Welcome to TechRadar's Sea of Thieves review. Sea of Thieves is a brand new online multiplayer game from Rare studios that has launched on Xbox One and Windows PC.
The game sees you take up the role of a pirate and sail the Sea of Thieves, either by your lonesome or with a crew of up to four, to chase your dreams of becoming a legendary pirate. This is a game that encourages you to forge your own adventure, so it's completely up to you what you do in this open game world.
Sea of Thieves is an always-online service-based game, which means it's never-ending and ever-growing – and therefore an expansive game to review. In light of that, TechRadar's Captain Emma Boyle is spending several days with the game, and charting her adventures in this daily captain's log to give you a taste of what you can expect if you're thinking about hoisting the Jolly Roger yourself.
This is our final log, where you'll also find our closing verdict on the game. Click through to read the previous days if you've missed anything!
Time: to say goodbye
James and I meet in a tavern, agreed that working in any crew, as long as it has a population greater than one, is a more preferable way to explore the Sea of Thieves. The last time I saw James he was being engulfed by the maw of a very hungry Kraken, so I’m glad to say he’s looking rather well now, all things considered.
Discussing what our next move is going to be, my eyes meet those of a mysterious stranger from across the room. In any other location this might sound potentially romantic, but in the context of the tavern we’re currently in I’d say there’s far greater potential for violence.
However, when I lock eyes with the stranger she doesn’t square up to threaten me, so I approach her with interest, noting as I get closer that she looks like a nautical Zorro. Unfortunately, although she’s not looking to stab me, she’s not looking to talk to me either, telling me that my reputation isn’t high enough across the various sea companies for her to deign to give me her attention.
Deciding that it may be worth our time to increase our reputation across the board, then, we decide to do some work for the Order of Souls, the company with whom both of our reputations are most lacking.
Aboard our two-person sloop with a bounty-hunting quest in hand, we unfurl the sails and get underway. James takes the wheel, while I run back and forth between the map and the bow to scan the horizon for other ships.
Though I’ve become accustomed to sailing a ship alone, it amazes me just how much easier the whole process is with one additional person, and it’s not long before we reach our destination.
Before we can even secure our feet on the solid ground of the island, however, there are cursed skeletons coming out to meet us. How hospitable. They come in waves, and we slash our way through them with ease. Skeletons aren’t the most inconspicuous creatures, and you can usually hear their rasping and creaking joints before they reach you, but it’s certainly comforting knowing there’s someone watching your back – even if they only end up watching it being skewered.
It’s not long until we draw the captain from his hiding place beneath the sand, and we turn our attention to him. While the last pirate captain I faced had a delightfully floppy feathered hat, this one is kitted out with a striking admiral number, and I find myself wondering if the wisdom the Order of Souls is seeking from these skulls is actually their fashion sense.
With a conclusive swing of our swords, the pirate captain crumbles before our eyes and I snatch up the skull from the sand.
Once we’re back aboard the ship I decide the skull’s size makes it perfect for storing in the crow’s nest, believing that it’s unlikely to be the first place an attacking ship would check.
Agreeing that this particular quest was far too quick and easy, James and I decide to take on a Gold Hoarder quest before we return to the outpost to up the stakes. Scouring the map table for the correct island (a task made far more difficult without our former map-proficient colleague Jon) we eventually find it, relieved to see that it’s actually not far away at all.
When we arrive and swim ashore, James and I see something glinting on the sand under the light of the moon. Squinting, I bend to pick it up from the sand and see it’s a small gold reliquary. Unable to fit it in my pocket, but in no way willing to part with it, I carry it with me while we search for the buried chest we actually came for.
Finding the spot, James starts digging while I stand holding the reliquary like the watchful useless magpie I apparently am. When James hauls the chest from the ground we notice that it looks far different from the chests we’re used to seeing. It’s a mix of purple and green, and on its front it has a carved face with water streaming from the eyes. On closer inspection we see it’s called the Chest of Sorrows.
Of course it couldn’t have been the Chest of Hysterical Laughter. It’s never the Chest of Hysterical Laughter.
“Oh I've heard of this,” I say worriedly. “It cries enough to sink your ship if you take it aboard.” (”A bit like myself,” I add in my head.)
Agreeing that we can’t very well leave it behind, and that one of us can bail the ship while the other sails, we trot back to the shore.
Back aboard our ship, I see James climb up to the crow's nest, chest on his back, where he stores it. I don’t even question the physics.
Oddly, it seems like the tears have stopped, and we celebrate, thinking we’ve found the trick to transporting it safely. It’s only when we start on our route to the nearest outpost that we notice the lower deck is filling rather quickly with water. It turns out that even cursed chests need to stop for a hydration break.
I take the wheel and James begins bailing out the water, both of us glad that the outpost isn’t too far away.
When we see it come into sight, we’re both amazed we’re still afloat. Turning to James to ask when I ought to drop anchor I hear him cry out that he’s fallen overboard. I don’t know how or why it happened, and frankly I'm afraid to ask. Instead I throw down the anchor and bolt to the crow's nest to grab the weeping chest and get it off the ship as soon as possible.
Leaping from the crow's nest directly into the water, I hear an ominous creaking behind me.
“Wait, is the ship sinking?” I hear James ask. And turning slowly in the water, crying chest still in my arms, I see that, indeed, the ship is sinking. Rolling onto its side like a toddler coming down from a sugar high, it’s mere seconds before the waves swallow our tiny sloop entirely.
Looking down at the chest in my arms with wonder, and slight concern about what I might be doing to the sea levels, I kick towards the shore while James looks for the treasure we’ve lost in the capsizing.
The Gold Hoarders don’t seem perturbed by crying chest or the heavily sobbing pirate delivering it. They do, however, pay generously, which goes some way to stopping my sniveling.
Returning to the deck, James and I scour the water with our spyglasses until we spot our treasure floating a few meters out. Retrieving it and selling it on, we celebrate a rather bittersweet victory.
Returning to the water with new quests in our pockets, we search for the nearest mermaid to return us to our ship, me less willing than James. I swear they know my name by this point.
As if by magic (actually definitely by magic) we find ourselves looking at our resurrected ship, this time on the white sands of a completely different island. Tucked into these sands, we notice, is a glass bottle with a particularly enticing sheen.
Picking it up gingerly, James pulls a scroll from within and we huddle excitedly to read the riddle written on it: ‘Overflowing and laden with gold, on Kraken Fall lies treasure of old.’
Well, there’s only one thing for it.
Back aboard the ship, we scour the map to find Kraken’s Fall and see it lies far to the south – far too far away to sail directly there without picking up some more treasure en route. Pulling out my next Order of Souls quest, we see that we’ve been tasked with seizing two cursed skulls and, conveniently, their locations lead us in a neat semi-circle down to Kraken’s Fall.
Sailing out towards the first island we hear cannon fire, and through my spyglass I spot a galleon and a sloop engaged in combat. I say 'engaged', but the sloop clearly wants no part of what’s going on, and I watch as it struggles to shake off its attacker without success.
Resisting the urge to provide a David Attenborough-style running commentary on this majestic view of the piratical food chain at work, I suggest to James that we give the contretemps a wide berth, and keep an eye on that prowling galleon.
With the galleon still in our sights as we approach our first island, I stay aboard the ship as guard while James goes ashore. Alternating my spylgass between watching the potential enemy ship and ensuring James isn’t being utterly slaughtered by a wave of pirates on land, I feel exceptionally useless and useful at the same time.
Another skull stored safely in the crow's nest, we veer around the now curiously still galleon and approach our next destination. This island is far more impressive than the patchy white scab on the smooth skin of the ocean that the previous one was. Littered with shipwrecks and mammoth animal bones, it's large, and leaves us feeling nervous enough that we decide both of us should go ashore.
It’s perhaps just as well – between the overgrowth and the oppressive darkness it’s hard to see where the next skeleton attack will come from. Their growls and rasps makes it sound like they’re everywhere at once, and it’s with some relief that we slay Captain Jessica Parker. Her skull glows far more brightly than any other I’ve seen, and I wonder just what kind of wisdom it holds. Probably not to wear socks with sandals – that’s a big one.
Our crow's nest now looking like a rather pathetic graveyard, we finally make our way towards Kraken’s Fall.
Almost as soon as we drop anchor at Kraken’s Fall, another line is added to the riddle, telling us to head to the castaway camp to the east and hold a light high. We pull out our compasses and start exploring.
But although we find what is incontrovertibly a castaway camp on the east of the island, and pull out our lamps to cast a light on every inch of it, we can't seem to get the next line of the riddle to reveal itself. We spend what feels like hours scouring the island, and while I find another chest that has absolutely no connection to the riddle we’re trying to solve, we finally have to admit that we’re stumped.
Skeletons sprout from the ground at various intervals like particularly aggressive weeds and we beat them back, agreeing that they surely wouldn’t be appearing quite so frequently if we weren’t in the right place.
Perhaps noticing that I’m around five seconds from smashing my skull against the nearest rock, James suggests that we cash in our treasures and leave this riddle for another day, and I agree with relief.
Wading into the water towards our ship, I look up and notice the blinding green glow that’s emanating from the crow’s nest. We look like a radioactive lighthouse. Perhaps storing our treasures there isn't quite as clever and idea as I initially thought.
Back aboard the ship and on the waves once more, we play a celebratory and conciliatory shanty as we approach the outpost. With a particularly enthusiastic jump, I feel the deck leave my feet and I topple off the side of the ship, my accordion wheezing as I hit the waves.
James is, perhaps, not as clumsy as I'd thought. And it’s amazing how fast these ships can go when you’re trying to swim after them, I marvel.
Verdict: play it now
And with that, you come to the end of my captain’s log for TechRadar. Having plugged many hours into Sea of Thieves at this point, I feel ready to give a less narrative verdict on the game.
Overall, I can say with conviction that Sea of Thieves is an excellent multiplayer adventure with an incredible amount of potential. It’s an anecdote factory that gives players the freedom to craft their own stories. In case you couldn’t tell, this game engaged the part of my brain that loves to tell a good story, and that’s something that’s very much to its credit; the last game to encourage this degree of unfounded character exploration in me was probably Fable.
Sea of Thieves relies on the unpredictability and chemistry of its players to inject variety, and while I enjoyed this it’s certainly not something that will suit everyone. In fact, even for those it does suit, it’s perhaps not an experience for every day. It’s not every evening that I want to go on a rip-roaring adventure on the high seas; sometimes I just want Kraken-free quiet.
Those who prefer solo offline play are unlikely to click with this game immediately, but as a solo offline-preferring player I can promise it’s not impossible to like Sea of Thieves. It just takes some getting used to.
While I enjoyed the days I sailed on my own in Sea of Thieves, I noticed these sessions tended to be shorter and more stressful. This is a game that thrives on multiplayer interaction, and you can definitely feel that the game becomes more manageable and rewarding when you’re working with other people.
Unfortunately, we don’t all have ready-made crews, and it’s not everyone who's willing to be thrown onto a deck of strangers with minimal opportunity for introduction.
This highlights one of my biggest issues with Sea of Thieves and that’s the outposts, which remain PvP at all times. Given that Sea of Thieves is a game which encourages camaraderie and teamwork, Outposts seem like the ideal location to allow players to meet, crew-up and relax – a shared social space that makes players turn off the 'jerk' button for a moment and be open to making new friends.
Instead, we’re seeing footage of players camping out around stores to kill other players before they can cash in their treasures, and then taking them for their own. I get that we’re pirates, and that stealing gold is our pretty much our raison d'être, but it would be nice to have a small number of places in the game, other than the Ferry of the Damned, where you’re not constantly looking over your shoulder.
On the other side of the doubloon, though, something I think Sea of Thieves gets very right with regards to bringing people together is its reputation system. The fact that no mission is locked off to you, allowing low- and high-reputation players to be on the same crew, is incredibly refreshing. It doesn’t matter if my friends have played longer than me – as long as they’re willing to share their quests with me I can advance too.
Sea of Thieves’ quests are a succession of variations on fetching and delivering, and while this can grate, the fact that they get more challenging as you increase your reputation is something of a blessing. While they don’t dramatically alter, they become far more involved and, as you can see in the above log, they’re not always easy.
It’s not all smooth sailing, though. The patchy, sword-swinging nature of the combat can be frustrating, and it would be nice to see a system that has a little more depth too. Or dual-wielding at the very least. Please let me be Captain Double Blunderbuss, Rare. Doubluss for short.
Sea of Thieves is still in its early days, but I think it’s off to an extremely strong start. It’s clear that the developers are willing to listen to the players, and I expect we’ll see a great many interesting additions to the game in the coming months.
It’s worth saying, though, that the game will need these additions – your friends can only add so much variety to a Gold Hoarders' quest before everyone grows weary. As long as Rare is willing to add to this playground, I expect players will be happy to play in it.
Time: to go to bed
I grunt with satisfaction as I pull my cutlass from the skeleton’s ribcage and watch the bones crumble into the gap created, a whirlpool of dust and decay. Blowing the debris from my blade, I look around, certain that’s the last of them. That said, this is a large island and in deep darkness like this it’s hard to be sure.
Every rustle is a potential attack and every shadow is the grim reaper in a different form. I yelp as, right on cue, a small, fat pig tumbles out of a clump of ferns. I did say potential attacks, and anyone who’s read the news on bacon recently will know that the grim reaper has apparently been adopting a porcine form for some time.
Still, this particular pig is nothing more than a pig. And I feel a little bit like a chicken.
Returning to the spot where I was digging before I was so rudely interrupted by (literally) blind malevolence, I pull my shovel from my pocket (not comfortable at all, let me tell you) and scrape away the last of the dirt that’s coating the final chest on my latest Gold Hoarder list.
More than any of the other high seas companies, the Gold Hoarders seem to have trust in my abilities, so I find myself more inclined to continue working for them. The quests are more challenging and involved, but the rewards are worth it. The Gold Hoarders are slimy, suspiciously hunched and gold-obsessed. I really feel a deep connection with them.
I haul the chest from the ground, feeling my shoulders protest in their sockets, and look off to the right to make sure the SS Pugwash is still floating serenely beneath the moonlight. The moon is so bright tonight I wonder why I bothered turning the ship lamps off before leaving – there’s no hiding under cover of darkness on a night like this.
It’s been a remarkably smooth day for sailing – not a single storm – and I wonder if the sea is trying to make it up to me after I ended up on the Ferry of the Damned as much as the deck of my own ship yesterday.
I had felt weary trepidation as I undertook this voyage alone this morning. Until yesterday, all my encounters with other pirates had either been in a crewmate capacity or where I was the aggressor. The successful aggressor, I might add. Being a helpless loser is no fun. But as much as that feeling put me off returning to the sea, it’s also the reason I did. I’ll claw back my dignity if it kills me. And let’s face it, it probably will. A lot.
Hauling the chest into my arms, I edge around a cannon installed in the cliff edge and slide down the slope to the sandy shore.
Back aboard the ship, I store the chest in the hold with the rest of my treasures and return to the deck, letting down the sails and raising the anchor with practiced ease. Sailing alone really is soothing.
I’ve barely listed away from the island when I hear a screaming whistle off to my right. I don’t even have time to turn before something hits my body with bone crunching force and I’m launched from the deck.
I think I’d probably be knocked unconscious if not for the shocking cold of the sea enveloping my body just a second later. Kicking to the surface, I flail in the waves, my words making the air around me more blue than the waves trying to silence me.
‘I’ve been hit!’ I scream to no one in particular.
Looking for my ship, I see it sailing away from me, quite unmanned, towards some rocks with the grace and purpose of someone entering a lover’s embrace.
‘No, no, no’ I moan through the water slopping into my mouth as I watch Pugwash hit the rocks, mourning the chests stored in his belly.
Turning a furious glare towards the island I realize someone must have shot me from the cannon I’d slid past only moments before. Nothing left to lose, I kick out for the island, propelled by my own rage.
Washing up on shore with a stumble, I march up the beach, the squelching of my shoes undermining the aggression of my stride. I swear I cleared out this island and as I walk some wild part of my brain wonders if I greatly underestimated the pig from earlier. Shaking the image of it raising itself onto its hind legs to load the cannon, I carry on.
When I reach the cannon I find it completely free of people and I feel a chill go down my spine. Suddenly I feel very alone and I wish I had a crew with me so that we can laugh about this mystery. Instead I’m standing atop a rock pondering my own grave misfortune.
Earlier in the day I had tried offering my services to a crew in need of a helping hand, but I fear we were somewhat incompatible. And by that I mean no one spoke a word the entire journey and our lack of communication meant we hit more rocks than we missed. I started to feel like I was trapped in a game of nautical pinball.
For a short time I considered painting a face on a cannonball for some kind of companion. The only thing that stopped me from doing so was the tale I’d heard of someone doing this before – apparently they went swimming together and it didn’t end well at all. Instead I returned to Pugwash and embraced my own company once more.
Deciding there’s nothing else for it, I seek the help of a shame-inducingly chiseled mermaid (saving sailors is clearly good exercise) and head back to my own ship feeling somewhat despondent.
With my gold chests lost to the depths, I take a moment to collect myself. Pulling my hurdy gurdy from my pocket (a different pocket to the shovel – I'm a pirate not a magician), I tune it up and start to play my favorite shanty to cheer myself up. My stumpy little legs do a half-hearted jig on the deck and I feel the music hook its notes into my soul and pull up my spirits like a precious cargo from the hold.
Feeling more able to carry on, I steer away from the island with a nervous glance back and let the wind carry me out to the open ocean. My mind has settled on finding shelter at the nearest outpost and there, I decide, I’ll wait for my crew. Their company will, undoubtedly, break up the monotony of the waves.
Cresting a wave, I spy the sails of another ship on the horizon and my heart leaps into my throat, while the waves drag my stomach down to the region of my feet.
Remembering yesterday’s encounter I feel something akin to panic. I’ve been in the sea as much as out of it today – my clothes are hard and crusted with salt and I’d really rather not get too familiar with the mermaids. As helpful as they are, they have an aura of sadness that sticks to your insides like emotional seaweed, leaving you feeling down long after you’ve left them.
Fighting the urge to about turn and sail away from this approaching ship, I stay on course long enough to see that it’s another sloop. Pulling out my spyglass, I steady my feet on the shifting deck and try not to poke out my own eye.
With the spyglass closing the distance between us, I see that the other ship is manned by a single person and there doesn’t appear to be anyone else aboard. Funnily enough, under the light of the moon I see their spyglass glint, alerting me that they’re looking for me too.
Wondering if they’ll run first, I carry on towards them but neither of us alters course. It’s incredibly tense as we continue to sail towards one another, no one making a move to diffuse the situation. If I only shift west, I could catch the wind and be out of there in jig time. But something is stopping me. Probably that annoying need to claw back my dignity. My sense of self-preservation finds it exceptionally hard to deal with.
Realizing that this is only going to go one way, I descend to the main deck and start loading the cannons. By the time I’m finished the other ship is close enough that I can see the other captain without the need for the spyglass.
I’m reminded of those moments when you’re on an escalator and you catch eyes with someone going the opposite way, knowing that you’re inevitably going to pass one another. The difference here, however, is that rather than preparing to nod at another stranger in a vague attempt at politeness, I’m standing by a cannon, breath catching, gearing myself up to turn a stranger into a block of Swiss cheese.
But then I see it. A wave.
The captain is waving and it’s with no small amount of hesitation that I wave back. I imagine it probably looks more like a salute. Our ships rock past one another and I realize that this pirate has no intention of attacking me. I consider this and for a moment my hand lingers by the cannon. But I pull it back and decide to enjoy this simple moment of not being an asshole.
Safely past one another, I continue north and they continue south and I feel a little more positive and a lot less lonely. Now, time to get my crew. We could definitely have taken that sloop with our galleon.
Time: to party
I jolt awake on the rough but familiar wooden floor of the tavern, a scream catching in my throat. Quickly raising an arm to my neck, I’m relieved to feel there isn’t a Kraken tentacle wrapped around it. No slime either. I’m not sure why, but a diet of sailors and ships has given the Kraken some highly questionable excretions – and this is coming from someone who only washes when they fall off their ship.
After the events of yesterday I feel I’ve earned my morning grog, although I was quite firm with Tess that I don’t want the Kraken vomit-based concoction that was once my favorite.
It’s just me again this morning – my crewmates are taking a short leave of absence following our last adventure to appreciate their loved ones and remaining limbs.
Sauntering out into the blinding sunlight I raise a shielding hand to my brow, and spy my faithful old SS Pugwash nestled in the dock.
Bouncing on the balls of my well-worn shoes, I weigh up my options for the day. I’ve assisted the Merchant’s Alliance and the Gold Hoarders thus far, so perhaps it’s time to pay a visit to the Order of Souls.
I won’t deny I’ve been putting this one off. There’s something creepy about the Order of Souls, the name being an obvious factor in my unease. The Order of Soul I could get on board with – what a genre – but the Order of Souls? Yeah, that’s going to be something very different.
Still, the bright warmth of the sun makes me feel braver than I actually am, and I approach a small shack nestled under a closed-up house. It has a telltale ethereal glow and all-seeing eye above the entrance, which tell me I’m in the right place.
Stepping inside, a muggy heat immediately brings a sweat to my brow, while strong incense singes the hair from the inside of my nose. Around the room there’s a mix of warm orange and cold blue flames, as well as a rather alarming collection of skulls; a single skull would be alarming enough, but there’s a whole basket of the things here.
Feeling watched, I turn towards the counter in the far-right of the room to see a tall, spindly woman wearing the shadows behind her like a particularly fine shawl. Her eyes have been bandaged over, yet somehow I still feel penetrated by her stare. She can’t see me, but she can see me. Maybe the incense is stronger than I thought.
Approaching the table, she introduces herself to me as Madame Oksana before I even clear my throat. I ask about fortune telling, she scoffs at me as though it’s ridiculous that the mystic trappings of her surroundings could lead me to this conclusion. "We", she tells me, "can read the minds of skeletons".
I’m glad I’m not a skeleton, because all that’s running through my mind right now is ‘craaaaazy’.
Still, even spooky gold is gold, and I accept a quest from her which tasks me with finding the skull of one Captain ‘Plunderin‘ Parks.
Down by the docks I stop by Scarlet the Shipwright’s stall to look at the 70,000 gold sovereign hull paint job I’ve been coveting. Shaking my pathetic coin purse, I sigh. Well, that’s all the incentive I need to go and find a creepy wise skull.
My quest comes with a picture of Captain Parks but it’s not particularly helpful; skeletons all kind of look the same. The one thing to note is his snazzy hat, which I know I’ll be able to spot, and envy, from a mile off.
On board SS Pugwash I set a heading for Tri-Rock Isle, where Parks was last seen, and weigh anchor.
Getting to the island takes barely any time at all (I don’t even get to finish my shanty) and I drop the anchor. Before I even get to the shore a wave of cursed pirate skeletons, which I can only assume is Parks’ crew, is coming to meet me, and I pull out my cutlass.
All of the skeletons look similar, the only distinguishing features being that some are wielding guns while others run in close with cutlasses of their own.
Then I see the snazzy hat. Parks. Disposing of the final crew member, I turn my attention to the captain and swing wildly with my sword. He’s more of a challenge than the others, but with a particularly forceful swing I feel his bones crumble beneath my blade, and see his glowing skull drop with a plop into the water by my feet. Sadly his hat is now nowhere to be seen; I'd take it to the afterlife too, to be fair.
Sighing with relief, I pick up the skull and wade into the water to start the swim back to my ship, where I place it in the center of the table in my cabin. The skull has a soft green glow, and I swear I can hear soft whispers coming from it that make the hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention.
I’m not sure I’ll make a habit of working with the Order of Souls – as a pirate I wouldn’t say I’m a lover, but neither am I a fighter. ’Dispassionate sneakthief’ is probably my category.
It’s not long before I see the outpost appear on the horizon. The wind fills my sails, and I hear them snap outwards as I pick up a surprising amount of speed. Too much speed… enough speed to send me off course. Spinning the ship’s wheel hard to port (and feeling the need for some hard port) I try to pull myself back in line, but it’s not enough, and I bump the ship against a collection of rocks.
When I say ’bump’ against the rocks I mean ’crash headlong into them with a deafening screech’. It’s chaos. I hear the water pour in. If I had a crew they’d be screaming – instead it’s just me screaming.
Dropping the anchor, I rush below deck with planks of wood in hand. I swear I can feel the eyes (well the sockets) of Parks’ all-knowing skull judging me from my own desk. Well it wasn't wise enough to avoid my sword, so it can’t be that clever.
There are three rather large holes in the bow of the ship, and water is streaming through them. Wasting no time, I cover each hole with a plank of wood and hammer it into place. The problem doing this as one person is that as you repair one hole the ship continues to fill with water, lending a definite urgency to the task.
Ship repaired, I slowly bail the water that’s somehow managed to rise halfway up the stairs, ‘tripping’ with the bucket to slosh some water on the judgmental skull.
Satisfied the ship won’t capsize in my absence, I swim to shore with the skull and collect my reward from Madame Oksana before heading off again.
Deciding to clear the backlog of Gold Hoarder quests I’ve managed to accumulate, I set off to an island north-east of the outpost.
The seas are choppy and jewel-green today, and I delight in sailing to the crest of the waves before feeling the swoop in my stomach as the ship crashes back down.
After sailing past my destination three times (I did say I’m not good with maps), I finally land.
It’s when I’m on the island, and counting my steps to find the spot marked by the X, that I hear cannon fire. Scaling a rock at the highest point of the island I see a two-man sloop firing on my own very empty ship.
Spluttering with indignation, I pull out my pistol and fire a warning shot. Probably not a good idea, I gulp, as I see the glint of spyglasses from the enemy ship. A bullet whistles past my head, and I throw myself behind a rock to catch my breath and protect my delicate forehead.
Definitely not a good idea.
Making a snap decision, I throw myself from the rear side of the island into the sea, and swim underwater towards the attacking ship determined to put a stop to this, well, piracy.
Hidden under the waves, I’m hoping I can catch them by surprise, but when I pull myself up the ladder to their ship I find one of them waiting for me, and immediately strike out with my sword. After a brief scuffle, which I imagine looks rather pathetic from a distance, I manage to slay this crew member, and I shove a healing banana in my mouth with urgency.
Certain there were two of them, I look around for the other pirate, sword held in front of me defensively.
Suddenly a gunshot hits the back of my head from above. Spinning around wildly, expecting to see a pistol-wielding monkey hanging from the rigging, I instead see the other crew member in the crow’s nest before a second shot finishes me off.
Blinking rapidly, I find myself on the Ferry of the Damned for the second time in two days, this time with a splitting headache.
It’s no coincidence, I reflect bitterly, that this ship is so reminiscent of public transport. Waving despondently at my fellow dead passengers, I take a deep breath and prepare to return to life…
…only to find myself back aboard my now-sinking ship. With barely a moment to think, I’m dragged back under the waves. Scrabbling to get to the surface with barely a breath in my lungs, I think pirates are the worst.
I’m sure somewhere I can hear the laughter of that poor solo pirate from yesterday.
Time: Too Early
I wake up in the tavern again but this time I find I’m with two other people. No, not like that. Yes, this time I have my small but capable crew. We’ll call them Jon and James. Because those are their names.
Being with other people certainly does make my deep drink of morning grog feel far more acceptable.
Merry with pre-adventure adrenaline, we haul out our hurdy gurdys and accordions and start up a tune together. It takes a moment, but we fall naturally into tune together to play a pleasant shanty. We’d sound better if we weren’t slightly drunk, but you could say that about most bands really.
Though she doesn’t say anything, Tess behind the bar looks like she would like nothing more than to drown us in the nearest grog barrel so we venture out onto the island to find a quest.
Having had my fill of chickens I’m glad when we settle on working for the Gold Hoarders. Treasure hunting – it doesn’t get much more pirate-y than that. And treasure chests don’t run from you when you go near them. As far as I know.
We’re tasked with finding two buried chests, each on a different island, and once we find them we must return them for payment. Easy, right?
We head towards the dock to find our ship and I’m surprised to see that this is not the dumpy SS Pugwash I’ve grudgingly come to love. This time there is a large galleon which I think looks quite like a Timothy. SS Timothy it is.
Upon boarding the ship, we all enter the captain’s cabin to agree on our quest before going below deck to set a course. Being more efficient with maps than James or I, Jon gets to work finding our first island while we bumble and emote around him. Surely this is the meaning of teamwork.
With a heading set, we prepare to make sail. We all find stations we’re comfortable with quite easily. I take up the wheel, while Jon directs me and controls the sails and James keeps an eye on the horizon.
It’s interesting going from sailing your own sloop where everything is close together and within your control, to a galleon which you’re not entirely sure you could run the length of without gasping for breath.
From my place behind the wheel I realise that I can’t actually see where we’re going thanks to the sails so I really need to rely on the eyes of Jon and James. It’s very uncomfortable knowing you probably won’t see a rock until it’s come through the bow of your ship to sit directly between your eyes.
We find our first island easily enough and the three of us dive from the ship eagerly to get to a small patch of land so unassuming you would never guess it hid a chest filled with riches. Well, you wouldn't guess until you try to actually get onto the island and find a family of murderous skeletons waiting to slit your throat.
Cursed murderous skeletons are usually a sign that there’s something interesting around.
Night is falling and we quickly take our swords to the skeletons before counting our paces to find the treasure. Three shovels make quick work and it’s with satisfying speed that we see the heavy golden chest emerge. It’s at this point that I realise it could be very easy to grab the chest for myself and make a run for it.
Then I also realise that sailing a galleon alone for the sake of one measly treasure chest really isn’t worth the exercise that would be involved.
Heading reset for island number two, we’re back on the waves when we spot a small sloop anchored by an island. It’s with the casual ease of a holidaying family agreeing to stop for ice cream that we decide, yes, we probably do have time to steal this ship.
We agree that I’ll keep control of the galleon while James and Jon swim over to the other vessel and sneak aboard. F
inding this new ship absent of any crew but stocked with a treasure chest of its own, James and Jon lower the sails and move off, the three of us laughing when the owner of the ship runs to the edge of the island to jump up and down angrily on the shore.
Our laughter falters when he starts swimming towards his ship and attempts to come aboard. It’s clear, though, that he hasn’t really prepared himself for a fight and Jon is able to dispose of him quite quickly. Save your shock – piracy isn’t all hurdy gurdys and chickens. There will be murder. We may even murder chickens with hurdy gurdys to ruin the purest of moments.
Any guilt we feel is short lived when we realise we’ve created something of a logistical problem. Three people across two ships, one of which is a galleon, probably isn’t going to work in the long run. Agreeing to abandon the sloop, James and Jon take the treasure from its hold and swim it over to our own ship.
Back on course, it’s not long before we come across another distraction and I start to recognise why it takes me so long to complete basic tasks in my everyday life. This time it’s not an anchored ship.
It’s a shipwreck. How could we resist?
Dropping anchor, Jon remains aboard our ship while James and I kick out towards what looks to be a fairly recent wreckage. The hull that’s sticking out of the water looks utterly undamaged by water and time.
Remembering my last shipwreck encounter, I dive below the waves, keeping a wary eye out for sharks. I’m quite fond of my extremities and I’d rather not need a peg leg this early in my career.
Deciding the captain’s cabin seems like a likely (and close) place to find treasure I make my way towards it. As luck would have it, lying right in the middle of the floor as though waiting for me is a glowing skull. It’s funny how certain situations utterly turn off your internal ‘not a good idea’ alarms. On land I’d hesitate around a threateningly green skull. Holding my breath while exploring a shipwreck, however, I’m just desperate to grab it and go.
When I break the surface of the waves I find myself face to face with a mermaid and I wonder just how much salt water I’ve ingested. Spluttering in its stoic face I realise it’s telling me it can return me to my ship and, eager not to risk meeting any sharks while carrying my valuable skull, I agree.
Sadly, mermaids seem to offer an UberX rather than an Uber Pool kind of deal. So while I land safely back on the deck of Timothy, the skull remains back at the wreck. Fortunately, so does James and he picks up the skull where I dropped it and waits on atop the hull of the wrecked ship for us to sail closer and pick him up.
Aware that we’re now carrying a large number of valuable items, we make our way to our final island agreed on no more distractions until we’ve cashed everything in.
Finding our final treasure chest goes as smoothly as we could hope and we even find an additional rare relic hiding in some bushes after James sees it glinting in the bushes from the ship using his spyglass. We definitely picked the right person as lookout.
Turning our sails to catch the wind, we make haste for the nearest outpost to cash in all the booty we’ve gathered. I feel like I can feel karma breathing down my neck and I’m wondering when I’ll feel the retribution for the pirate we stole from (yes, I know, and murdered) earlier.
Incredibly, though, we arrive safe at the outpost and sell off our treasures for gold and a boost to our reputations. Coin purses satisfyingly heavy and egos sufficiently boosted, we decide to finish off our day with one final Merchants Alliance quest. Chickens will cower before me with my increased reputation.
Back on the ocean, we’re laughing and dancing around the deck, enjoying the fact that we’ve eased the pressure and burden that having a full hold brings.
We feel unbeatable until something in the atmosphere shifts. It’s almost imperceptible but somehow the sea feels different and I can feel the wheel struggling beneath my hands. James wonders aloud if we can also hear strange music and I realise I can. I’ve always wanted my life to have its own soundtrack but not one quite so eerie as this.
Coming together to stand on the center of the deck, we all look to the side of the ship and cry out in horror as a single giant tentacle emerges from the water. Then another. Then another.
Each tentacle that rises from the water gives us reason to gulp and we think it can’t really get any worse until one of the tentacles opens its mouth. Yes, that’s right – the tentacles have mouths.
Wasting no time, we all run for the canons and start firing at the Kraken’s many limbs. It doesn’t seem to have much of an effect at all. Picking up one of the cannonballs I inspect it, suspicious that we’re just firing well-painted footballs. But, no, it’s definitely a cannonball. And we are definitely screwed.
Before long, we’ve run out of ammo and the tentacles are simply hovering around the ship. It almost feels like they’re bored, just waiting for us to give up. Naturally, we pull out our pistols and cutlasses and slash at the tentacles as though it’ll be enough after artillery wasn't.
I take a moment to compose myself but suddenly feel the solidity of the deck disappear from under my feet. One of the tentacles has lifted me into the air, holding me aloft. I can’t help but think this is the kind of scene where a camera would pan in on me with a voice-over saying "You’re probably wondering how I got here.”
Then I see Jon fire himself from a cannon directly into the Kraken and realise it could be worse.
After an age-long struggle that sees me slashing at the insides of the Kraken, its tentacle drops me back to the deck where I find my crewmates slain and the Kraken wrapping itself around the ship. It reminds me of those moments where a toddler wraps its surprisingly strong sticky grip around something you’re using and says ‘mine.’
Realising it’s all over, I let the Kraken drag Timothy and I under the water and give up.
When I wake up I find myself on the Ferry of the Damned and I sigh in relief. It’s delightfully tentacle-free and I feel the hope that comes with a fresh start. Preparing to re-enter the world of the living, I pray that tomorrow brings less death. And fewer Krakens.
Time: Quite Dark
I wake up in a tavern, blinking against the dull light and find it empty apart from myself and the barmaid. Stumbling over to stand in front of her, I notice she can’t seem to look me in the eye. Last night must have been bad.
I dig through my pockets to see what’s been taken and find it all there: my paltry stock of bananas, my compass, my watch, my shovel and a lantern (unlit – I always sit with a slight lean after the burned buttocks escapade so I’ll never make that mistake again).
My tankard is even still there. And it’s full! I drink deep and the room takes on a friendly, fuzzy green glow. As I step towards the music box on the bartop I find my steps are a tad uneven and the music sounds all wrong, almost like it's drunk.
But at least I haven’t had a vom – never mind. The barmaid looks utterly nonplussed which makes me feel simultaneously better and worse.
Feeling it’s probably best that I get out into the world, I refill my tankard with my favorite kraken’s vomit-based grog and get on my way.
The decking under my feet when I step out onto the island is uneven but solid beneath my feet and I make my way down onto the sand to speak to some of the traders that have set up for the day. The sun is rising, taking the time from quite dark to less dark.
I chat to the Gold Hoarders for a while and pick up a quest scroll before moving on to do the same with the Order of Souls and Merchant’s Alliance. They all seem like reasonably simple voyages so I decide to get started given my coin purse has more holes than gold coins at the moment.
Hopping onto my small sloop (SS. Pugwash), I make my way to my captain’s cabin and assess which quest I’m going to embark on first. This is the beauty of not having to answer to a crew – my decision is the final one. It’s not always a good one. But at least I don't have to argue about it.
Settling on the Merchant’s Alliance quest, I see I’m tasked with picking up and delivering one red speckled chicken and one white feather chicken. Seems easy enough. Picking up my coops from the Alliance representative on the dockside, I return to my ship and prepare to set sail.
Sailing on your own is an interesting experience. It’s frantic and difficult but when you get into a rhythm it becomes enjoyable.
Directing the wheel away from the dock, I lower the sails and lift the anchor before running back to the wheel. Using the compass to my right I make sure I’m travelling north west and settle in for the journey.
Conveniently, the wind hits my sails and I pick up speed. Less conveniently I pick up speed straight into a storm. People have told me that I’ve probably not picked the best career for someone that dislikes rain. I only ever think they’re right when it’s actually raining.
The storm is relentless and the sky is dark and unforgiving. Up ahead of me I see a small island surrounded by a formation of rocks and decide to head towards it. Moving towards so many dangerous jagged rocks that are so close together probably isn’t the best move given the weather but this island might have chickens and I’m not willing to pass that up.
Maneuvering around the rocks and dropping anchor, I leap from my ship into the stormy water before kicking out towards the island which is much smaller than I initially thought. I find it doesn’t have chickens. It has snakes. Several snakes. I momentarily wonder if I could catch them and argue that they’re de-feathered chickens but I doubt, like actual chickens (and snakes thank God), that would fly.
Disposing of the snakes I head back to the ship to set a new heading. I’m grateful the storm has passed while I’ve been on the island. What I’m less grateful for is the water the ship has taken on in my absence. Going below deck I take out my bucket and start bailing myself out. I really should get a person for this.
When I start sailing again I notice a giant glowing skull on the horizon and hesitate. My mind is telling me no. But my body, my body… is also desperately telling me no.
But the course I’ve set for myself and the direction of the wind are forcefully telling me yes. Great.
I’m glad the storm has passed because the vibes are bad enough without some atmospheric lightning alongside the skull. Even Batman would pointedly ignore this particular signal.
Without the storm around me I can see that the water is a bright inviting blue and the sky is bright. Finally I can see the island I originally set a heading for coming closer. It’s coming closer quite quickly actually. Too quickly.
I start shouting commands to my crew. And by crew I mean me. I raise the sails in an effort to slow myself down and in the end I just throw down the anchor. The ship squeals to a stop just before it hits the island. I’m pretty sure if the SS Pugwash had a figurehead it’d be wiping sweat off its brow right now. I really hope ships can reverse.
Jumping from the ship I find that this island is also lacking in chickens and I wonder if they’ve gone the way of the unicorn. What it does have, though, is a shipwreck in a lagoon at its center. But as I’m diving into it I realize it has sharks too. Hungry sharks. I hear the bite before I see the teeth and I scream in shock.
Abandoning the shipwreck I scamper back towards my ship as fast as possible, wondering if the point of this quest is to discover that I was the chicken all along.
Back on board I eat a banana to restore my health (skin on because I have a feeling mine unfortunately is not).
If this next island doesn’t have chickens I’ll tar and feather myself for the merchant.
Approaching the next island I’m happy to see I’m still a safe distance from the still-glowing skull. I decide to pull out my spyglass to assess its chicken population instead of swimming ashore. To my delight I spot a chicken. Two chickens!
Wasting no time, I grab a coop from below deck and dive from the ship to head towards the shore.
Knowing that I’m looking for highly specific kinds of chicken I start my search, resolutely refusing to be distracted by the pigs that also call this island their home. I will not be fooled.
When I spot the chicken I’m looking for I chase it down, holding the coop in front of me like a ticking bomb. It turns out chickens are quite fast but once I’ve caught the white feathered demon I quietly weep into its feathers in relief.
A shrill cluck wakes me from my emotional reverie and I hurry to swim back to the ship, making sure I keep the chicken above the water. Do you know how hard it is to hold a caged chicken aloft while swimming through tumultuous seas? Not very actually, and I didn’t grudge doing it a second time.
Once my chickens are stored below deck I set a course for Dagger Tooth Outpost and check my watch. One day to get there on time. Not great but possible as long as I’m not waylaid by another crew.
It’s when I start sailing north east and realize the wind is going to be blowing against me the whole time that I wonder what I have done to make mother nature hate me so. At least I’m now moving away from the skull.
As soon as I relax behind the wheel the chickens begin to cluck incessantly below deck and I wonder just how worth it this has all been. By the time I get to Dagger Tooth Outpost I'll probably be clucking too.
After a long journey which sees me running desperately back and forth between my wheel and the small balcony from which I can see my map, my destination comes into view. The entire time I was sailing I was half-expecting some sails to come over the horizon, bringing a crew determined to send my chickens and I down to Davy Jones’ KFC.
Thankfully they didn’t and it’s with delight that I throw my anchor down and swim my chickens towards the shore.
I have to say, the merchant doesn’t seem particularly pleased to see me or impressed that I’ve managed to find the exact chickens she asked for. But I think I’m joyful enough for both of us.
The night is drawing in and I decide it’s time for a grog and a sleep. I hope tomorrow features less poultry.