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  • Writer's pictureStu

Not all treasure is silver and gold, mate.

Updated: Jul 12, 2021

It's been a while since I talked about Sea of Thieves here. For a long while it was the game I played the most, tweeted about the most, wrote about the most, and that drove most of the traffic to this little site - and then... I ran out of steam with it. Running with 3 regular crews just burned me out a bit, I think. It all got a bit much, and I just kind of wandered away from it. Destiny 2 getting good again probably contributed to it, in retrospect, but... yeah. Sometimes, you can have enough of a good thing.

I looked back on my days as Cap'n Pharaoh - proprietor of my own "Boom-Boom Delivery Service" - fondly, but didn't really have any desire to revisit them. And then... Rare dropped the trailer for A Pirate's Life, and suddenly I was faced with a quandary. All the crews I'd sailed with in the past seemed excited by the announcement, and made clear that the time was coming when they'd want to hit the waves again - but my own response to it was far more muted. In case you've not been paying attention, this new expansion was going to bring the world of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean franchise into Sea of Thieves via a series of brand spanking new Tall Tales. Everyone I knew seemed to lose their minds at the idea of sailing with Captain Jack Sparrow at their side - but I wasn't so sure.

Being a general fan of videogames, every so often you see an announcement that just leaves you asking why anyone would think that {insert name of thing here} is... necessary. Usually, they aren't necessary, strictly speaking - but they do offer up a big new commercial opportunity that's enough to make the money men behind the scenes clear their throats, straighten their ties, and reach for the calculators. A lot of gamers forget that videogame development companies are businesses first and foremost - and cash motivates a lot of decisions. Sea of Thieves, though, had never really felt that way. Not until now, anyway. For the first time, it felt to me as though my favourite pirate game was following the money... and it didn't feel good.

One of the things I've always loved about Sea of Thieves is the way in which it wears its influences on its sleeves; treading that fine line between homage and rip-off like a high-wire performer. If you play Sea of Thieves enough, you'll spot lots of little nods to pop culture references - everything from Jaws to The Goonies and, yes, Pirates of the Caribbean is there to be chuckled knowingly at - making us players feel special because we're in on the joke in a way that few other games manage to gracefully. In spite of those nods and winks though, it's always been staunchly its own thing - and I guess I was worried that a line was about to be crossed. A line that would turn my pirate fantasy into a watered-down version of someone else's.

In retrospect, it was foolish of me not to trust Rare a bit more with this - because my first response was utterly and spectacularly wrong.

My first inkling that I was maybe being a tad harsh with my first impressions came when a video hit the Sea of Thieves YouTube channel. Rare's team regularly share behind-the-scenes bits and pieces, and they're always interesting to watch - but this one was just wonderful. The development team interviewed all came across like a bunch of excited school children who've been handed the keys to the tuck shop and can't quite believe their luck. Their enthusiasm and reverence for their game and for the franchise they were about to integrate heavily into it were palpable - and infectious. Watching it, I realised - and not for the first time - that these guys are even more passionate about their game and the inspiration behind it than we, the fans are. I'm sure this expansion will drive money into Rare's coffers (and it totally should!), I was reminded of just how jaded and cynical I've become about games. Watching these guys, I was left feeling that maybe I shouldn't always leap to view these things in the darkest possible light.

So, suspecting I was probably wrong about how these were going to pan out, I jumped into the first one with some mates a couple of nights ago - and at that point, my suspicions that my first impressions were poor were proven conclusively.

Within about 15 minutes of starting the first Tall Tale up, I knew that I was playing something that felt absolutely at home in Sea of Thieves. My fears that Disney's massive franchise would swallow up the one I love were unfounded, based on what I've experienced so far - instead, we're presented with a story that crashes these worlds together in a way that feels as though it will do justice to both of them, critically with neither of them really playing second fiddle to the other. There are a lot of things that I could say that end up spoiling something, so I'll say no more on the actual content of the Tall Tale itself - other than that if you look around one area hard enough, you'll find a lovingly crafted easter egg that references another famous pirate franchise that Disney own the rights to.

If you're new to Sea of Thieves, then A Pirate's Life is the perfect place to start - as it provides a soft introduction to a lot of the game's mechanics in a comparatively risk free environment. It honestly almost feels like this was the tutorial mission that the game needed when it first launched. The first Tall Tale is instanced to your crew - so you won't come across other players looking to sink you while you're on your adventure. My hope is that later ones are too, but I'll find out for sure in the coming weeks. I could probably find that out from YouTube at this point - but I've a feeling that, like the other Tall Tales in the game, I won't want to have these ruined for me by looking up information on them before experiencing them for myself for the first time. If you're a salty old seadog, or maybe a lapsed buccaneer, this expansion is as good a reason as we've had for a while to weigh anchor and aim for the horizon. From what I've experienced so far, we're in for a real treat.

Have you checked out A Pirate's Life? Are you a Sea of Thieves regular? Or did you never find your sea legs? Hit me up on Twitter and let me know!


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