Sea Of Thieves

- Developer Rare Publisher Microsoft Studios Format PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series Release 2018

Rare has seemingly achieved the impossible with its pirate adventure game. With barely a hint of narrative direction (although it is there, with events explained via snippets of background lore and details hidden in quests within the wider world), the studio has created a game of almost infinite stories. Stories of daring and adventure and stories of subterfuge and betrayal, all created entirely by you. Gentle nudges towards the disparate factions stationed at the outposts you spawn into provide the foundation­s upon which you build these tales. And while interactio­ns with other players can – and do – spoil these experience­s, they also enrich them in ways rarely seen in other games.

Now into its fourth year, Sea Of Thieves sits uniquely within the live service genre. Success is measured differentl­y here. Time spent isn’t rewarded with equipment spoken of in hushed tones: there is no “best gun in the game” or any particular­ly sought-after armour set. You cannot upgrade your ship to improve its speed or manoeuvrab­ility, and other than cosmetics, there is no immediatel­y discernibl­e difference between a new player and one with a thousand hours behind them. Instead, mastery of your ship distinguis­hes you. Trimming your sails and navigating a world that provides no clear guidance, digging up treasure and

returning it to outposts for gold – all this is perhaps what pushes you forward, but it is what happens in the moments between setting sail and returning with your hull full of treasure that sets the game apart.

Sea Of Thieves has always been a little obtuse in its direction. A commitment to removing all traces of a HUD has meant that new players can struggle to find their way. Taking lessons learned over the past three years, Rare has tried to rectify this with its latest update, A Pirate’s Life. Launched directly from the menu, this new story-based expansion will spawn you directly in front of the Castaway, from where you can embark on a five-chapter story that blends the world and lore of Sea Of Thieves with Disney’s Pirates Of The Caribbean, featuring Jack Sparrow and his nemesis Davy Jones.

This story-based DLC can be enjoyed without the chaos of another crew, and features elements that bleed into the main world. The tales take you to locations from the movie series and the ride that spawned it, as well as never-before-seen locations, including a dazzling underwater palace of luminescen­t coral. Yet while A Pirate’s Life skilfully builds on Sea Of Thieves’ amorphous lore, it is the remarkable sandbox, with its endless potential for player-authored stories and adventures, that continues to be the main attraction.

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