Cursed Sails has arrived in Sea of Thieves and despite some odd design choices, it’s absolutely fantastic. Cursed Sails marks the game’s second huge content drop, following on from The Hungering Deep and preceding Forsaken Shores, penned to arrive in September. Cursed Sails introduces a limited time campaign, heaps of new cosmetics and some additional commendations and content, such as the Brigantine, the game’s third ship. Having put several hours into the content so far, I have to say that I’m very impressed with its direction.
Spoiler warning for those of you that have yet to dive into the small, yet interesting, campaign. Still with us? Great, let’s move on. The campaign tells the story of a vendor that’s been cursed and has gone rogue, raising an army of skeletons that are bringing war to the game’s outposts. Playing out much like The Hungering Deep’s campaign, players will be traveling to and from several locations, talking to a selection of characters and unearthing the campaign’s secrets and even discovering a cleverly hidden location at the story’s end.
It doesn’t at all take too long to complete, lasting roughly ninety minutes or so in total. Once players have fulfilled this, they’ll be rewarded three new ship sails that represent each of the three map sections within; The Shores of Plenty, The Ancient Isles and The Wilds. Players are then tasked with sporting these sails and traveling to locations nearby outposts to fight against the game’s new AI threat, skeleton ships. These encounters are without a shadow of a doubt, the hardest encounters in the entirety of the game for a great number of reasons.
Thought Skeleton Forts, the Kraken or the Megalodon was tough? Wait until you spend some time with these devastating undead Galleons, I’ll tell you that much. You see, these are not encounters that any single Sloop, Brigantine or Galleon will have an easy time taking on. In fact, I dare say that it’s far too hard for the solo-crew to complete, unless it’s been done already and I’m unaware of that, and if that’s you, bravo, bravo. You see, in order to have an easier ride, you’ll need to take advantage of the game’s newest feature, alliances.
Rare has introduced the ability for crews to form alliances and share in the loot, combat and just about anything else that Sea of Thieves has to offer. This works via climbing into the crows nest and selecting a special form-an-alliance flag. Those nearby that are sporting a join-an-alliance flag will automatically join forces with you; something that comes in very handy when dealing with the new threat. Once you’ve hit the campaign, have collected your sails and have formed an alliance, you’re ready to sail to one of three locations and start fighting the undead.
Skeleton ships will spawn in waves and will sink just like any other ship. There’s a twist, however. Skeletons will infinitely spawn, swiftly repair their ships, and have the ability to fire cursed cannonballs. If your ship is struck by one of these cannonballs, there’s a huge chance that your entire crew will fall victim to one of the curses within. This can include becoming violently drunk, dancing on the spot and more. The curses vary from location to location, depending on which skeleton ship you’re taking on, with more curses set to arrive this week and next.
If you’re skilled enough to take out enough ships, a boss ship will spawn in. One this has been sunk, you’ll receive your hard earned commendation and some doubloons. Having played the game since launch and having played its early access builds, I can wholeheartedly say that these encounters are the most tense and terrifying encounters the game has seen to date. I’ve had an absolute blast playing it so far and I thoroughly look forward to seeing what the subsequent skeleton ship crews bring, being that three new threats will be added each week until Cursed Sails comes to an end on August 21st.
The problem, sadly, is that a few odd design choices muddy the otherwise solid content offering. Skeleton ships will only spawn at specific in-game dates. One crew will spawn between the 1st of the month and the 10th of the month, another crew will spawn between the 11th of the month and the 20th of the month, and the final crew will spawn in between the 21st of the month and the 30th of the month. Now, it doesn’t matter what server you hop into, the date of the game will remain the same. Ten in-game days is exactly four hours in real time.
This means that you can only fight these crews (going from UK time) between 1am and 5am, between 5am and 9am, between 9am and 1pm, and so forth. The problem is, not everyone can meet these dedicated time allocations, which is a complaint I’ve heard from each and every crew that I’ve played with during the event. It wouldn’t be so bad if the time changed per server but that’s sadly not the case. It also makes forming an alliance a desperate goal, being that if you’re not there for the moment the encounters start, you’re going to have a tough job finding players that haven’t already done it.
I spent a half an hour stocking my ship and then a further forty-five minutes floating nearby Shark Bait Cove, waiting for another crew to show up. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful, which meant I had just wasted all of that time for nothing. This just isn’t fun. It also isn’t fun that crews can sail closely to your alliance, join in, and then sail off, simply to cash in on your hard earned goods without putting forward any effort or aid. Hopefully we see this system refined in the long run and can boot select crews to prevent this from happening. Nevertheless, I continued to play.
What I will say is that when all of this comes together and you’re able to locate a few crews, the experience is priceless. The skeleton ships certainly put up a good fight and their cursed outputs offer hilarious results. The new Brigantine is also thoroughly well designed and a joy to sail; sporting two cannons aside, two sails for decent speed and plenty of stock space. The Bilge Rat commendations remain tough yet realistically obtainable, typically demanding that you form alliances, defeat all crews throughout the course of the content’s three week stay, and beat a total of fifty ships.
Doing so will net you some exclusive rewards and access to some tasty new cosmetics. When all is said and done, Cursed Sails is easily Sea of Thieves’ most solid drop to date. The game has never been in a better position – despite the temporary removal of Skeleton Forts and Krakens – and it shows a lot of promise for the game’s future. What about you? Have you followed the story of Wanda, earned your sails and taken on the new threat? Have you enjoyed it? Did you have a tough time? Sound off in the comments below to make yourselves heard.