Fans of Rare’s excellent pirate role-playing simulator, Sea of Thieves, got quite a surprise during the June 13 Xbox reveal showcase.
The first trailer for a free, previously unannounced June 22 expansion called A Pirate’s Life revealed that Jack Sparrow, of Pirates of the Caribbean fame, is coming to Sea of Thieves. That’s especially momentous for a game that has only existed in its own universe, with no crossovers since it first launched in 2018.
Rare could’ve done much worse for a first-ever crossover than one of Disney’s biggest live-action movie franchises. But hearing from Sea of Thieves creative director Mike Chapman, it’s not just the movies that form the basis for this expansion; it’s also the original Disney theme park ride on which the film series is based. Even the title is a reference, nodding to a song heard during the ride.
For Chapman, the underlying premise of Sea of Thieves is “perfectly embodied in that song.” When players drop into the world as the crew of a sailing ship, the only real goal is to live that virtual life in whichever way feels right. You can hunt for buried treasures, take on threats from the deep, form alliances with other players, or quite literally do the pirate thing and be a thieving nuisance to anyone you encounter.
Jack Sparrow isn’t the only ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ character who makes an appearance.
Mixed into all of that are the trappings of a pirate’s life. A tankard for grog-drinking and a musical instrument for plinking out oceangoing tunes are permanent fixtures in your inventory. Accessorizing your look with pets, eye patches, tricorner hats, and other gear is the reward for amassing a pile of earned or stolen booty. Gold is good but the real reward for playing is the big pirate-themed sandbox that Sea of Thieves plunges you into. It’s fantasy wish fulfillment for people who want to live a pirate’s life.
Getting back to that other A Pirate’s Life, the June 22 add-on, Rare approached the idea with a question in mind: “What if Jack Sparrow discovered the Sea of Thieves [and] he brought that song with him?”
In a practical sense, the Disney pirate’s arrival is plotted out as a story in the new pack of five Tall Tales that are central to A Pirate’s Life. These quests are tied together by an overarching narrative that sees players saving a captive Jack’s life and setting off with him on an adventure that quickly ropes in other pieces of the Pirates of the Caribbean fiction.
“What if Jack Sparrow visited the Sea of Thieves and he brought the song from the ride with him?”
That means visiting some new locations, including an expansion of the Sea of the Damned setting, which players typically visit only when they die in-game and are waiting to respawn. In A Pirate’s Life, the Sea also serves as a conduit between the Sea of Thieves world with Jack’s Caribbean, connected by tunnels that are reminiscent of the Disney ride. There’s also the Sunken Kingdom, an ocean floor location that includes, among other things, the wreckage of the Black Pearl.
“You go to Sea of the Damned and Sunken Kingdom locations twice [each] as part of this story,” Chapman explained. “Each time you’re introduced to completely new locations within those regions.” This can include familiar sites like Dead Man’s Grotto or new ones like Sailor’s Grave, a “shipwreck town” that’s built for players to explore.
While you’ll only visit these locations during one Tall Tale or another, they’re not without their secrets. Rare promises rewards for uncovering everything that’s hidden away, including the top reward of unlocking the “Yo Ho!” song for players to perform in-game. You need to find everything to get it, though.
An abundance of Easter eggs should make those secrets fun to track down. In one of the most obvious examples, Rare inserted some of the audio taken from the original Disney attraction. In some cases, some of the ride’s original voice actors were brought in to record new material. So when you venture into the Grotto, for example, you’ll hear some familiar sounds and voices as you arrive.
Arguably the more impactful change coming with A Pirate’s Life, at least for Sea of Thieves’ long-term health, is its promised shake-up for the main game’s sandbox. The add-on introduces new land and sea enemies, like Phantoms and Ocean Crawlers on land and Sirens and Sharks in the water. These are threats players can expect to encounter even outside the Tall Tales. There’s also a mysterious magical trident that appears to be a new, likely limited-use ranged weapon that players can expect to find washed up on beaches like any of Sea of Thieves other supplies.
One of the new Ocean Crawler foes you can expect to encounter even outside ‘A Pirate’s Life’ Tall Tales.
It’s difficult to say how much of an impact these additions will have on the broader Sea of Thieves sandbox until we see it in action. But Chapman said there are elements of A Pirate’s Life — including, specifically, the new foes and that trident — that will immediately arrive in the game’s main playing space. New enemies alone should be exciting for players who have spent the past three years facing limitless hordes of skeletons, and nothing but skeletons.
The team at Rare is full of excitement. A Pirate’s Life is the biggest addition to date for Sea of Thieves, in addition to being the game’s very first crossover. The fact that it’s also a partnership with Disney on one of the world’s most well-known pirate-themed franchises is no small thing either.
For Chapman, though, who really has lived his own, special kind of pirate’s life since this wild game first launched in 2018, it’s an important step forward.
“The deeper meaning and themes we’ve tapped into [with the game as a whole] is the meaning of A Pirate’s Life. You’re not only starting this epic original story and saving Jack Sparrow’s life, you’re also saving the broader pirate’s life in the Sea of Thieves. The name ‘A Pirate’s Life’ means a lot to us in terms of how these two worlds are brought together.”