The Sea of Thieves has been continuously upgraded since its launch, from spectral phantoms and coral beasts to Jack Sparrow's and Spanish fleets. But the most recent Captaincy update, which launched at the start of August along with season 7, may be one of the most significant updates yet. It allows players to name and decorate their own ships, sell to a special vendor, and otherwise express their status on the high seas.
When Sea of Thieves was first released, threats were slim on the ground. Developer Rare has since expanded the map into the fiery, frightful Devils Roar and added a slew of new quests and maps to explore. All of these changes have been external, changing the world. Pirates have received new tattoos or dresses, but rarely have they been given new opportunities to meaningfully progress their own story.
Peering down a spyglass at a Captained ship changes the tune, making you recognize their ship's name, which is also emblazoned above their quarters. You cant do anything about it although many do, often with cannons and fire. Peering at other ships, with names such as the parrot-cosmetic-adorned Chicken Club or the black and gold Booty Hunter, makes them seem like established characters.
In a conversation with Polygon, creative director Mike Chapman says the team has discussed this capability on and off since the launch. I think weve reached a point now with the sandbox facilities that have evolved so much, and theres such a wide breadth of different experiences and play styles, that it was time to allow players to become Captains.
Players may progress through the Tall Tales quest lines, gain reputation with factions, and participate in world events. There are no Boots of Better Sailing to acquire or Pirate Points to spend in talent trees, so your pirate may start each session with a fresh, unadorned sloop.
Players may make their own fleets, purchasing new ships, and locking specific customization slots, such as a treasured capstan or cool cannon to automatically load on a sloop, brigantine, or galleon. And if your ship gets ruined or firebombed, the damage will vanish until you pay a small amount to repair it.
Shelley Preston, the lead designer for Sea of Thieves, said when we discussed deep customization, we thought that players want to express how they play and who they are as a captain. Milestones are linked to globe-y, volcanic rock-looking decorations, so you may progress that way and become a reflection of that play style.
Preston said that some of the trinkets are trophies from fantastic adventures, while others are just nice little ferns or a simple hook on which to hang one's hat. It's all about ensuring that we have enough variety and role-playability to make the cabin and the quarters feel like theirs.
When you're under stress and your ship is sinking, Chapman says it's a process to ensure that Captains have fun options without cluttering up their ships too much. What you don't want to do is push it so far that you're affecting the core gameplay, and youre affecting the free flow of walking around the ship and accessing damage holes. So its trying to tread that line of not affecting the core gameplay, but also really giving you the freedom to express yourself and the things that you'
Since its release over four years ago, Rare has given Sea of Thieves a lot of updates, but the Captaincy update is one Ive enjoyed the most so far. It's always fun to investigate a new voyage or glowing landmark on the map, but the fun of quickly arranging tiny items on my sloop is also enjoyable.
It's also fun to sink another ship and look over their logbook. We feared for our precious cargo when we sank a brig, and then we seized their logbook and marveled at their accomplishments. All of the other Captaincy features, like the ability to sell your loot in bulk to a convenient vendor at outposts, are just the icing on the cake.