Sea of Thieves turned one year old and Rare decided to celebrate by releasing a major update. The appropriately titled Anniversary Update is evidently intended to bring Sea of Thieves to a new standard. With it, the game is getting a lot of new, highly requested features. When thrown on top of the various major updates that Rare released throughout the year, it genuinely does feel like the product that should’ve been released instead of the one that we got. The fact that there's now multiple world bosses and multiple distinct areas of the map certainly contributes to this feeling.
In any case, the Anniversary Update contains plenty of goodies for everyone. The most noticeable of these is likely going to be the new Arena mode. If you enjoyed the few but tense moments of PvP in Sea of Thieves, then the Arena is going to be the gamemode for you because it is literally only PvP. If PvE is more your style, don’t worry because there’s a lot of PvE additions as well. First and foremost of these is going to be Tall Tales, which are basically longer and better Voyages. They’re not drastically different from what is already in the game. However, they provide some semblance of traditional story missions. It is a bit annoying that you can't completely avoid other players while doing these Tall Tales though.
The core gameplay mechanics have also received some interesting tweaks, including the addition of the highly requested fishing mechanic. The fishing in and of itself isn’t particularly novel, but it does give you an alternative way to obtain loot. After all, what good is catching a bunch of fish if you can't sell it to some company in exchange for money? That’s right, you can swear off piracy, become a fisherman, and sell your caught fish for clothing. Or just be a fisherman pirate. Or a pirate fisherman who catches fish to supplement the income you get from aggressively repossessing historical items. Considering how ship damage has been overhauled to make PvP encounters more dangerous, this might be for the best.
Prior to the Anniversary Update, ship combat was an incredibly simplistic affair where shot placement didn’t really matter. It mattered in the sense that a hit is a hit, but it wasn't as decisive as boarding action. After the update, ship combat is more dynamic as ships now have weakpoints. As an example, if you put a shot through a ship’s mast, it will actually damage the mast. The crew will then have to repair the mast unless they want to be (literally) dead in the water. The same thing applies to other critical areas of the ship such as the anchor or wheel. You can also focus fire on a single point to create giant holes in a ship. Alternatively, you can use the new harpoons to make boarding easier, or perform some long range treasure stealing and crew abduction.
There are other, less immediately obvious changes that the Anniversary Update made, but these are the most impactful ones. Some of the more mundane changes include the addition of a cooking mechanic and more fruit, which is fine, though not game changing per se. Compared to the state that Sea of Thieves was in a year ago, the game is certainly more "complete" than it was before. Pessimists can view it as an upgrade from a glorified tech demo to a minimum viable product if they so choose. It's a bit of an exaggeration, and it doesn't give Rare enough credit for their efforts, but it's not an entirely inaccurate viewpoint either.
The core gameplay loop is still not for everyone, but that's a widely accepted fact at this point. Those who already love Sea of Thieves for what it is will love the new additions since they introduce more ways to play. Those who can't stand the game likely aren't going to come back since there's better alternatives on the market, especially if you're a solo player. It is the people who are somewhere in between that, interestingly enough, stand to benefit the most from the Anniversary Update. The Arena by itself is likely going to be what keeps the game afloat for the foreseeable future. After all, it captures most of what makes Sea of Thieves enjoyable and condenses it into one gamemode. Had the game been released in such a state, it might've avoided the reputation that it has now, but that is a discussion for another time.
What do you think of the Sea of Thieves Anniversary Update?