual tease of possible banjos.
On Tuesday, April 30th, 2019 the release of the biggest content update to date, the Anniversary Update. Not only did this add more content, but it added fun new game mechanics, a whole new game more, and a way to keep your idle crew doing something productive while you sail the ship entirely by yourself (I’m really sorry John, but a man has to check his phone somewhere.) So after a year, is Sea of Thieves finally a fully flushed out game, worthy of your hard earned money (or at least a subscription to Microsoft’s Game Pass?) Let’s take a quick look, and see if you think so.
From official Sea of Thieves Twitter
New Game Mechanics
Sea of Thieves is a pirate game. You hunt treasure, fight the legions of the undead, and occasionally sink your fellow pirate for whatever loot they may have. But it’s more than that, there is an adventure to be had, beautiful scenery to behold, and occasionally, a really weird move to pull off by abusing the game engine. The mechanics built into the game have been consistent, fixing holes with wood, trimming your sails, eating bananas whole, and shooting cannons. You board the enemy, slash them with your sword, and to the winner go the spoils. For a year not much in that way has changed, but with the addition of the Anniversary Update, that all changed.
Fishing and Hunting
Food has always been a bit of a weird one in the universe, as there were only bananas. And while the update did add more fruit you can eat, it did also add more options, namely the choice to hunt or fish to get food. Chickens, snakes, and pigs, which to many had become just part of the background of the game, now all drop meat in accordance with their animal (chicken, pork or snake). Furthermore, the sharks, krakens, and megalodons now all can produce meat which is also cookable. Added cooking stations on the ships means all of these can be prepared and give you varying levels of health.
Along with hunting, they added fishing, taking up one of the blank spots on the item wheel (still room for a banjo Rare, just saying). Fishing provides its own unique challenge in the game, as certain fish only appear in certain areas, and only will go after certain types of bait. Many SoT players will tell you that everything is about figuring out puzzles and ways to work around the system. From putting the sobbing Chest of Sorrows on a skeleton ship, to the now removed double-gun technique, many have memorized the various ways to get around. Fishing has added a whole new dimension for people to explore, and fishing guides to create.
Fishing guide, credit Reddit user u/Rigack, from the Sea of Thieves SubReddit
With the addition of these new features, the Hunter’s Call was added as a faction, a new goal to work towards making out for players that often feel that the game has gotten to the point of being a little stale. This new faction will take your hard fished fish, your hunted goods, and give you its own unique section of goods to equip to your character.
Story Mode… Sort of.
With the release of the new update Sea of Thieves got something that a lot of its fans have been looking for, a real story. The new Tall Tales has come out, where you are required to go along a series of stories to find a new secret treasure. Sailing around the seas looking for a lost Skeleton Lord, a sunken ship, and all this while dealing with a series of riddles and journals that require you to be already familiar with the world’s layout. Without any spoilers, I have felt that this has been a welcome addition to the game, although I hesitate to call it a story mode. It’s more of an extended version of the world building elements that the game provides with a lot of its other updates. I am excited to see what this brings to us as we go along, and even more now as someone who occasionally likes to play solo, I have an excuse to do so now.
THAR SHE BLOWS
Do you sometimes watch old Batman shows and wish you could grappling hook to an object as you come across a corner, taking it super sharp? Or how about picking up an object as you sail along, drawing it into your ship? Perhaps instead you love to torment your friend as they are trying to swim to shore? Then let me present to you, the HARPOON! (I hope you mentally read that as though I were an infomercial announcer.) On the bow (or the front for you not nautically inclined) of the ship, you will find two new harpoons. These useful little launchers can allow you to grab objects, people, loot, rocks, islands, ships, docks and at least at one point the pillar next to a poor dock worker. These can be used to pull your ship closer to said objects, or said objects closer to your ship.
I have found that while this tool has a lot of use for tomfoolery, it has also allowed my crew to maneuver our large vessels into nooks and crannies, as well as not lose a crew member to go check barrels, and instead to pull those barrels to us. Furthermore, it has made our trips to recover loot from islands to be a lot faster, making our usually efficient crew, more so. It has also given the player we leave with the ship something to play with, and as mentioned above, occasionally drag us back to the ship against our will. I have yet to use it for boarding action, but I look forward to being able to play that aspect of the game next.
More Holes, More Damage
Get your FlexTape ready, because the team at Rare have all been working hard to make the game a little more exciting for those of us that yearn for more naval combat. Often my crew and I have joked about being able to knock over sails or to slow a crew’s ability to sail down. Well, I am pretty sure Rare was listening to me (get out of my Discord boys, you have to ask like everyone else), and they have implemented such changes. Now instead of just punching holes in your enemy’s hull, you can now knock over their masts, damage their capstan (the anchor thing), blow out the helm (the steering wheel, seriously learn some naval terms guys), and even punch different sizes of holes in the ships. All of these things will cause different effects, use wood to repair, and keep a crew busy. Ramming is now less effective than it was before, leaving only smaller holes. Galleons feel like the beefy tanks they should have been from before. Sloops and their small size now feel more exciting as you can run across the ship more easily.
New Game Mode
Something proponents of the PvP elements of the game have been clamoring for is a place where we can have dedicated PvP, encouraged by Rare, and forced to play with the naval combat elements. Rare listened, and they did so well, with the new Anniversary Update bringing with it the Arena, a small section of the map dedicated to allowing a group of fully crewed Galleons to slug it out in an aggressive treasure hunt. Adding another new faction the Sea Dogs, we have seen challenges around this rise specifically. New cosmetics were added for you to brag about your skills in this new Faction. It also added a whole new area for you to wander around called the Sea Dog’s Tavern. This includes all the major merchants, an indoor cannon and a hot tub! It’s a good thing OSHA doesn’t exist in-universe…
This fast-paced environment is not for the faint of heart and will challenge even the most experienced pirate.
But this added another element as well, a more community-focused element. Rare, a subsidiary of Microsoft, partnered with another Microsoft platform for this event: Mixer. For those readers unaware, Mixer is a streaming platform in the style of Twitch or YouTube Gaming but integrated right into your Xbox (if you have an Xbox One, you may have noticed the Mixer tab). If you watch streamers on there who are playing the Arena, you can get limited time access loot, which you will be able to redeem in game. Just watch 30 Arena matches, and then claim your loot, so long as your Mixer account is linked to your Xbox Live account.
So in conclusion, is Sea of Thieves a game worth your time? Well, I can’t say for you, but even before this update, I can say I got my enjoyment out of it. I feel this new update is going to add tons of content to pull in new players and those that have long since left. And if you still aren’t sure, I would recommend getting Microsoft’s Game Pass (which I believe you can even claim a 14-day trial) which will allow you to try the game our first, as well as several other Microsoft Exclusives. Give it a try, what’s the worst that could happen, you find out you love it?