Rare’s online pirate adventure game Sea of Thieves launched into some rough waters, feeling more like a beta than full game. Since then, the developers have worked to make the seas more treacherous and exciting. Last week’s Forsaken Shores content adds an entirely new region packed with dangerous volcanoes and difficult quests. It’s the perfect destination for pirates who think the game’s still too easy.
When you get down to it, there are only a few core things you do in Sea of Thieves: find buried treasure, fight skeletons, and transport merchant supplies. That lack of variety made the game’s launch prime time for trolls looking to break the monotony. But Sea of Thieves has expanded since then, finding ways to encourage exploration and cooperation. The Hungering Deep’s megalodon battle and the skeleton ship battles added in Cursed Sails both required multiple crews to work together, and the addition of reward-granting skull thrones encouraged players to search off the beaten trail. Forsaken Shores expands the world size and aims to appeal to explorers and dare-devils alike. It offers a new and dangerous spin on the game’s core quests.
Forsaken Shores adds The Devil’s Roar, a chain of volcanic islands that act like something of a “hard mode” zone. There’s a small quest to help a grimy captain find their lost crew, but the big draw is a chance to take on more lucrative jobs than you could normally. Contracts in the Devil’s Roar pay a pretty penny and can grant access to very stylish loot. The catch is that the island’s various volcanoes erupt with alarming frequency, making the waters difficult to navigate as massive lava spurts and rocks slam down on your location. The islands themselves have other pitfalls: earthquakes can prevent you from running, heated water can turn picturesque pools into boiling death traps, and geysers can erupt and send you flying into the air.
I set off on a journey to the Devil’s Roar last night with my friend Evil Nick and some friends, where we promptly found ourselves scrambling to pick up treasure before the islands could destroy us. The first time we saw an erupting volcano, we were both transfixed with the spectacle but felt cocky, assuming we’d be safe. But as molten rock slammed the ship, we needed to weave through the waters in ways we’d never had before. Landing on the nearest island was an equally strange misadventure, as difficult skeletons chased my friends while I tried to dig up a treasure chest sitting on a geyser that threw me around like a ragdoll. It was absurd, and some of the most fun I’ve had playing the game.
I don’t think that Sea of Thieves has cracked the code of its structure; these content updates don’t fundamentally change the clumsy core progression. But Forsaken Shores’ map expansion and higher difficulty keeps things fresh. There’s a lot of joy in sailing quietly on the seas, but there’s a very special kind of fun that comes from hurriedly digging up treasure while your buddies fight fast-spawning skeletons in the middle of lava rain. My hope is that, as the game world expands and more new regions like the Devil’s Roar are added, Sea of Thieves can accommodate both kinds of adventure. Forsaken Shores gives me hope that even if Sea of Thieves remains firmly aimless, the world will always have surprises in store.