Bobbing onto our screens in 2018, Sea Of Thieves was perfectly timed to provide the jovial, ultimately unthreatening ambience of Pirates Of The Caribbean, just as that film series became a lot less fun due to the allegations against leading man Johnny Depp. How unfortunate, then, that 2021 should bring a massive Pirates Of The Caribbean crossover to the game, with Captain Jack Sparrow plastered all over it.
Depp is not actually involved in the free expansion, titled A Pirate's Life, having been binned by Disney. Instead, voicing Sparrow is one Jared Butler, a man best known for doing a spot-on likeness of Depp's voice. And given that Sparrow's in-game model doesn't quite share the adorably weird proportions of Sea Of Thieves' regular pirates, it's impossible not to see it as Depp.
I don't know what state the actor's public image was in when Rare started work on this expansion. But I know where it is now. And even though Jack Sparrow is an entirely fictional pirate, it would be hard to argue that his central presence in this free expansion won't sour it for a lot of folks, purely by dint of association. So; that is the elephant in the room. Nevertheless, there are many things in A Pirate's Life which do not involve Jack Sparrow, and I will now list them conveniently for you.
1. Davy Jones
Luckily, since it's "Pirates Of The Caribbean", and not "Pirate Of The Caribbean", there are other characters from the franchise appearing in the game - most notably octopus-faced baddie Davy Jones, and first mate Joshamee Gibbs. Their arrival, along with Sparrow's, is explained by a surprisingly involved metaplot in which the Sea Of Thieves is an actual place, on Earth, where pirates can never die and simply respawn after getting burst. Naturally, the plot involves Sparrow finding a way into this utopia of bulging brutes using a magical key, shortly followed by his cephalopod-chinned adversary.
2. Five new story missions
At the core of A Pirate's Life are five new Tall Tales (Sea Of Thieves' long story quests), to join the nine already in the game. There looks to be a huge amount of story content in A Pirate's Life, which will be refreshing news to those looking for a bit more meat in their sandbox, so to speak. The new content will be made accessible via a mysterious NPC called the Castaway, who'll be present as soon as new players enter the game, catering for POTC fans making their first foray into Sea Of Thieves.
3. Two new worlds
The expansion's story will take players across the game's four existing regions, as well as two entirely new ones - the Sunken Kingdom, which is an eerie underwater realm full of sealife-themed gits to fight, and the spooky Sea Of The Damned, which is where you currently go to wait on a ghoast boat whenever you die. This latter area features a town made out of shipwrecks, and inhabited by the grumpy, restless spirits of dead pirates who have been trapped there.
4. New brutes
There'll be a lot more to fight in A Pirate's Life, and not just in the new areas. Heading up the bill are three types of "Ocean Crawlers": man/animal hybrids which include a big muscly crab bloke, a geezer with a load of electric eels, and a maniac with a giant clam for a head who barks unpleasantly at you. There are also sinister swarms of Sirens, who look a bit like what would happen if there were mermaids in X-COM, and of course fast-moving, ghoastly phantoms. As dessert to all that, there's also what looks a lot like a new boss fight with the Kraken, based in the undersea region, where you get to shoot it in its actual face.
5. New items
Each of the new Tall Tales provides at least one high-powered reward item, connected with the theme of the mission completed. For example, there's the Trident Of Dark Tides, which does... I'm going to be completely honest, and say I'm not certain what it does. But you can give other players' ships a really rough time with it, and you can use it outside of the new content, too. There's also a bunch of POTC-themed cosmetics for sale within the game, including - inevitably - a Captain Jack Sparrow costume. Just in case you miss him when he's not directly in front of you.