After an extended hiatus (the reasons for which will become obvious as I continue), I finally put my pirate hat back on last night and joined my crew back on the Sea of Thieves to complete the next Tall Tale (The Seabound Soul) and to see what’s going on in Rares ‘shared world’ adventure.
Now it’s common knowledge that I genuinely love what Rare have done with Sea of Thieves – of all the games I’ve played over this generation, it’s one of very few titles that has truly that has formed long lasting, fun filled memories that I look back on fondly. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I’ve never had more fun with friends when playing video games than I have when crewing a fully stocked Pirate Galleon (Ours is called “The Black Hurl”, thank you very much!) while on our own Goonies-styled adventure. It’s, in my personal view, the best game I’ve played all generation, haters be damned.
Back on Deck
But playing last night for the first time in more than a few months, the holes in the hull have finally begun to show, and I fear, that for me at least, water is pouring in – and I’ve only got a few planks of wood left.
It’s fair to say that Sea of Thieves today is not the same ship that set sail back in 2018. Following the many updates since release, culminating in 2019’s “Anniversary Update”, the game seemingly patched in enough content and adventure to finally silence those who said that the game was overly repetitive – and to give credit where it’s due – Tall Tales were (and continue to be) a fantastic addition to the shared world. For those of you who’ve been living under a rock, Tall Tales is Rares take on a shared world story driven campaign. A series of wonderful adventures, full of unique mechanics and twists that took the familiar locations we’d already spent time with and breathed story, lore and intrigue into the games vast open ocean and various landmasses.
Rare also added Fishing, with it’s own Guild – The Hunters Call – for players to rank up in. The Arena, built for those who want to focus on the joys of nautical PVP was also brought to the game, again with it’s own guild – The Sea Dogs – another path a player can take on their journey to Pirate Legend.
Ah, Pirate Legend – a goal that I coveted, and played many, many hours to obtain, was mine long ago – and for me, and certainly for my crew – this is where the problem begins.
The Good ol’ days…
For players that are new to Sea of Thieves (its population from what I understand, is still very healthy indeed) – you don’t know how easy you have it. Fancy new player onboarding quests, alliances, group earning, all the reward balancing and payouts? Bliss! Skeleton Ships, Megalodons, Super Forts? Wonderful! The world is your oyster.
Back at launch however, in those early, uncharted and often stormy waters, Sea of Thieves was hard. Skeleton Forts, now mostly ignored by my crew and many other more experienced pirates, were viciously fought over, with ships spawning just 1 island away, meaning they could return again and again, whittling down the previous victor. Crews and player interaction occurred often, with hilarious, exhilarating results.
Nautical battles before fire, and cursed cannon balls could go on for hours, until all crews had left to shoot was harsh language. The grind was real, and it was fun, in it’s own way. Every update that came in the first year had us excited to crew and stock the ship once more, valiantly taking The Black Hurl out on to the waves, ready to face off against any pirates that dared challenge us. But once we all hit level 10 in the Athena quest line…the shine started to fade from loot and treasure. We already had millions in gold. We’d already completed every quest, defeated every enemy. Once we’d finished the Tall Tales, I think in our hearts, we all knew that our time on the waves might be coming to an end. I’m still on the hunt for that Shrouded Ghost though, I’m starting to believe it just doesn’t exist.
So as we played last night, we reminisced on our time with Sea of Thieves, and whilst we all love it, we wish there was more for us old deckhands to get on with. Player interaction and the fear of seeing another ship on the horizion has all but disappeared, as actually seeing someone in our play session was rare – it made the world and sandbox, as beautifully imagined and fun to play in as it is – seem empty and devoid of life. We know that there are always more quests to go on, and they seem to form the gist of many of the updates – all variations on a singular theme.
Dig. Shoot. Deliver.
A Pirates Greed
Is it wrong of me to wish for more? There are so many things I want Rare to include. More ships per server, so that the world feels full of life and danger again. AI driven trade ships that follow known and plotted trade routes, that you could take contracts on to loot and plunder, while other crews could perhaps take contracts on to protect? What does my ship and crew mean out here on the waves? Why not include a bounty system on crews that have plundered other players undefeated? I could go on like this for quite a while.
Before hitting level Athena level 10, a hold full of loot and treasure was coveted and meant something to each of us – hours of play, hard fought for. Now, we don’t care if 1000 captains chests go down with the ship – we’re already rich after all.
I know the designers at Rare are probably all to aware of this particular problem. When you make a game with a flat progression structure, it’s hard to balance looking after your new players and taking care of your old. I commend the job they’ve done with making the game more welcoming and easy to understand, but this old Sea-Dog wants a reason to care about his cargo and his quest once more. A small part of me wishes I’d never played at all until now, just so I could relive it all again with a game that’s filled to the brim with things to do. But alas, this old pirate was greedy and made his fortune perhaps just a little too soon.
You might come away from this thinking I don’t love Sea of Thieves at all, but I assure you, that’s not the case. I want more of a reason to go back and explore the unknown again, experience the thrill of chasing down treasure that few people have seen before.
With the games 2nd Anniversary approaching, I’m sure I’m not alone in hoping for another massive, game changing update that really brings some of those lapsed players back.
Don’t forget about us old Legends before we all retire – give us more to covet and fight for, and I’ll be first in line to raise the anchor.