What a dif­fer­ence a year makes Spy­glasss in hand, we voy­aged Rare to get a good look at the brand-new con­tent in the Sea Of Thieves An­niver­sary up­date.

XBox: The Official Magazine - - CONTENTS - Adam Bryant

Two of us stand, stranded on a small is­land in the mid­dle of a rag­ing thun­der­storm. The pour­ing rain is thrash­ing about in the wind as we guard five chests brim­ming with gold. Our galleon is cir­cling the is­land, but poor vis­i­bil­ity and crash­ing waves are mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for our cap­tain to find the is­land, and we only have five min­utes left to cash-in our trea­sure. With hope tick­ing away by the sec­ond, we ask our­selves, how did it go so hor­ri­bly wrong?

Since its re­lease, Sea Of Thieves has been a game about peo­ple com­ing to­gether and cre­at­ing their own stories. In the past year there has been a steady re­lease of con­tent that added new ways to play and things to do, which stays true to that core vi­sion. The Hun­ger­ing Deep added a new threat in the world with the Me­ga­lodon, Cursed Sails brought AI-con­trolled skele­ton ships to bat­tle on the waves. The For­saken Shores in­creased the size of the map ad­ding The Devil’s Roar, a whole new area to ex­plore, and Shrouded Spoils put a lit­tle bow on all of that by bring­ing fog into the game and chang­ing up the way you play. The game has come a long way in such a short amount of time, but now with the re­cent re­lease of its An­niver­sary up­date, Sea Of Thieves has changed more than ever.

The Arena adds a PVP mode, which is sep­a­rate from the main game and is now called ‘Ad­ven­ture’, in which play­ers gather gold to be­come top of the leader­board. Gath­er­ing gold can be done in dif­fer­ent ways,

such as mak­ing solid hits with can­nons, sink­ing ships, find­ing trea­sure and hand­ing in your booty at cash-in points that are de­noted by ships bil­low­ing plumes of red smoke into the sky. It’s a self-con­tained mode that al­lows peo­ple to play in a way that hasn’t been pos­si­ble be­fore.

“For me, when­ever I play Sea Of Thieves Ad­ven­ture, or I watch peo­ple play, I just get lost for hours,” ex­plains Rare stu­dio head Craig Dun­can. “We see our av­er­age ses­sion lengths and it’s north of 90 min­utes, and we didn’t re­ally have Sea Of Thieves on de­mand in a bite-sized way be­fore. I mean, if you’re go­ing to play Sea Of Thieves over a week­end, you’re com­mit­ting to a multi-hour ses­sion. What I love about Arena is that [it’s] 24 min­utes of, ‘I can play a Sea Of Thieves Arena ses­sion, and I can do it in a bite-sized way, and it has an end and I know what the goals are.’ That’s some­thing that we haven’t served up un­til now that I think is re­ally im­por­tant.”

No quar­ter

Our first Arena ses­sion starts as nor­mal. Each crew re­ceives a ran­dom selec­tion of maps show­ing lo­ca­tions of buried trea­sure (dur­ing one ses­sion we were given only one) and we im­me­di­ately set sail to­wards an is­land we recog­nise. But we’re not the only ones, two other ships are head­ing in the same di­rec­tion and they’re al­most al­ready at the is­land. We hold back and, pre­dictably, the two ships be­gin to fight each other, so we take the op­por­tu­nity to slip onto the is­land un­no­ticed. But as we do a third enemy ship ar­rives and fires a bar­rage of can­non­balls at

“When­ever I play Sea Of Thieves Ad­ven­ture, or I watch peo­ple play, I just get lost for hours”

us. We fire back, but it all gets a bit heated so we re­treat and sail away to a dif­fer­ent is­land. Tak­ing a look at the ship’s map, which dis­plays the lo­ca­tion of each ri­val crew, we see that we’re not be­ing fol­lowed. We ar­rive near the is­land and two of us swim ashore. The other two crew mem­bers ma­noeu­vre the ship to circle the is­land, but a storm be­gins to brew. We find all of the trea­sure chests on the is­land, but our ship is lost in the storm. We’re sec­ond from last on the leader­board, but if we can hand in at least two of these chests it will bump up our po­si­tion to at least third place. We can just about see our ship through the tem­pest, so we each grab a chest and swim for it. We’re run­ning out of time but mirac­u­lously we make it and head for the cash-in point. By the time we reach it there’s only one minute left, so grab­bing the two chests, we jump ship to hand them in. We man­age to hand in one of them but the team that was in last place has man­aged to jack up its score, over­tak­ing us. The game ends, and we tum­ble hope­lessly into last place.

The Arena may fo­cus on PVP, but it’s still very much part of the Sea Of Thieves ex­pe­ri­ence. Even though we came last it was an ex­hil­a­rat­ing ses­sion in which we cre­ated our own story and ad­ven­ture. Sea shanties The Tall Tales mode changes things up once again by giv­ing play­ers a crafted nar­ra­tive that they can en­joy with their friends as part of the shared world. You’ll still come across ev­ery­thing you would in Ad­ven­ture mode, but now there’s more op­por­tu­nity for es­capades. At the start of our mis­sion to lo­cate the Shores Of Gold, we fol­lowed the di­rec­tions found within the Pi­rate Lord’s jour­nal and ended up not only fight­ing with the Kraken, but we also brushed up against the Me­ga­lodon (which thank­fully only seemed in­ter­ested in check­ing us out) and went up against a Skele­ton ship that sunk us. All of which was on the same jour­ney. We had a blast solv­ing the puz­zles and fig­ur­ing out how to reach the dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions, and at ev­ery

mo­ment we felt in con­trol and im­mersed in the world, just as be­fore. And it’s not the only ad­ven­ture Rare is tak­ing us on.

“Shores Of Gold is just the start,” says de­sign direc­tor Mike Chap­man. “Tall Tales as a plat­form al­lows us to do on­go­ing story con­tent, and I think Tall Tales rep­re­sents the tip of the ice­berg. You have nine tales that play out as part of that cam­paign but this is an on­go­ing plat­form for us, play­ers are go­ing to see on­go­ing story con­tent in Sea Of Thieves.”

With all of this con­tent you now have new ways of be­com­ing a Pi­rate Leg­end: you can work with the Sea Dogs in Arena, and the Hunter’s Call with fish­ing. Add those to the Gold Hoard­ers, Mer­chant Al­liance and Or­der Of Souls, and you now have a to­tal of five com­pa­nies that al­low you to progress, giv­ing play­ers more flex­i­bil­ity in choos­ing their own path. And Rare won’t stop there. It’s com­mit­ted to build­ing the game with the com­mu­nity, lis­ten­ing to feed­back and ad­ding to the game to en­rich ev­ery­one’s ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I think what we’re do­ing now, with Tall Tales and Arena, is that nat­u­ral evo­lu­tion of, we’ve de­liv­ered that core vi­sion of Sea Of Thieves, now it’s about giv­ing play­ers dif­fer­ent routes to en­joy that fan­tas­tic ex­pe­ri­ence,” says Chap­man.

If you’ve yet to pick up Sea Of Thieves, or have swam ashore to wait for a good rea­son to re­turn, now has never been a bet­ter time to plun­der the high seas.

the of­fi­cial xbox mag­a­zine

Above This an­gry pi­rate mis­tak­enly thought we were check­ing out his booty.

far right The new Tall Tales mode presents play­ers with a nar­ra­tive path to fol­low.

be­low There are now more ways than ever to get rich and make progress, in­clud­ing by work­ing with the Sea Dogs.

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