Sea of Thieves: A Pirate’s Life review – X marks the spot in immersive Disney crossover

Sea of Thieves Pirates Life Jack SparrowRare / Microsoft / Dexerto

Sea of Thieves stunned fans when it released back in 2018, featuring arguably the most dazzling water effects we’ve seen in gaming. Now, developers Rare have teamed up with Disney to bring the iconic Jack Sparrow and Davy Jones to the Sea of Thieves in the Season 3: A Pirate’s Life update.

When Rare first dropped the game, its giant and sprawling world was held back by a lack of content, story, and enemies to keep players returning long-term. In 2021, however, there are endless opportunities to sail off into the horizon and complete quests.

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Between trade routes, Forts of Fortune, and Daily Deeds to kickstart your adventure, there’s something new to do each time you log in.

The news of a Disney crossover with Rare was completely out of the blue at E3 2021, but it also made perfect sense. With Jack Sparrow and the gang headlining in their own MMO, Pirates of the Caribbean Online, back in 2007, this announcement brought me back to the time I spent with both that and the Lego Pirates of the Caribbean series as a kid.

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Sea of Thieves: A Pirate’s Life key details

  • Price: Free, included as part of the game – $39.99 / £34.99, also available on Xbox Game Pass.
  • Developer: Rare
  • Platforms: PC / Xbox

Sea of Thieves: A Pirate’s Life trailer

Gameplay is an immersive dark-ride experience

Right from the outset, there’s no shying away from the nostalgia as you’re thrust into this new update, and it’s an absolute joy. Upon speaking with The Castaway (who can be found at any Island Outpost), she’ll tell you a tale of the “ill wind, blowin’ from beyond the horizon” and that it’s already begun to change this world to its liking.

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According to this story, it’s Jack Sparrow that’s responsible for this mess that’s happening to the Sea of Thieves. To help him out and learn the truth of what’s going on, we need to cross over and stow away.

Kraken Sea of Thieves A Pirate's LifeRare / Microsoft
The Legendary Kraken continually looms throughout its brief appearance.

After boarding my ship and sailing towards the door that was opened, I felt like I was in one of Disney’s dark rides. It’s clear that the references to both the movie and The Pirates of The Caribbean ride are utilized heavily here through all five Tall Tales, but it’s never at the expense of actual gameplay.

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Gone are the sun-drenched oceans and beaches, and instead we’re presented with somber, monochromatic green seascapes and ghostly apparitions singing ‘Yo Ho’, a chilling rendition of ‘Hoist The Colours’ and chants of “dead men tell no tales”.

As I came face to face with the iconic sunken Black Pearl for the first time, the stunning corals and vistas of its surroundings took my breath away.

The whole storyline is beautifully crafted, with gorgeous visuals and immersive soundscapes as you sail through both deathly still waters and the treacherous high seas.

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Exciting new enemy types

As someone who was brought back to Sea of Thieves with this update, it’s incredibly refreshing to get new enemies to take on. As well as the phantoms to take down, you’ll see a lot of the new Ocean Crawler enemy type in A Pirate’s Life, and each can land you on The Ferry of The Damned in a flash if you’re not careful:

  • Eel-ectric Ocean Crawler: These will fire orbs of electricity at you from afar, but shock you if you get too close. They’re also incredibly fast.
  • Crab Ocean Crawler: Slow, lumbering crabs that take quite a while to crack. They also can summon shields that will protect others.
  • Hermit Ocean Crawler: The most unassuming of the bunch, hermits are deadly. With poison-based clouds and attacks, you’ll want to keep your distance or wait for an opening to lunge in with your sword after a dodged attack.

You’ll also come across Sirens in ‘The Sunken Pearl’, which constantly keep you on your toes as they appear right out of the blue. The enigmatic Siren Queen and the fabled Kraken are surprisingly not much of a challenge, though, even for a solo player.

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Phantoms have just been added in Season 3, and feature throughout the whole game, not only in A Pirate’s Life. These cunning spirits disappear (and reappear) in a flash as they sprint towards you to land incredibly deadly blows.

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Siren Queen Sea ofThievesRare / Microsoft
The Siren Queen is just one of the bosses you’ll take on in A Pirate’s Life.

Repetitive puzzles and combat

Peppered throughout the tales are different puzzles, platforming segments, and battles to get your teeth stuck into. While the content can be played alone, it feels as if it’s truly crafted to be played together, much like the rest of the game.

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This is especially evident in the Oceanic battles against The Flying Dutchman and the battle against the Kraken, which tended to fall flat as I ran around the ship. One section took upwards of 13 minutes to complete alone, and while the time it took wasn’t my main gripe, the tiresome and repetitive ‘shoot a cannonball, fight enemies, and repeat’ loop didn’t help things. On Isla Tesoro, however, it was, at times, overwhelming how many phantoms I had to stave off alone.

The final face-off against Davy Jones and his crew, as you team up with Jack Sparrow, is intense. It keeps you on your toes as you attempt to take him down, needing to manage both your ship being peppered with cannons and dodging obstacles and gigantic statues as you sail through dark and stormy waters to the franchise’s iconic soundtrack. It’s everything you expect a Pirate battle to be, but it’s a shame that this wasn’t felt throughout all of the other tales.

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Each puzzle presented in A Pirate’s Life suffers from something we see in gaming all too often: it gets repetitive, fast. Puzzles presented in these Tall Tales typically all fall under the same umbrella: either you’re lighting something with your lantern, whacking statues with your sword to change the position of its arm to reflect a mural on the wall, or traipsing off to find missing items to unlock doors.

A Pirate’s Life story is total comfort food

Cursed Captain Sea of ThievesRare / Microsoft
The Cursed Captain is just one of the colorful companions you’ll meet on your journey.

Even with some of those downsides, playing Sea of Thieves: A Pirate’s Life’s adventure is a blast. Nothing about the Tall Tale’s overarching storyline particularly breaks the mold, but it never sets out to do so. The characters come and go as the story chugs along at a relatively quick pace, yet it excels at making you feel part of that world.

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Every Tall Tale is full of journals to collect, with each rounding out the world that we’re exploring and expanding upon the story at surface level.

We’re reintroduced to fan-favorite characters from the series and rides, like Anamaria, Carlos, Calypso, Joshamee Gibbs, Scrum, and, of course, The Black Pearl. The game also introduces us to new ones, such as The Cursed Captain, who fits right in with the franchise’s quirkiness.

Affecting what goes down during the raid of Isla Tesoro, from Disney’s Pirates of The Caribbean ride, was one of the most fantastic moments of all five Tall Tales. Hearing iconic lines from the ride, along with Barbossa’s “ye best start believin’ in ghost stories – you’re in one” line was incredible, and it brought the dark ride alive as we sought out to save the island from a perilous attack.

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Isla Tesoro Mercado PiratesRare / Microsoft
Isla Tesoro was faithfully recreated and expanded upon in A Pirate’s Life.

Attempting to rescue Jack, his crew, and The Pearl to save the Sea of Thieves from a dire fate at the hands of Davy Jones and The Flying Dutchman is truly epic.

As Jones and his crew try to break into the world of the living and become even more powerful, the overarching story fills in some of the gameplay holes that feel incomplete.

Rating: 8.5/10

Sea of Thieves: A Pirate’s Life is something that fans of both Sea of Thieves and Disney will enjoy. While repetitive gameplay does hold it back to a small extent, this totally free update has to be commended, as it faithfully recreates and expands upon Disney’s iconic swashbuckling franchise.

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It’s a pairing that makes perfect sense, and it’s exciting to think of what the future holds in SoT for the lovable Jack Sparrow.

From puzzles to collectibles, and intense naval battles, there’s truly something for every type of player in this oceanic expansion.

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