It’s been simply over a 12 months since Uncommon began formalising new content material drops in Sea of Thieves as ‘seasons’. Every certainly one of these timed durations lasts round three months and sometimes introduces a brand new sort of voyage or exercise, and features a battle pass-style development system the place you’ll be able to earn further rewards by finishing particular bonus aims and incomes ‘Renown’ – leading to any respectable session bumping you up a degree or two by the point you wrap up enjoying.
It was, on the entire, a welcome change; the sport had already come a great distance because it first launched in 2018, however gamers appreciated the regularity and transparency of the brand new construction, whereas the Renown system felt like a slower (however extra dependable) method of incomes rewards than we’d seen beforehand. Yeah, one other crew would possibly get the higher of you earlier than you’ll be able to truly offload any of your hard-earned treasure, however by that time you’ve in all probability gained a couple of ranges and bought a cool new cannon to your boat anyway, so… fantastic?
However with Season Six, Uncommon is altering issues up as soon as once more. Beforehand, a brand new season would start, and all the brand new content material would drop on the identical day. However now, the builders are introducing it step by step. And I feel it may be sensible.
Right here’s the way it’s unfolded to date. The primary thrust of Season Six’s occasions truly began in direction of the tip of Season 5, when quite a few the sport’s islands have been out of the blue beset by a bizarre inexperienced fog. Certainly one of them was Golden Sands, usually one of many recreation’s most picturesque outposts. Along with it being all darkish and spooky, it was very clear that some form of battle had taken place, and the NPCs who usually inhabit the island had all vanished.
It’s laborious to overstate how brilliantly unnerving this was. To see a sometimes bustling island, a spot of security you’ve visited dozens and even a whole bunch of instances out of the blue deserted, with no clue as to the welfare or location of its residents. In fact, I’d by no means cared an excessive amount of about Sea of Thieves’ story or characters, however honest play to Uncommon – this bought my consideration.
Then, we got a brand new mini-voyage to get the ball rolling on figuring out what had truly occurred. Actually, this was a little bit of a let-down. It basically concerned crusing to a different island, battering some ghosts and setting hearth to some lanterns. Certain, it was clearly too quickly to totally reveal what had taken place at Golden Sands, however gamers anticipated maybe a bit extra.
Then Season Six kicked off for actual, with the addition of Sea Forts. Pitched as a fast however profitable exercise for time-poor gamers, they completely delivered on that entrance but additionally recommended a wealth of untapped potential. Basically you’d sail as much as a fort, battle a load of ghosts both from the security of your ship or by setting foot within the fort itself (whereas some completely sensational flamenco music kicks in) then hoover up a load of treasure from the fort’s vault. However what of the locked jail cell with creepy arcane sigils drawn on the ground? The central chamber, full with tables, grog barrels and an enormous world map? The handfuls of openable containers and cupboards with completely sod-all in them?
Uncommon recommended that gamers might take and maintain a fort “for role-playing functions”, which is secret code for “there isn’t any tangible reward for doing this”. That mentioned, it’s a recognized indisputable fact that Sea of Thieves gamers will go to extraordinary lengths to mess with one another, so it’s completely believable that I’ll sooner or later attempt to take a fort solely to seek out that it’s stuffed with different gamers hiding in barrels. However nonetheless, it was clear that this was a basis for issues to return.
Then, most lately, we got a brand new journey to participate in – having obtained phrase that the residents of Golden Sands have been being held captive within the Sea Forts, gamers set in regards to the completely fulfilling enterprise of releasing them, concluding with a tease that the following chapter goes to contain searching a bloody megalodon.
And now, regardless of some barely underwhelming sections, the whole lot in regards to the new season construction is out of the blue beginning to click on. This isn’t only a sequence of content material drops – it’s a narrative, enjoying out in actual time.
Sea of Thieves’ world has by no means been fully static, in fact; there’s at all times been an ongoing story to mirror adjustments and additions to the assorted factions or areas. However the extra lively pacing of these occasions is permitting the world to breathe in a method it hasn’t earlier than.
It’s completely potential that the thought of drip-feeding the content material happened purely to forestall essentially the most lively gamers from working out of latest issues to do inside the first week of every season, however even when that’s the case, it’s given us one thing rather more fantastic. One thing that feels rather a lot like… oh god, it’s Future 2, isn’t it?
Should you’re not conscious, Future 2 additionally turned to a seasonal construction some years in the past, additionally that includes a battle cross development system with a load of mini-objectives to tick off. Future 2’s seasons then additionally went by means of a change the place story occasions would unfold week-by-week, giving the sport a a lot larger sense of weight… although gamers have been nonetheless just about doing the identical seasonal exercise over and over.
A specific shout-out goes to Season of the Splicer, which handled a refugee disaster amongst certainly one of Future’s ‘enemy’ races, and the non-public and political upheaval this precipitated among the many recreation’s supposed heroes; genuinely attention-grabbing and affecting stuff from the Capturing Aliens Without end With Your Mates recreation.
To be clear, no one’s accusing Uncommon of poaching concepts. Whereas it’s not laborious to think about that Future 2’s ongoing success has been an affect, it’s taking the concepts and completely making them its personal.
For starters, the pacing is completely different. Whereas Sea of Thieves has an extremely devoted neighborhood, it’s additionally at all times held a sure attraction for individuals who don’t essentially have time to maintain up with a behemoth like Future 2. Bungie does enable gamers to atone for previous occasions within the present season, so it’s not the tip of the world in case you miss per week or two. However in case you then spend a night smashing by means of a number of weeks of the story, it kills the pacing considerably. Uncommon, in the meantime, is giving everybody a few weeks to get entangled in every new journey – and in case you miss one, it’s gone ceaselessly.
The opposite key distinction is that Future 2’s usually unfolding story principally gives context to gamers repeating the identical seasonal exercise advert infinitum, whereas every new nugget of story in Sea of Thieves accompanies a genuinely new exercise of some sort, even when they’re much much less frequent.
There’s room for each approaches, in fact – this isn’t a case of 1 being higher than the opposite. It’s additionally completely potential that the hyperlink between the 2 video games doesn’t truly exist outdoors of my very own creativeness. However in any case, it’s attention-grabbing to see two video games attempting comparable issues, however in ways in which make sense for the worlds they’ve created and the communities which have grown round them. And, with Sea of Thieves has been wrestling with one thing of an id disaster for a while, it is giving me hope that the sport can look ahead to being in its greatest form – ever – if Uncommon sticks the touchdown with this seasonal method.
Now in case you don’t thoughts, I’m off to see a person a couple of megalodon.