This Tuesday, Rare will be introducing a first to its beloved swashbuckling open-world adventure Sea of Thieves. The British developer will be welcoming Disney and the world of Pirates of Caribbean to set sail on its azure waves, a crossover that has always seemed well and truly fitting but always unlikely. Ahead of its release in a few days, I've had the opportunity to check out a new developer video, and to chat with the guys at Rare about what makes this free expansion unique, exciting, and one to remember.
Known as Sea of Thieves: A Pirate's Life, this massive update will be bringing a new set of Tall Tales, each based around the Disney IP. The adventure will take players to new locations to face unique, and iconic enemies, all on a journey that revolves around one of the most famous names in Disney's catalogue, Captain Jack Sparrow.
The story, without sailing into spoiler territory, sees players heading to the Sea of the Damned (the location inhabited by the Ferryman and dead sailors that we currently know as the respawning zone) to find Captain Jack who is trapped there. In the real world, Jack stole a legendary pirate treasure, a treasure that held the key to a new world, the Sea of Thieves. Using this item, Jack and the crew of the Black Pearl travelled beyond Jack's beloved horizon and made it to this pirating haven, a land that would allow them to remain free for eternity, but his achievement has come at a cost. Davy Jones, the fearsome scourge of the oceans has followed Jack to the Sea of Thieves, where he discovered that he is no longer the most powerful being on the open waters, and in his rage, is threatening the sanctity that the Sea of Thieves offers to its inhabitants.
A Pirate's Life is unlike anything we've ever seen before in Sea of Thieves, because it not only features a fully fledged storyline, but it is pushing forward its narrative with a variety of cinematic events and sequences. The five Tall Tales that will be available will take us to a range of new locations, across the Sea of Thieves overworld, but also in the Sea of the Damned. Whether that means heading to the ghoulish forsaken town of Sailor's Grave, or instead diving deep below the waves to explore the Sunken Kingdom, players can look forward to a variety of new locations to explore.
As the story, which can be experienced from minute one and requires no prior knowledge of Sea of Thieves, revolves around Captain Jack, the famed buccaneer will travel with players on their vessels as the Tall Tales progress. Jack will attack enemies, and use cannons to fire at enemy vessels and he'll do it all with his signature 'charm'.
To ensure that Rare captured the essence of this iconic character that was brought to life by Johnny Depp, the team worked with one of Depp's stunt doubles, Simon Newton, who came to Rare's headquarters in Twycross, United Kingdom in the Jack Sparrow costume, and acted out scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Rare used this information as reference for the animation of Jack in-game, which is precisely why the character, despite having no input from Depp himself (the voice was performed by Jared Butler who had formerly voiced Sparrow in Disney Infinity and Kingdom Hearts III) feels like a reflection of the character we know and love.
With this being a rather hefty update, we can expect a massive range of new content coming to Sea of Thieves. Alongside the aforementioned locations, we can also look forward to a bunch of new enemies, such as the Ocean Crawlers, three enemies that are all inspired by sea creatures and reflect the crew of Davy Jones from the second and third movies. Then there is also the Phantoms (the crew of the ghost ships that sail around the world), as well as Sirens (mermaid-type enemies that can wield a new weapon known as the Trident of the Dark Tides), and all of these dangerous foes can be found throughout not just A Pirate's Life, but also in the Sea of Thieves overall sandbox.
Creative director Mike Chapman told us, "All of these threats that are added in A Pirate's Life, what's really cool about them is you have that lore reason for why they are in the world, you understand where they've come from, and they make complete sense in the Sea of Thieves world. But, even if you finish the story of A Pirate's Life, or you don't play the story of A Pirate's Life initially and you're just adventuring the world, you'll encounter these new threats out there." Chapman also mentioned that despite this new update being based around Pirates of the Caribbean, "the entire sandbox gets richer", meaning all players of Sea of Thieves can look forward to something new to enjoy in-game.
Just as Jack is a massive part of A Pirate's Life, so is Davy Jones, and we were shown that The Flying Dutchman and its tentacled captain appears early on in the story, and that players have a "awesome cinematic moment with Jack as you defend the Ferry [of the Damned]", as Chapman expressed. The Dutchman will be unlike any other ship you face on the seas and can use a unique shockwave attack by slamming down its capstan (the spinning wheel used to summon the Kraken in the movies), but as for how else Jones is used throughout A Pirate's Life, Rare is keeping the information close to the chest, so hopefully that means we'll get to see the vicious pirate making a return over the course of the story.
Even though Pirates of the Caribbean is very much a Disney IP, A Pirate's Life is a Rare original story, and because of this, we can expect a whole range of exciting hidden goodies and lore dotted around. Whether that means being able to play dress-up, and equipping your pirates with the latest Jack Sparrow cosmetics, or instead searching for a Monkey Island easter egg that Rare has frequently teased for the update but never confirmed, there seems to be so much beneath the surface of this update that Chapman regards as "undoubtedly, the biggest and most impactful update we've ever brought to Sea of Thieves."
But what does the future hold for A Pirate's Life you ask? Chapman told us that "this is going to be in Sea of Thieves for as long as people are playing it". This isn't a limited expansion that will be forever removed from the open-world adventure after a little while. Jack, Jones, and the crew of the Black Pearl (many of which you can encounter throughout the Tall Tales, including Gibbs, Anamaria, and Scrum) will be here for the foreseeable future. But, that doesn't mean that we will be getting more Pirates of the Caribbean content down the line. Rare mentioned that for the crossover to return in the future, there would need to be a reason for it, there would need to be a reason in both a narrative and story sense, even if the option is always there.
Either way, seeing Sea of Thieves and Pirates of the Caribbean cross paths is an experience that many of us have been wishing for, for quite a long time. But for Rare this is more than that. Sea of Thieves has always been inspired by the swashbuckling Disney IP, so being able to work on it, in their own way, is as Chapman put it, "a dream come true."