I've always found there are two types of Sea of Thieves players: the ones who take it seriously and the ones who simply want to drink grog and aimlessly sail from island to island.
There's nothing wrong with the latter (as long as you're not dragging down strangers) and I myself fall somewhere between the two categories, often booting up the game with the intention of becoming a pirate legend but ultimately being influenced by friends who want to relentlessly bash out sea shanties on every instrument at their disposal.
The reason I think I fall into this same grog-soaked trap, again and again, is because I've never really felt a connection to developer Rare's pirate adventure. Its characters often feel like passing faces, its lore there only for those who look for it, and the world can sometimes feel quite overwhelming for new players. It's like I missed the boat, if you will, on becoming ingrained in that community.
But Rare's recent preview event could encourage me to dive back into the waters of Sea of Thieves once more - and actually engage this time.
Sailing into new territory
The Sea of Thieves preview event (which you can watch above) detailed Rare's plans to make the game world a "richer and more dynamic place". As such, the developer announced it will be "evolving and expanding" how it updates the game going forward.
You might assume that means more regular, chunkier updates to seasons, but the developer is going one step further than that, with plans to add two new storytelling features to the game.
The first of these features is Adventures which, according to Rare, are "story-driven live events", which will release once a month and last two weeks - with a cinematic kicking off each new one. Adventures will act as a chapter within an overarching story that's unfolding in Sea of Thieves.
Adventures are a "chance for players to immerse themselves in the world and the story of Sea of Thieves more", Rare said in the preview. "We want to get players to care about the places and characters." In other words, the aim is for players to have more of an emotional attachment to the game - something that has been a struggle for me previously - so they feel like part of the story and the world.
Each season of Sea of Thieves is set to feature one "special" adventure that will bring several story elements to a conclusion before the overarching narrative moves in a new direction. The interesting part here is that the Sea of Thieves community will apparently be responsible for the outcome of the story (how exactly Rare didn't say), with the world - and ongoing storyline - changing as a result of those decisions.
"This is very much part of players being at the heart of the ongoing storytelling in Sea of Thieves and being responsible for moving the world forwards," Rare said.
Tying Sea of Thieve's narrative together is certainly news to my ears. It offers a chance to jump into the game as a fairly new player once again and to ride the wave of these changes as they happen. However, I can't help but worry that the limited time these adventures run could be an obstacle further down the line. What if you miss an adventure and a chunk of the narrative? Will it still be relatively easy to jump back in without feeling behind? I certainly hope so and, ideally that's something Rare is taking into account - with recaps perhaps included in between adventures.
Mysteries at sea
The second storytelling element Rare is introducing is Mysteries. Influenced by murder mysteries and whodunnits, Mysteries are stories that players will see players having to work together to solve. Rare explained that it will begin releasing clues - both in and out of the game - with the first Mystery set to have players solve the murder of a well-known Sea of Thieves character.
Mysteries will evolve over a longer period of time than Adventures, but will still play into the overarching narrative of the game.
Asking the Sea of Thieves community to don their deerstalkers and begin connecting the dots of these mysteries feels like a stroke of genius. After all, gaming Reddit is already filled with theories, rumors and leaks: why not put that energy into something that will benefit the game itself? It's certainly a smart community-centered feature, encouraging players to engage both in and out of the game itself, that looks to add an extra dimension to this dynamic world that Rare says it wants to create in 2022.
But what about seasons?
But where do seasons fit in with all of this? Well, according to Rare, the seasons themselves - and the content within them - will be explained by both Adventures and Mysteries and they too will be getting a shake up this year.
The upcoming Season 6 will introduce Sea Forts, which will provide a new mini-raid experience, that will see players battling captains and phantoms to unlock the fort's treasure and claim the rewards inside. These will apparently provide a more personal experience than the run-of-the-mill forts already in the game.
And, once again playing into the plans to build a more fleshed-out world, how these forts came to be will apparently be explained in the overarching story.
Rare describes its strategy for this year as "more ambitious than ever" and it certainly sounds like it, but there is collateral damage as a result of that ambition. Arena, the game's PvP mode, is shutting down in the coming months (though only 2% of players' time is actually spent in the mode), with Rare disrupting its development efforts into the new features it outlines. You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs, I guess.
It's unclear exactly when in 2022 these changes will start rolling out, but we do know Shrouded Islands is set to be Sea of Thieve's next adventure. Rare's plans are certainly ambitious but, if it can pull them off, then Sea of Thieves could be given a new lease of life - that could be the wind in its sails for another four years.
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