Video game crossover events are hardly anything new, whether it’s the foundation of an entire game like Marvel vs. Capcom, or something incidental like every single pop-culture character being turned into a Fortnite skin.
There’s something that feels a bit different about Sea of Thieves: A Pirate’s Life and how Rare are featuring Jack Sparrow (voiced by Jared Butler, who voiced the character in Kingdom Hearts) and the Pirates of the Caribbean films and theme park rides in their game. There’s multiple new enemy types, a five-part story told through Tall Tales, and plenty of new sights and sounds to see.
It’s immediately clear just how much care and love has been put into this project. Rare and Disney first discussed the possibility of a crossover, to imagine the possibilities all the way back at E3 2019. A pitch to Disney in January 2020 then led to a green light and for Rare to start cooking up this sweeping crossover narrative.
That’s considering that Sea of Thieves is renowned for having a rather light approach to storytelling. As wet as the game world is, it’s a huge sandbox where players can do whatever they like, whether it’s taking on missions, hunting other players to fight, creating alliances to tackle the game’s tricky skeleton forts, or taking on the more narrative-led Tall Tales.
A Pirate’s Life is a new string of Tall Tales for Season 3 – starting this week on 22nd June – and it’s about as close as Sea of Thieves has come to having a single-player or co-op story mode. You start the adventure by visiting the new Mysterious Castaway at any of the game’s outposts and then head into a huge portal that rips you out of the main map and into a different realm. Here it’s just your ship and your crew with a new world to battle through. Finally, some Sea of Thieves players will be thinking, a PvE only game mode!
The key conceit to the story is that Jack has found himself a new McGuffin, a treasure that gives him the ultimate freedom to travel between realms, letting him discover the watery world of Sea of Thieves and their legendary Pirate’s Life, where all your characters are stuck in a kind of limbo. However, following in his wake is Davy Jones and the Flying Dutchman, threatening the balance of this world, but strangely powerless over the dead of this world.
The Tall Tales will actually take you away from the main Sea of Thieves world and into the Sea of the Damned to explore it for the first time (and not just spend a few moments on the boat of The Ferryman). The first episode will take you to Sailor’s Grave to try and rescue Jack, summoning the Ferry of the Damned to spring him from this realm, and then in the second tale, to dive deep down to the Black Pearl, Jack’s beloved ship, which is being held in the lands of the Sirens.
You’ll have new enemies to fight along the way, with three new enemy types being introduced. That second Tall Tale will see you having to battle the Sirens, heading deep underwater to the Siren Citadel, going so far that you have to start sucking up air from bubble-producing plants like you’re Sonic in an underwater level. Fighting the Sirens, you have to play differently, as they move effortlessly around you in 3D, firing from range, zipping toward you for claw and spear attacks, and even having the ability to heal themselves.
At other times, you’ll be battling Phantom Pirates, the ghostly visages of pirates passed away, and the Ocean Crawlers, new crustacean creatures like the Crab with its claw pummel attack, the Eel-ectric that fires electric bolts and darts around, and the Hermit who is constantly spewing out poisonous spores around them.
They all look challenging to deal with, and will spill over from this new narrative path to crop up in the rest of the Sea of Thieves game as well. So too will the Trident of Dark Tides, a new ranged weapon lifted from the Sirens, letting you fire a bubble of energy at enemies. Through the Tall Tales, you can expect it at set-piece moments, but you might find it when adventuring elsewhere as well.
Even without the inclusion of Jack Sparrow and the other characters from the films and theme park rides, this would be a huge expansion for what’s in Sea of Thieves, but you do have to consider what the Pirates of the Caribbean license offers.
Jack himself is much more than just a quest giver. With Jared Butler voicing him and one of the stunt doubles from the films providing plenty of animation material to capture the madcap character’s many mannerisms and quirks. Jack will be an AI companion, joining you on your ship, bantering his way through the story, and even taking part in battles by firing the ship’s cannons and scrapping with enemies on board.
Through the rest of the story, it takes inspiration from both the films and the classic theme park rides. Fans might recognise certain scenes from the water ride, from the centre of Sailor’s Grave, to the dog with keys in its mouth (which can be a pet!), and even including the voiceover from the ride.
Of course, there’s plenty of cosmetics that will appeal to Pirates of the Caribbean, letting you visit the Pirates Emporium and pick up an ensemble of Jack Sparrow clothes, so you can cosplay as him in-game.
Perhaps most important is how all of this will be brought to players in the game. You’d better believe that the new update will bring more players to the game, and as such it’s great that Rare are putting a dedicated option for the new content on the main menu, which will spawn you right by the Mysterious Castaway. If you’re a new player, you’ll start with the Maiden Voyage tutorial and then be able to head into this new adventure, while the Tales themselves should be accessible, the challenge scaling whether you’re one person paying solo, or you’re heading in with a full crew of four. Expect plenty of puzzling and questing to go alongside battles with monsters and ghosts.
Oh, and there’s no time limit. While A Pirate’s Life is launching as part of Season 3, these Tall Tales will remain after the end of the season, with Rare’s Executive Producer Joe Neate stating that they want to have it in the game for as long as there are players playing. With story checkpoints that you can resume from later on, you’re free to take your time.
While video game crossovers and film tie-ins will often send eyes rolling, Sea of Thieves: A Pirate’s Life sounds like so much more than simply throwing a Master Chief skin on a character and letting him skank. There’s a clear love of the material throughout what Rare has shown of this original tale, but without the Pirates of the Caribbean theme, A Pirate’s Life looks set to dramatically grow the kinds of stories and content that Sea of Thieves will feature in future.
Sea of Thieves: A Pirate’s Life will be out on 22nd June for Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One and PC, coming as a free update for all players of the game (which is obviously included in Xbox Game Pass).