The Sea Of Thieves Anniversary Update Has Drawn This Pirate Back

Articles Games Reviews Sea of Thieves

This Is The Update That You’re Looking For

What is the game Sea of Thieves? I have to tell you if you have not tried this game you are missing out on a uniquely enjoyable and fun experience. Perhaps you tried the game at launch and felt that it lacked content. Or like me, you enjoyed the game but shelved it to play others. This article will lay out my thoughts on the current game which now includes the Cursed Sails, Forsaken Shores, Shrouded Spoils, and the largest and most impactful the Anniversary Update. For the sake of brevity, I will focus on the features added in this most recent content drop while making some comparisons to the state of the game at launch. In short, I believe that the game deserves a new look because the content that Rare has developed has been top notch, containing new adventures and features that greatly enhance the ways the game can be enjoyed.

Early Impressions – Too Salty?

I know. I know. Some people could not stand the “Sea of Salt”, especially at launch. Believe me, in the early days, I had my loot stolen plenty of times too by marauders and “griefers”. I have to say though there seem to be far fewer pirates hell-bent on stealing my plunder these days.  I believe that it because there is more to do in the game than there was at launch. There is also the Arena that could be pulling many of the PVP types out of the Adventure mode.

At launch, some felt that there was not enough content to play. The Order of Souls, Gold Hoarders, Merchants Alliance, and the Skeleton Forts were the majority of the content that existed in the game. Since then we have seen previous updates bring in the Megalodons, Skeleton Ships, and Mermaids.  These join the Kraken that was in the game at launch but usually avoidable. I assume that because of the lack of activities many pirates decided to quit running voyages and instead targeted players for the fun of it. Honestly, there is nothing wrong with playing this way.  Some of the player base felt that having loot stolen led to a bad experience of the game. Of course, too often the players that are having a “negative experience” are the most vocal.

This Is Not The “Sea of Friends”

As one of our crew likes to quote, “This is the Sea of Thieves not the ‘Sea of Friends’”.  His standpoint captures my thoughts. It should be expected that if you desire to steal loot that your loot will be stolen too. It’s in the name! The Proverb, “Live by the sword, Die by the sword,” comes to mind.  Examine your playstyle. Know that in this game people like to avenge themselves of their attackers. If you go into a server shooting at every ship you see. You will have a hard time transporting your treasure to an outpost. You should expect that someone at some point is going to desire to steal your treasure.  Lastly, you should consider trying to steal someone else’s treasure if the opportunity presents itself.

Better With Friends

For me, even at launch, this game was always fun for me to jump into because I had a crew. I have only sailed a handful of times without an XBL friend that I knew previously. I suppose what I mean to say is that this game has always provided good times and numerous laughs for our merry band of pirates. We almost always run a galleon.  So I have met some very decent pirates on the high seas when filling out our open spots with matchmaking. My friend’s list continues to grow as I meet new pirates who are looking to become Legend.

The crew that I typically roam with is not the best at PVP but we can hold our own and tend to successfully defend our spoils.  We rarely have a night that is not profitable but of course, we have seen our share of “griefers”. This is mostly due to the fact that we are very selective on when we want to be aggressive towards other players.  We often do not shoot first and are content in our questing. However, I enjoy not knowing what will happen next. I enjoy the anticipation of passing near another ship while holding our fire waiting to see who will fire first or if the peace will continue.  I suppose it is all about perception; we usually don’t rage quit even if we are sunk but we have a crew member who will drop everything to hunt down someone who has dealt a blow to us. Their ship will sink before the night ends, at least once, possibly twice.  Therein lies the fun. Sea of Thieves is what you make it.

A Unique Experience Each Session

This game above all else provides an experience that is unique each time it is played.  I rarely feel like I am grinding for Pirate Legend. Rather I feel more like we are celebrating the weekend.  We are enjoying an experience together when we play and reconnecting to discuss our goings-on. It is a social experience.  I will discuss the importance of communication to the game later but it should be known the game fosters communication. The larger the ship then the more difficult it is to man solo. Therefore the crew has to use callouts and give instruction on what needs to be done on the ship to be successful.  Also, the battles and skirmishes are not usually constant in the Adventure mode. There is time for chit chat and planning while island hopping. That is if you are not assaulted by a Kraken, Megalodon, or another ship. Do not let your guard down!

Let’s Review The Basics – Choose Your Weapon

Sea of Thieves is a sandbox game where you take on the role of a pirate.  You immediately start with all the weapons available in the game. You can earn new cosmetics for your guns but they all do the same damage per weapon type. For example, a beginners pistol will do the same damage as a Pirate Legend’s pistol.  There are a handful of weapon types: pistol, Eye of Reach (sniper), blunderbuss (shotgun), and sword. The player can equip only two at a time but he/she can choose any combination of these.

Communication Is Key

The game is best played using the in-game chat. The game uses proximity chat for all players, not in your crew. The player can hear crewmates anywhere.  Be careful to mute your mike while sneaking aboard another ship! Although party chat cannot be discounted for stealth reasons; it can work against the crew by not allowing for thieving pirates to be heard.

Rare has done an excellent job accounting for players who may not want to, or be unable to, communicate via voice chat.  The only other game that I think is comparable in this area is Apex: Legends. Sea of Thieves utilizes a click-wheel for pre-built chat commands.  The commands available changes depending on what the player interacts with. While a sword is equipped the command could be “En garde” or “Taste steel”.  A pirate manning the sails could request help with the sail or communicate that they are actively raising or lowering the sail. The person manning the ship’s wheel could call for a heading.  All of this can be done with just one button press and there are numerous types of communications. Just recently I played the game with my brother who needed silent comms because of family reasons. He utilized in-game communications.  In doing so, we discovered that there are even unique communications based on held quest items.

Know Your Traders

New players need to know that there are several voyages to choose from.  The player can choose to do the Order of Souls, Merchant’s Alliance, or Gold Hoarders voyages.  The Order of Souls consists of a vendor, who is a user of dark magic, brewer of potions, and a collector of skulls; seemingly a practitioner of  Voodoo. She will send the player on quests to fight and collect bounties for Skeleton Captains who are hiding beneath the sand on the islands in the Sea of Thieves.

The Merchant’s Alliance voyages are not as dismal as those from the  Order of Souls. Still, players should expect a few skeletons along the way to complete these quests.  There are quite a few different types of quests given by the various Merchant’s scattered through the Outposts. One might be sent to collect a certain number, color, or kind of animal such as pigs, chickens, snakes, etc.  Or the pirate might be asked to deliver a shipment of cargo to a location before a certain date and time. The cargo may need to be kept dry (cloth), kept intact (glass bottles), or kept alive (plants). You will need to keep your pocket watch and compass handy during all of these.   

The Gold Hoarders are a collection of greedy characters that usually have part of their body encased in gold.  Despite their moral deficiency, they will be more than happy to cooperate with you by selling you a treasure map that will lead to an island with an “X Marks the Spot”. I suppose you can see where this is going. Dig up the treasure chest marked by the “X”.  The second type of quest given is somewhat less straightforward. The player will receive a piece of parchment with a clue or riddle leading to an island. Upon reaching the island, the second clue will be revealed with a third to follow once the second clue is solved.  Usually, the third clue results in a treasure chest. These clues tend to be a riddle that will lead the pirate on a scavenger hunt across the island.

Let’s Form An Alliance!

After choosing weapons, and voyages the crew is set for a true open world experience in a pirate’s paradise where almost anything can happen.  Many pirates have discovered that it is often better to work together through an Alliance than to hunt and grief other ships. Often times the aggressive crew wastes resources and time attacking another ship only to find they have no cargo or loot. The players’ time is often better spent working together with another ship or continuing on their quests alone.

The alliance system is a great feature for the game that was not present at launch because it allows crews to work cooperatively by sharing plunder and mutually increasing reputation.  When another ship turns in loot you will be granted around half the amount in gold and earn reputation. There is no effect on the crew turning in the loot as they receive the full amount. Some people become stuck on the percentage withheld from the payouts. I do not see a tradeoff here. I have found that an alliance almost always results in gold that I would not have otherwise obtained. Not to mention the added protection if the two ships are within close proximity of each other.  If one is really set to not share loot between ships; then it might be best to form an alliance and then the two crews go their separate ways. However, I have also used the alliance to negotiate a cooperative raid on a Skeleton Fort and then we divided up the loot based on what reputations we needed to increase. For example, we had a couple of pirates that were nearing Pirate Legend and only needed rep with the Order of Souls. So we asked if we could have the skulls and allowed for the rest to go to our allied crewmates.

Anniversary Update

This update, to me, has been the most impactful and fun one yet.  When I try to prioritize what new features I like the best, the first one that comes to mind is Hunter’s Call.  This brings fishing to the game. It may seem so simple but remember, in the vanilla version, there was almost no need to interact with the sea other than to dive into a sunken ship to seek treasure.  So fishing off a pier, beach, or ship is something new entirely. Rare has included a plethora of fish. All of which can be collected from the sea and either traded with Hunter’s Call trading company or cooked and eaten for health.  The rarest fish can only be caught under certain conditions using a particular bait. Fish can be caught with no bait at all too. As is with the other trading companies, Reputation and gold in higher amounts can be earned with higher levels.  Also, trophy fish are worth more.

Previous to the update the only food for healing was bananas; the update has brought various other foods such as coconuts, mango, pomegranate, etc.  These all do various amounts of healing but all food is better cooked. Also, not only can fish now be cooked and eaten but snakes, pigs, and chickens, sharks, and meg meat can too. There is even a new health meter that fills once the main meter has already been filled.  If a pirate takes damage while the secondary meter is filled then a regeneration effect will occur that fills the primary meter. The only way to fill the secondary meter is to eat cooked food. Cooked food can be traded with Hunter’s Call.

The Adventure Continues, Grows

Thus far, the only way to experience Sea of Thieves was through the “Adventure Mode”.  The experience has been rebranded since the creation of the Arena Mode but it is essentially the traditional experience. What is new are the Tall-Tales that can be completed in adventure mode.  The quests culminate to the Shores of Gold campaign. The storyline ties into the Sea Of Thieves novel Athena’s Fortune.  I have not read the book but I am seriously contemplating doing so because of the quality of this questline and the characters that make it up.

The new quests include narrative quest givers.  This is new to Sea of Thieves. Rare nailed it! Previously, a quest giver may have written dialogue but there were almost no voice-overs and only a little animation.  I hope to see this feature fleshed out more with future updates. The quest givers voice overs are excellent and the characters come alive with movement and with their own musical themes.  This adds so much depth to the experience. I found myself not wanting to miss a single one. Be sure you are near your crewmate when quest items are turned in during the Tale Tales quests.  The first quest is given by the mysterious stranger in any Outpost’s tavern. The crew will need to vote on the book near him. To be fair, I have completed three of the six journal books in the Shores of Gold campaign.  Therefore, I cannot review the questline in its entirety. However, it is fair to say that this content drop has me wanting to come home to play Sea of Thieves over other games in my library. I have not been able to say that for months.  

Juxtaposed to the quest givers are the Skeleton Lords.  Think of these as Skeleton Captains on steroids. Rare has developed these to be actual boss encounters.  Now I have only taken down one of these, Cpt. Briggsy. Let me tell you, she is a tough one too. She has quite a few abilities that make this encounter a true boss battle.  One she talks and taunts, a lot. She also has the ability to vanish, raise skeletons from the sand to fight for her, and she has a ground pound. The latter serves as an AOE that can launch one flying which can result in fall damage because of the small but verticle island she is located on.  Our crew had a time defeating her but it was a fun encounter. I look forward to fighting the other Lords.

Lastly, Rare is truly dedicated to creating an epic adventure in these Tall Tales.  Rare was especially careful to create a system that would not funnel pirate crews into the same dungeons and riddles within the Anniversary quests.  In order to control for this, there are multiple combinations of islands and puzzles for each Journal per Tall Tale. This helps spread out the crews on the servers so that players experiences are unique and that they form their own stories.  This also means that the Tall Tales can be replayed and the quests will have changed.

The Sea of Salt Has A Home

The Arena is the newly minted PVP encounter for the game.  The title “Arena” conveys the pace of combat and the competitive atmosphere between crews as they race to capture loot and silver before the others galleons can.  However, it does not convey the scale. I was expecting a more isolated version of the map. It is a smaller map than the one played on in Adventure but it does not feel that way.  More so, it feels that your galleon is on the Sea of Thieves fighting over possession of a handful of maps and the treasure that lay beneath the sand there. The space between islands and the Sea Dogs is spaced in a way that it creates the illusion that you might still be on the Adventure map.  

While in the arena you commandeer a galleon consisting of a four-person crew. Your objective is to obtain silver.  Silver is specific to the match. Whatever crew has the most silver when the time runs out, wins the game. All crews earn gold at the end of a match based on their placement.  In order to obtain silver the crew will need to either; find and return treasure chests to the Sea Dogs, damage or sink another ship, and defeat other crewmen or women. It is imperative that your ship does not sink.  The crew will lose silver and respawn elsewhere on the map. To be honest, I am not great at PVP in this game. That is to say that I have enjoyed the Arena much more than I thought I would. It makes all the difference going into the Arena knowing every ship you see is a target and so are you.  The pace is so fast that everyone finds a role to do on the ship. The game mode is not overly complicated and easily approachable if one is familiar with Capture The Flag.

Damage To Ships Updated

With the newest content drop, we have also received an updated damage system for ships. The galleons now take damage to places other than just the hull.  The masts, wheel, and capstan (anchor) can all take damage, become faulty, and need be repaired. All are repaired with planks. All but the masts can be done immediately just as with the repairing the hull.  The masts must first be raised back into position and then braced with boards. The masts can be raised at the rigging in the same way one would raise and lower the sails. There was also an update to the way the hull takes damage.  Previously, if the ship takes damage in the exact same place where another cannonball landed, then the second impact would not cause any more water volume to pour into the ship. That has changed with the update. The holes will grow bigger in size and more water pours in. It will take longer to repair these holes.   

No Rest For The Wicked

In conclusion, I am very happy with the current state of the game.  Rare has done an excellent job mapping out how new content will impact the game and enrich the experience.  Each update has been a step forward culminating into the Anniversary Update, which is by far my favorite. The experience feels much more immersive and meaningful.  Sea of Thieves leverages the unknown for players to enjoy experiences in a shared world through adventuring with friends and acquaintances. Players can form their own legendary feats or complete tall tales that have been laid out for them. I cannot wait to see what else Rare will do with the game. I know I will be playing this for a long time. After all, a pirate’s lust for gold is never sated. Everything goes on the Sea of Thieves.

Josh is a husband and a father to a family that loves to game together. He first experienced video games on the SNES. He is a strong believer that video games are best enjoyed with good company and a strong brew of coffee.

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