Sea of Thieves’ Shrouded Islands update is an underwhelming start to a promising new era



Since its launch in 2018, Sea of Thieves has been on a dazzling upward trajectory, expanding and evolving with endless invention and reinvention. One of its most fascinating evolutions though, has come in the way it’s sought to marry the innate freeform chaos of its emergent sandbox with more structured narrative-driven experiences – experiments that reached spectacular heights with last summer’s Pirate of the Caribbean crossover, A Pirate’s Life, which set a breathtakingly new standard for the sheer cinematic potential of stories in Sea of Thieves.

Shrouded Islands, the now-available first instalment in Sea of Thieves’ new monthly schedule of limited-time story focused episodes, is not A Pirate’s Life in scope, ambition, or polish – but nor was it ever likely to be given the strict monthly cadence Rare has committed to. Regrettably, though, this opener also suffers in comparison to Rare’s previous, smaller-scale narrative-driven Tall Tales too. While those brought new ways to play or fresh twists on existing mechanics within the pleasing framework of a focused, compelling story, Shrouded Islands is a looser, lighter, less interesting experience, that, as the opening gambit in a bold new era, fumbles half-heartedly into the spotlight when it should be a bellowing statement of things to come.

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