There’s no denying that Sea of Thieves is great fun. Whether you’re having a vomit fight with your crew, sailing a ship under the Northern Lights, defeating a skeleton crew or finding buried treasure, if you do anything in Sea of Thieves with friends, it’s an absolute blast. But, if you take a good look at Sea of Thieves, it’s easy to see where the leaks are, where patches are required to stop this rapidly becoming a sinking ship.
I’m not talking about the battle with bug or the variety of Sea of Thieves error codes that you can encounter. It’s obvious from all the communication that the team at Rare is working around the clock to fix all that. It’s the bigger scale stuff, the type of in-game activities that could make this a game that doesn’t make you start to question “Is it that it?” after you go on yet another fetch quest.
Rare has confirmed that it is going to give us free Sea of Thieves updates going forward, with the first major patch scheduled for around three months after launch. Rumour has it that this update will introduce live events of some kind and expand the map, but apart from that your guess is as good as mine. For now, we’ve put our pirate heads to it and put together a list of the updates that would make Sea of Thieves a better place to be long-term.
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1. Let us create a pirate from scratch
We might as well start at the beginning. Although the Infinite Pirate Generator sounds good on paper, in practice there’s nothing quite as satisfying as just creating your pirate from scratch. Although I was fairly fond of my lady pirate’s cuddly roundness and big moon face to begin with, I now would quite like to put her on a pirate diet that doesn’t just consist of bananas. But that’s not an option in Sea of Thieves. Once you’ve chosen your starter pirate, all you can do is kit them out with new clothes (very expensive ones I might add), there’s not even an option to change hair colour. Allegedly Rare is working on hair colour options and tattoos, but there’s been no talk at all of full character customisation.
2. Put more life in the seas
In all the time I’ve spent playing Sea of Thieves so far, I’ve only met the Kraken once. It was certainly a momentous occasion, especially as we had no idea the darkening waters around us meant the eight-legged beastie was on its way, but I’ve never seen it since. It’s not entirely the Kraken’s fault that the game’s waters feel quite so empty though. Aside from fish that nibble at islands’ shorelines, there’s nothing out there in the big blue.
There would be something quite magical about sailing along only to notice a school of dolphins swimming along beside the boat, or spotting a whale cresting the waves. Heck, there’s tonnes of potential for introducing more mythical beasts to the depths too, from mermaids (which have been seen in screenshots) to Moby Dick himself. I’m not asking for the full cast of The Little Mermaid to rock up the next time I’m hunting for a thingiemajig or a thingamabobs, but a little more variety wouldn’t go amiss.
3. Make outposts more of a destination
The argument about whether to make outposts safe, PVP-free zones constantly rage on Reddit, and I can see both sides. On the one hand, having someone kill you and steal you chests just metres from the Gold Hoarders’ tent is the most frustrating thing ever. On the other, you’re a pirate and pirates aren’t the nice guys.
Regardless of whether outposts become safe zones, what they do need to do is evolve. A trio of shops, a couple of tents and a small tavern all occupied by one NPC each doesn’t make any of the outposts feel like hubbubs. Making them safe zones would help that, with players more willing to hang out at hubs to interact with other players. But there needs to be more to do there too. Mini-games could be part of that, from gambling and shooting competitions to drinking games and fishing. There’s plenty of scope in a pirate’s traditional repertoire to explore that could make outposts a more interesting and lively place to be.
4. Improve the quality of the Merchant Alliance missions
Anyone who’s played Sea of Thieves will know the pain of trying to find chickens for the Merchant Alliance missions. The pesky little feathered beasts are an absolute pain to track down, especially when you need two of the same colour. In fact, it’s the general consensus that the Merchant Alliance missions are the weakest of the three factions. While hunting for treasure using maps and riddles is great fun for the Gold Hoarders, and the battles required for the Order of Souls are incredibly satisfying, there are so many irritations about the repetition and effort required for little reward with the Merchant Alliance. The higher level you get, the more animals and goods you have to find. There’s no challenge apart from actually finding an island with the required creatures on.
Tied into the idea of making the seas more alive, there could be more variation in what you need to find. A Kraken tentacle, whale blubber, a piece of a shipwreck… the list goes on. And you’d soon relish the chance for a cheeky chicken.
While we’re on the subject too, can we just have chicken coops, pig pens and snake baskets as part of our inventory? The fact you have to vote on a Merchant Alliance voyage and then go back to the vendor again to get your basket is insane (especially when you have to do it multiple times if you’re going out solo in a sloop).
5. And make the Merchants themselves more visible
It also seems strange that these merchants are total landlubbers. Never do you see a Merchant Alliance, or other merchants for that matter, sailing the seas with their wares. Imagine if there was an opportunity to take down non-player merchant ships, accompanied perhaps by protective AI ships, full of cargo to plunder. The difficulty in taking them down could increase depending on the cargo they’re carrying, and would help make the world feel like it’s a living and breathing entity, rather than a blank story-telling canvas.
6. Fill the world with mysteries and large scale events
While you might find the odd message in a bottle giving you get another treasure map, the world of Sea of Thieves is crying out for events and mysteries that you can just stumble across. Ghost ship sightings, whale hunts, fishing for the legendary Billy Big Bass, races, sirens masquerading as sirens, discovering the long lost mermaid colony, or other events or side stories would make everything feel less like one long series of fetch quests.
7. Make fighting Skeleton Forts less of a slog
Aimed squarely at filling the slot of a big MMO raid are skeleton forts, which are indicated by a giant skull cloud in the sky with glowing eyes. After defeating around 10-20 waves of different types of skeletons, you get to fight the skeleton captain and potentially get the key to the loot cave. But although there’s nothing quite like defeating a captain and walking away with all that loot, there comes a point somewhere in those 10-20 waves where you feel like things could have been a little more creative. These are team based events, why not make the most of that rather than just using it as a tactic for keeping at least one person alive at all times.
It could be that one person has to hold the loot door open as another sneaks the loot out, while the other members are holding off the skeleton hordes. Or it could be made into more of a quest with several elements of Sea of Thieves’ gameplay combining to make the ultimate quest for loot. For example, beat a smaller number of skeleton waves, tackle the captain, then follow the map to the cave, but you’ve got to get there before the door of the loot cave closes and fight one more captain before you get there. Not quite as complicated as Destiny 2 raids, mind you, but just a little less horde mode.
8. Create a system that makes joining friends easier
There’s nothing more frustrating than having to quit your mission, lose your loot and your journey, all because your pal is finally ready to play. If you want to play with a friend, or add another member of your crew, you have to quit out to the main menu and load it all back up again. Fair enough that the ships have crew limits, but a solo slooper should be able to add a friend to take it up to the max of two, and the same for a three man galleon crew adding a fourth member. Heck, if you've got eight friends wanting to play you can forget trying to get both galleons on the same same server.
If you thought working out how to play Monster Hunter World online with friends was hard, wait until you see how convoluted a system Rare has here.