The galleon was closing fast. Our sloop, while small, was full to the brim with loot. And they wanted all of it. As captain of the SS Thunder Lips, I wasn’t going to let these grievers just take our hard earned treasure without a fight! We were no match for the larger ship though. We knew that. Just to the east, I spotted a volcano. I steered hard right and headed straight for it as it started to erupt. We were counting on the greedy crew of the galleon to follow. They did not disappoint. As we sailed closer, large balls of fire and lava began falling from the skies. The galleon was nearly on top of us now. We had one shot at this. As we passed the island, my crew mate launched our harpoon at a rocky outcropping near the island while I cranked the wheel to the left. As we made our turn, the galleon flew past us, unable to match the agility of our ship. Now our fate was in the hands of the pirate gods. Fate, fortunately, was on our side as we looked backed and watched the large ship get hit with a giant fireball. Then another. And another. We laughed and cheered as the giant vessel disappeared beneath the murky depths. Just another day in the Sea of Thieves.
Alright, maybe that was a little over dramatic. Sometimes I get a little lost in the moment. Truth be told, this kind of thing happens a lot when playing Sea of Thieves. At least if you play it as often as I do. The funny thing is, I never thought I’d find it as enjoyable and entertaining as I do. It certainly had its issues at launch, and to be fair, it still does. While gorgeous and fundamentally sound, it lacked any real depth. Grab a mission from one of three factions, set sail and take care of business. Pretty simple. The game was panned by critics and players alike, just for this reason. I can’t say I disagreed. I played the alpha and beta. I saw the potential for something great. Honestly, it felt like a gut punch on release.
I would play here and there after the initial release, usually by myself. I would do a few voyages and soon get bored and frustrated. I was progressing so slowly that I thought I’d never see level 25 of any of the factions. It was a grind, and a boring one at that. So I left. I left for a long time. Then something happened.
First let me say, credit and congratulations to the entire team at Rare. What they’ve turned this game into is amazing. They heard the cries of the fans. They could have wiped their hands of it and moved onto the next project. But they pushed forward, adding content at a steady pace throughout the first year. Changing and tweaking the game based on fan feedback. The game you see today is not only completely different than what you saw on launch, but it’s a testament to the vision, tenacity, and hard work of every single person at that studio. It’s gone from something that I never thought I’d go back to, to one of my favorite games in the generation. And that’s not hyperbole.
So what changed? Well, a lot. So much so that I don’t have the time to list everything. I started getting back into the game around January of this year. Just here and there. Usually with a good friend of mine who is a far better friend than a pirate. Regardless, having someone there with you makes the entire experience more rewarding, even if their sailing skills are somewhat lacking. When I jumped back in, I found myself pleasantly surprised at everything that was added. First and foremost, an entirely new part of the map, The Devil’s Roar. Filled with hazards and new challenges, I soon found myself reaping some of the rewards of the newly created area. Different types of Megalodons, a new ship class (the brigantine), mermaid statues and so much more. The biggest changes though were found in how the game played. Everything just felt better. Balancing game mechanics I imagine is a tedious task. The development team seemed to have nailed it. That’s not to say it’s perfect. Every month you can check the patch notes and see all of the small tweaks that the team has made. And they’re still hard at it. I found myself playing more and more often. Every time inching closer to pirate legend. I still believed that I wouldn’t reach that goal. Then something happened…again.
With the Sea of Thieves Anniversary update, the team at Rare stepped the game up significantly. They added a PvP experience in The Arena, another faction named The Hunter’s Call and possibly the biggest request from players, Tall Tales. The game finally had a story mode. Now, having completed the mode, I can say it was very well done. The rewards, in my opinion, were a bit lacking, but it was extremely fun and challenging. What it did do was pull me back into the game. Between those story missions and the amount of variety in the rest of the world, it soon became a regular part of my playlist. I started to slowly creep up in standing with all of the factions. I started to say to myself, “Self, I think we may actually be able to hit pirate legend.”
I should have prefaced all of this by saying that time is a precious commodity, as it is to everyone. Time for gaming seems to shrink the older I get. Between family, friends and having a job, I would be lucky to squeeze out a couple of hours a night. With so many games I wanted to play, where would Sea of Thieves fit in? Then I lost my job.
I don’t talk about it much with people. I’m 43 years old and I hadn’t been unemployed since I was 16. I didn’t know what to do. I started suffering from feelings of inadequacy. Those feelings turned to anger. That anger turned into hopelessness as I spiraled down into a place that I had never experienced before. Not even my family and friends knew what I was dealing with. I’m pretty good at internalizing things. I put on a brave face and pushed forward. With all of this newly found time on my hands and not wanting to burden the people closest to me with my struggles, I turned to what I knew; video games. Specifically, Sea of Thieves.
Now I know what you’re thinking, that took a dark turn. Sorry about that. Let me just say, I’m doing fine. While I’m still unemployed, I’m in a much better place than a month ago. I can say that I’ve never been so thankful for my hobby. During a time that was at my lowest, Sea of Thieves gave me a focus point. I won’t go as far as saying a purpose, my family fills that role without question. Amidst all of the chaos and uncertainty, I needed something that provided a goal. That goal was pirate legend.
I know, given the circumstances, that sounds a bit flippant. Maybe a touch irresponsible. If I’ve learned anything in this life, it’s that I need to have structure and goals. For a while after I was let go, I focused on other things. I did a lot of things with my kids over summer break that I normally wouldn’t have been able to do. I fixed everything, and I mean everything, in my house…even things that didn’t need fixed. In the time between, I worked on grabbing that elusive title that only a small percentage of people who have played had achieved. That was my new goal, my new purpose.
Right around that time, Rare released the black powder keg monthly event. It was as if the pirate gods were looking out for me. I had stashed away enough doubloons to do plenty of missions. I pretty much had my Gold Hoarder rep in the bag but Order of the Souls and the Merchant Alliance, not so much. So I started to grind. I earned enough commendations to easily satiate my hunger for missions. Then came the Dark Relic voyages. While it seemed like my Merchant Alliance rep slowed down, my Order of the Souls rep just kept going up. Then I was faced with a dilemma. I had enough doubloons to buy my way to pirate legend. But it felt a bit cheap. Then I watched the SoT developer’s update with Joe Neate. In September, they were making some very big changes. One of which is only being able to buy one level per faction per month.
Little known fact, my full name is Dan “Easy Mode” Rodriguez. I’m not as spry as I used to be. I wear contacts that would allow a normal person to see the surface of Mars, I have the body of a 78 year old man and my gaming skills/reflexes have tanked over the last few years. I also have no shame. Zero. Was it cheap? You’re damn right it was. Was it fulfilling? Absolutely. I’m not going to say how many levels I bought, but trust me when I say it was a lot. In the end, the amount of joy that I gleaned from finally getting to that point was worth every single doubloon.
I’ve read that the game really begins when you hit pirate legend. To that I say, bring it on! I don’t see myself slowing down anytime soon. I’m having too much fun. I owe it to my friend to help him achieve his goal of making pirate legend. I owe it to Craig Duncan, Joe Neate and the entire development team who worked so hard to bring the game to where it is today (this is starting to sound like an awards acceptance speech). I owe it to the hundreds of other pirates I encountered, both friendly and asshats. Most of all, I owe it to myself. So what’s next in my journey on The Sea of Thieves?
Simple. Anything I want.