My opinion of Sea of Thieves has changed a lot since it first released in March of this year. My initial disappointment over what the game offered in gameplay compared to what was both promised and suggested. Cursed Sails is the biggest content drop yet for Sea of Thieves. Since launch however RARE have been focused on responding to that feedback by starting to add new content to the game which began with the ‘Hungering Deep’ DLC and more recently with the bi weekly community events thanks to the Bilge Rat Adventures. Now we have had the launch of the largest content drop to the game since launch in ‘Cursed Sails’ which not only brings a new threat to the seas in the form of deadly Skeleton Crew galleons but also new features that greatly change the game for players and has already attracted many who perhaps put the game down to pick it up once more.
It does have to be stated just how much the Cursed Sails DLC brings to Sea of Thieves in terms of new content and features, many of which are the end result of little adjustments made to the game in the months since launch. This FREE content adds a brand new ship in the form of the Brigantine as well as adding ‘Alliances’ finally to the game world which is a definite game changer going forward but will come to that a little later on. First let me begin with the story side to this DLC.
Players had been finding little teasers in the week leading up to the launch of Cursed Sails which all pointed to the Weapons smith Wanda who is based on Golden Sands Outpost. Returning to her shop in Cursed Sails reveals that Wanda has gone missing along with her assistant Salty and now her sister Wonda is looking after her shop. Her disappearance is linked to the sudden appearance of deadly Skeleton ships which are terrorizing the regions of the world so much that they have placed Totems on each of the outposts which have scared all the shop keepers into closing their shops for fear of looting. Players have two real objectives in this DLC which starts with solving the mystery of Wanda’s disappearance and to hunt down and defeat the Skeleton Ships to free the region from the threat.
Starting with Wanda’s quest and this is something I really want to see put into the game far more and not just in expansion DLC packs. Just as in the Hungering Deep, players will need to find and solve the clues left behind in order to piece together that has happened to Wanda. This will involve travelling to different locations as you follow each clue and really helps to expand the lore of the game and is the kind of thing I had hoped would be in the game far more than it has been. It is great fun to just go and solve a mystery and just adds a fun and new discovery element to being in the world that is much needed. Sadly just as it was in Hungering Deep, this quest is rather short in length but it does open the story in the world very nicely to such an extent I would love to see more of these mystery solving side quests to be used to tell more stories about the characters in this world from the many shop keeps to the three factions that players spend so much time doing voyages for on their journey to Pirate Legend. I do hope that RARE look at this going forward as being something they can add more of into the game going forward.
The biggest element to this DLC comes in the form of the Skeleton Crewed ships running amok in the seas. By visiting various outposts, players will discover strange totems left by the skeleton crews which serves as a warning to anyone on the outposts but to players as well, giving them a clue to where they might be found on the seas and also when they will appear. There are three skeleton crews to battle and each one will only appear for ten days at different times of the in game monthly calendar so for example one skeleton crew will appear from the 1st to the 10th of the month then 11th to 20 and 21st to 30. Each one will be in a different region of the map and will be representing a group of outposts coming under the banners of ‘The Shores of Plenty’, ‘The Ancient Isles’ and ‘The Wilds, which players will need to follow directions on each totem to guide them to the location for the battle to be triggered. The battles themselves work very much like the Skeleton Skull Fort raids in which players will need to sink waves of skeleton crew ships in order to draw out the Skeleton Captain to then defeat it. Two Skeleton Crewed ships form each wave and can work together to take down a single player ship.
To help even the odds another new feature has been added in order to allow player ships to work together for mutual benefit in the form of Alliances. The Hungering Deep DLC was the first to actively encourage positive team work between player ships but now with the Alliances feature, it can all be made official. A ship can now fly a pendant to indicate whether that ship is looking to form an alliance or to join one. Being in an Alliance means that all loot and reputation from the voyages and tasks completed from all the ships in that Alliance are shared with the crew handing in the loot getting 100% of the rewards whilst every other ship in the alliance will get a percentage which so far is about 50%. So if one ship hands in a Captain’s Chest for 1000 gold they will get all of that gold whilst another ship in the Alliance will get 500 gold from it. This is a great way to share the spoils and reputation gained from completing normal voyages and loot.
Alliances also help with the Skeleton ship battles as they can prove rather tough with just one ship so having your own armada of shorts will help the chances of success. The big reason why these encounters can be so tough is because of the brand new use of Cursed Cannon balls that the Skeletons can use. These range from being able to freeze the rudder of your ship making it impossible to turn until it wears of, the ability to make everyone suddenly drunk which as players will know, stops you from being able to finish tasks such as repairing or fighting until your pirate sobers up to the funniest and probably deadliest one yet that makes the crew all stop what they are doing to have a little dance and whilst that sounds more funny than deadly, picture having your whole crew just dancing on the spot as your ship needs to have water bailed and holes repaired or about to crash into something and you cant move.
Each week of the three week run of Cursed Sails, three new skeleton ships will appear in new locations and with new cursed cannon balls which could range from raising the sails on your ship to giving all the crew broken legs making it hard to move quickly on the ship. Not to mention that the Skeleton Crews are a pretty good shot as well so the fight itself was already tough but with cursed cannon balls it just gives the fight a new level of danger making them very interesting indeed.
Along with the Alliance feature comes the first new ship type for Sea of Thieves in the Brigantine. This ship sits comfortably between the two people crewed Sloop and the heavy hitting four people Galleon. The Brigantine can have a maximum of three crew members and is a two sailed ship that is faster than the sloop and almost as manoeuvrable but it also has double the cannons of a sloop with four cannons, two either side of the ship. Like the Sloop it has only two decks in top and below unlike the three of the Galleon but I really do like this ship. Not only can you have an extra crew member to help sail it but it is very formidable in battle as well with four cannons and enough speed and agility to make it a real threat against other ships including the big hitting Galleon class.
RARE really has done a superb job with all the new features brought into Sea of Thieves with Cursed Sails and gives me a lot of hope for the future. The skeleton ship battles are challenging and fun and the new ship is my favourite to use now and the Alliance feature adds a new social aspect for players that have been asking for quite often since launch. Now of course being Pirates means that not all of us can be trusted and even in an Alliance there is still a very real risk of betrayal at some point so you must still be on your guard. The past two months has seen some great steps to making Sea of Thieves the game fans had been hoping for when it launched including the Bilge Rat Adventures, the biweekly community special events that can earn players the new Bilge Rat currency of Doubloons which can be either exchanged for gold, used to buy cosmetic items or to purchase letters of reputation that can instantly give you a full level of reputation for any of the three main guilds in the game, Gold Hoarders, Order of Souls and Merchants which speeds up the journey to Pirate Legend.
Whilst so many changes and additions are positive for the game, there are still elements that need to be paid attention to by RARE to keep this game evolving in a good way. The community is still plagued at times by the toxicity of a few and though it can be argued that trolling is just a part of being what a true Pirate would be, it does tarnish the game somewhat and personally I would rather have an option not to crossplay with PC players just because of their natural advantage over console players by use of mouse and keyboard and that almost every encounter my crew and I have had with PC players often results in a negative experience. There is also the problem of game updates and stability of the game such as with the new Cursed Sails content going live, it took an hour for most players to log into the game after it went live on launch day because so many rushed back to the game only for the game to suffer from empty servers in the days that followed as servers failed to populate enough players to form an alliance in some cases. Two features of the game had to be turned off as this content launched due to late minute issues being found so currently as I write this both Kraken encounters and Skull Fort raids have been deactivated in the game. So we get new content but old content is switched off temporarily.
That all said, just as the Hungering Deep had a massively positive influence on the game and community when it launched, Cursed Sails is certainly doing the same by bringing more content to enjoy, new ship to sail and ways of encouraging the community to play positively which leads to new friendships being forged. Not to mention that this is all free, so there is no better time to pick up the game right now and give it a try as it is still including in the Xbox Games Pass and can be found pretty cheap online by itself. In September we will get the next expansion in Forsaken Shores as a brand new area on the map will be revealed along with row boats. Right now we do not know the plan for content after Forsaken Shores or whether any new expansions will continue to be free as we know that micro-transactions are coming into the game when Pirate Pets are introduced at some point, possibly with Forsaken Shores.
Cursed Sails is just so much fun and I even manage to reach Pirate Legend status a few days after it launched. I am feeling far more confident and hopeful for Sea of Thieves at this point if RARE can continue to deliver new and fresh content like this going forward and for the game to evolve further and thrive, they will need to keep this going. It is a genuinely fun game to play now and if you can find a regular crew to sail with it becomes something truly amazing to share with friends. There are growing social media community groups to find people to play Sea of Thieves with and Microsoft just announced five million players for the game so things are looking up for this game in a good way.
Definitely worth checking out if you are yet to try Sea of Thieves and if you have played it and perhaps moved away then fire it up and see if the new changes and features can convince you to stay and play. For me, Cursed Sails is the best content yet for the game and everything does allow me to have more confidence in the future of Sea of Thieves.