To me, Sea of Thieves is as interesting a game as they come. Not because it’s fun to play – which it totally is, by the way – but because of its trajectory.
At launch, the core gameplay loop was great but it lacked variety. You were tasked with doing voyages for three unique trading companies, but catching animals for the Merchant was dull and uninspired, rendering nearly one-third of what the game had to offer a disappointment. Skeleton forts were a nice way to spice things up, but they were only active once every four hours. There was also a kraken, but it rarely spawned. As a result, most of the fun came from playing with people you knew and engaging with (sinking and robbing) other players.
But that wasn’t enough to tether people, myself included, over the long term.
I gave Sea of Thieves another chance about six months later though, and honestly, I haven’t been able to put it down. There’s now an element of danger behind every wave, be it from megalodons, skeleton ships, or the retooled kraken which now has a higher spawn rate. There’s almost always an active skeleton fort now. They’ve also added better merchant voyages and a section of the map with earthquakes, active volcanoes, and dangerous geysers that blast you into the sky. Even the simple addition of a rowboat has added a multitude of options.
These changes propelled me to keep playing until I hit pirate legend status. which, if you’ve played the game, you know is one hell of a grind. I’d wager it took at least 120 hours to accomplish.
And let me tell you, being a pirate legend feels good. Only 0.81% of players have unlocked the prestigious rank thus far, so strutting across the ocean with that title under my name instills a bit of pride. Now, it doesn’t mean that I’m better than you. It doesn’t mean that I have more powerful gear or weapons. It means.
Well, what does it mean, actually?
If you’re someone that will never put in the time to reach this pinnacle of seafaring badassery and want to know what it brings to the game…
I hate to break it to all the starry eyed dreamers out there, but not much, honestly.
The perks are mostly feel-good. People will comment on your title and compliment your success. Sometimes they’ll even invite you to play with their crew or shoot you a friend request. After all, it’s a safe bet that you’re at least semi-competent at the game, and that’s a welcome addition considering most randoms will needlessly use all of your supplies and sink your ship as a goof. You can’t buy that kind of respect in Sea of Thieves, but it can certainly be earned.
Being a Pirate Legend can also spice things up, as others may see your title and decide they’d like to challenge themselves by going head-to-head against a veteran. They could very well win, too, because it all comes down to strategy and skill.
You do come across annoying leeches from time-to-time though. Pirate Legends have access to buy Athena’s voyages exclusively, so as soon as someone finds out you’re one of the gatekeepers, so to speak, they’ll beg you to join their game so you can drop a voyage on their quest table. I understand why they ask, because it’s guaranteed to have valuable loot and the final chest will earn them some Athena’s rep. but if you have to ask, I ain’t droppin’. If we play for a solid session and you’ve been cool, then fine. but don’t just ask me out of the blue.
Once in a while I like to play Santa Claus, joining random crews and leaving Athena’s behind for them to do. Whether they succeed or not is none of my business. Their fate is their own.
Everything else just comes down to cosmetics. You can buy pirate legend stuff to wear and dress your ship with, but the real golden geese people want are the ghost items. Nothing says ‘I’m a badass’ like black threads which are torn and have green light shining through!
Of course, in order to reach said cosmetics you need to do a lot more grinding. As mentioned before, once you hit Pirate Legend you’re supposed to grind Athena’s levels, and what a slog that is. The best way to gain rep is to turn in an Athena’s chest, but you’ll need to do eight things on your voyage wheel before having the chance. and pvp is still a thing so there’s a good chance a poacher will try to walk away with it. To reach Athena level 10, you need turn in around 100 of these chests. On average, an Athena voyage can take anywhere from 2 to 3 hours. That’s. a lot. You’ve already invested well over 100 hours to reach Pirate Legend, and now you need to grind at least double that in order to get to the tippy top of the ladder. Just. yikes.
You can gain Athena rep by doing other things though, but unfortunately, they aren’t super-secret things that only Pirate Legends can do. It’s just a lot more of the stuff you’ve been doing all along. Destroy more skeleton ships, turn in more merchant stuff, turn in more captain’s skulls and chests, and so on and so forth.
So in contrast to grinding for Pirate Legend, going for Athena 10 doesn’t get the blood pumping as much. That’s because I’m no longer sweating every piece of treasure.
On the plus side, that means I’m finding excitement via other means. I’m now willing to run entire Athena voyages without turning loot in until the end, which is extremely dangerous. I’ll engage with enemy ships whenever, even if it’s my sloop against their galleon. I’ll chase a ship across the map for two hours if I think they have any sort of meaningful loot. Being a pirate legend has taught me that the greater the risk, the greater the reward. and I mean that in a ‘it feels good’ sense. Getting 5,000 gold from thieving feels better than earning 20,000 from an uncontested fort, because it’s way more fun. Is it a bit more crushing when you spin the wheel of chance and lose? Sure. But honestly, as long as the other crew proves that they’re worth the salt they’re sailing on, I’m fine with taking an L.
So here’s my advice to anyone looking to hit Pirate Legend as soon as possible: Slow down and let it occur naturally. Just do what you want in the game. If you feel like you’re grinding and you’re not having much fun, then what’s the point? Put in enough time and you’ll get there in due time.
If you’re already a pirate legend but feel like your gameplay is now unrewarded, then look for new and exciting ways to have fun. Take some chances. Embrace the element of risk. Without having to rely on every piece of loot to get you to a certain status, you can be more carefree in your actions. This will undoubtedly prove to be quite fun. at least for you. Other crews on the sea may feel differently about your tactics. but it is a pirate game, after all! Nobody owns the loot on their ship until it’s handed in!
Happy pirating, everyone!