It’s no secret that Sea of Thieves launched to some mixed reviews in early 2018. Although the foundations were undeniably strong, criticism largely cited the ‘lack of content’ or ‘things to do’ as the deciding factor for their review scores.
Since launching, Sea of Thieves has received a series of major content updates mixed in with regular activity additions and a slew of Quality of Life improvements. The latest update, Shrouded Spoils, aims to be all three rolled into one magnificent bundle.
While Sea of Thieves has been fun to play since its launch almost a year ago, it’s continued to evolve, improve, and get better – and Shrouded Spoils is the update that ties it all together.
What is Shrouded Spoils?
Released on November 28, Shrouded Spoils is Sea of Thieves’ latest major title update that focuses heavily on improving existing features or gameplay elements introduced in previous updates.
While it included long-requested changes – such as a thick dynamic fog, and expanded ship customisation – the bread and butter of the update includes (but isn’t limited to):
- Updating the Megaladon
- Now with multiple variations
- Rewards for defeating them (both in general and defeating each type), including loot per encounter and progress commendations/currency for defeating multiple
- Increased chance of an encounter
- Updating the Kraken
- Rewards for defeating it (again, per encounter and progress commendations/currency)
- New attack that does more damage and spins the ship around, changing the flow of the fight (forcing players to adjust their movement in order to hit with the cannon again, instead of sitting stationary and firing through the fight)
- Increased the chance of an encounter
- Free-roaming enemy Skeleton Ships
- Ships are from the Cursed Sails update (though the difficult raid-like encounters underneath the Ship Cloud still exist)
- All ships contain loot on board as a prize for defeating them (or boarding and escaping with the loot intact)
- Re-adding Mermaid Statues
- These statues spawn in water (deep or shallow) around islands and drop gems upon defeating them that are worth quite a bit of gold
- Similar to when they were first added, Mermaid Statues encourage players to actually explore during their voyage – an activity that ensures the underwater environments aren’t wasted
- Increased the spawn rate of Skeleton Forts
- High-risk and high-reward, upping the spawn rate of Skeleton Forts has started pushing more players to complete them, and has subsequently upped the player encounter rate
There’s a lot more that went into the update aside from the above – for the full list, check out the patch notes here.
How does this improve the game?
On paper, the additions above (and even the patch notes) may not seem like much; however, when everything comes together in-game, it’s a whole other experience.
After the update, my Voyages rarely play out how I thought they would – for example, I’ve included two stories below of session summaries since the update.
Last week, I picked up a Gold Hoarders Voyage to dig up some treasure on a couple of nearby island. While stocking up at the Outpost, I found a treasure map in a barrel that pointed to an island in the opposite direction – not wanting to miss out on some extra loot, I set sail for the new island.
After fighting off some skeletons and digging up the treasure, I set course toward my original island, stopping along the way to dive down into a shipwreck submerged beneath the waves, grabbing some supplies and finding a few crates to deliver to the Merchant Alliance.
When I resurfaced, a thick eery fog had rolled in and surrounded my ship, forcing me to slowly navigate my way through the poor visibility and around the rocks and land masses that don’t show up on the ship’s map.
When the fog cleared I made it tho the first island on my Voyage, digging up treasure chests while being chased by explosive-barrel-welding skeletons. While on the island I happened across another message in a bottle buried in the sand, and another located in a barrel – one requesting a gunpowder barrel be delivered to an Outpost, and the requesting a crate of 50 cannonballs be delivered to a different Outpost. I started stocking up on cannonballs, and fought another gunpowder skeleton to steal its barrel.
Upon setting sail to my next destination, I came across a Skeleton Ship – a beefy Galleon, with 4 cannons on each side, a much bigger threat than my solo Sloop – that attacked me when I came too close. We circled and traded cannon shots with each other for a few minutes before it rammed into me, and I boarded. Knocking a couple of skeletons away from their cannons, I grabbed the first treasure chest I could see and jumped back onto my ship.
When I pulled away again the repair the damage in my hull, a Megaladon surfaced nearby and started circling – but instead of attacking me, it ended up taking a chunk out of the Skeleton Ship, and the two started fighting each other. Seizing the opportunity, I put a few more cannonballs into the ship and boarded again, dodging my way below deck to fight off any skeletons attempting to repair the damage.
After a quick death and a respawn, I found myself back on my ship circling the sinking Skeleton Ship, and the Megaladon was making its last dive back down to the depths.
After diving into the water and collecting the remaining loot that surfaced from the Skeleton Ship’s wreckage, I had enough loot on my ship to make me nervous, so I made my way to the nearest Outpost and cashed out.
That was all before I started the second map in my initial Voyage.
Coming to the end of a session, I pulled into an Outpost to hand in the little loot I had. Upon unloading my loot I saw another ship approaching from the distance – unsure of their intentions, I pulled up anchor and sailed in the same direction.
When I was close enough, the duo Sloop cautiously explained they were heading to the nearby Skeleton Fort that had just opened up, and I was free to join them in an Alliance if I wanted to help.
Not wanting to wrap up just yet, I joined their Alliance and we set sail to the Skeleton Fort together, tackling one of the new forts that Shrouded Spoils had opened up (an adventure in itself).
When we had beaten the Fort and loaded our ships with as many goodies as we could carry, we set a course back to the Outpost, only to be stopped in our tracks by a black ink that filled the water.
The Kraken’s tentacles rose out of the water and surrounded my new crew’s ship, pounding it as they tried to fight it off. Caught just outside the ink that slows ships to a stop, I circled the outskirts and fired upon the tentacles closest to the other Sloop (accidentally putting one or two shots into them as well, but what can you do). Before I could do too much damage, however, a Megaladon showed up and started circling me.
Having to abandon my mates briefly, I fired upon the Megaladon only when I knew I could hit it (or if it started charging) to conserve my dwindling supply of cannonballs, and hoping that it didn’t make it past my cannons to take a bite out of my ship (I only had a handful of wooden planks left).
Thankfully, my second crew managed to managed to defeat the last of the Kraken’s tentacles in time to help me finish off the Megaladon, and we dove beneath the waves to scavenge for the rewards they left behind.
In the following half an hour, we fought 3 more Megaladons in a row before we were able to make it back to the Outpost, which proved difficult after I ran out of supplies (my new crewmates and I had to take turns shooting ourselves onto each others ships to transfer supplies back and forward while sharks continuously circled).
We finished the night by handing in the largest collection of loot I’d ever held on a Sloop (not record-breaking, but a personal best), and trading friend requests – almost 2 hours after I’d initially planned on logging off.
The beauty of the Shrouded Spoils update is that it makes the world feel so much more alive.
There’s always a set of sails on the horizon, and the risk of not knowing who’s friend or foe; always a new riddle to solve, or a detour to take on your Voyage; always giant sharks to hunt or escape, or volcanic debris to dodge while navigating treacherous waters – there’s never a time when something else isn’t going on.
While more things happening is always good, it would be pointless without incentive, which is another area where Shrouded Spoils shines.
Incentives Encourage Players to Engage More
While it doesn’t sound like much on paper, having encounters like the Kraken or the Megaladon drop immediate and tangible rewards actually gives players a reason to interact with them.
So where the Kraken used to be a nuisance to sail through and the Megaladon was a big shark to ignore until it went away, these encounters now have purpose. They’re also a lot of fun to take part in, and the game shines when they all come together (per the examples above).
These encounters have also been revamped to include commendations, where players can earn Doubloons to spend on time-limited cosmetics (now or in the future). This pushes players to complete these encounters beyond the first, and provides multiple layers of reward (immediate loot, first/second/third tier commendations).
Feedback from the community has been overwhelmingly positive. While it’s only from personal experience, crews I found myself in pre-update would ignore a lot of those elements flat-out, while Voyages with crews post-update are much more dynamic.
With each update, Sea of Thieves continues to improve – the updates received through 2018 have added a considerable amount of timed and permanent content, with Shrouded Spoils wrapping everything up in a neat bow.
Now that the world is much more dynamic, and moment-to-moment gameplay contains more things to do, Rare is looking to 2019, with the release of a few major updates early in the year (The Arena being a PvP-only game mode, and the second major expansion aiming to expand on the quest/mission system to bring further lore and story to the game).
We eagerly await 2019’s content schedule – if 2018 is anything to go by, we’re going to be in for a great year of Sea of Thieves.
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