Sea of Thieves is slowly expanding with new monsters and new events aiming to bring excitement and colour to a game derided for repetitive content. A new event involving exploring and hunting down hidden thrones throughout the world shows one way the controversial pirate game could build a community.
Part of the fun in Sea of Thieves comes from embracing your inner pirate by randomly attacking ships and pilfering loot. Starting with The Hungering Deep, developer Rare has deemphasised the game's originally competitive and contentious status quo in favour of quests that have players interacting on friendlier terms.
Taking down the massive megalodon required crews to seek out additional players, forcing strangers to take risks and trust each other if they wanted to get the best loot. The first "Bilge Rat Adventure" continues this trend, hiding skeleton thrones throughout the world, many of which require players to work together if they want rewards.
On paper, skeleton thrones seem underwhelming. You find these thrones throughout the game world, tucked away at various island and outposts. Sit in one of them - the small thrones require one player, the large require five - and you'll earn some special dubloons to spend with the Bilge Rat faction and earn unique rewards or extra gold.
Coming off The Hungering Deep's intense megalodon battle, the thrones are a much more relaxed and less exciting activity. But sailing off to locate a skeleton throne using in-game riddles and hints makes for a much more interesting journey than taking on one of the main factions treasure hunts, which direct you to a random island for menial tasks.
It helps that sitting on a throne isn't always as simple as finding it. Some of the thrones are hidden on unmarked islands and deep within underwater caves. Others rest at the highest points of fortresses and are reachable only if you fire yourself out of a cannon. They're fun platforming puzzles that ask the player to think about the game world in more detail.
Sea of Thieves works best in the quieter moments: Rigging and sailing a ship with friends, navigating a storm in your personal sloop. Heists and kraken battles provide powerful punctuation and interesting stories, but exploration has always been the most enjoyable aspect of the game.
As combat-heavy competitors such as Skull and Bones lurk on the horizon and sceptical fans worry about a dearth of content, Sea of Thieves needs to figure out how to sell itself. Moving toward activities that stress exploration and social interaction seems like a smart decision.
Sea of Thieves is, in essence, a giant chat room. You log in with friends to unwind, gripe about your day, and go on some quick adventures. Giving the player more reasons to explore beyond treasure - be that finding skeleton thrones or locating giant sea monsters - plays into the game's strengths.
Sea of Thieves is a place you go more than a thing you do. Dotting the world with new discoveries and requiring players to interact helps bring that into focus. The skeleton thrones are a small step, but they're a move in the right direction.
No Man's Sky built dedicated communities through social-focused updates. Following a similar path and focusing on activities that bring crews together could help Sea of Thieves define itself after a troubled launch.