Rare's first big content update for Sea of Thieves, The Hungering Deep, is here, and available to download on Xbox One and PC now.
The Hungering Deep is, by Rare's own admission, the smallest of the six Sea of Thieves content updates planned throughout 2018. It still offers a decent amount of stuff, however, including a major new AI threat, new tools to facilitate more varied interactions between crews, new cosmetics, a new instrument, and an intriguing, if brisk, new campaign quest binding the whole thing together.
The flagship new feature of The Hungering Deep is undoubtedly the new AI threat. At this point - given the plethora of pre-release teases and blatant iconography surrounding the update's launch - it's probably not a spoiler to suggest that it's very much on the enormous shark side of things, albeit with a somewhat fantastical Sea of Thieves twist.
It's a cool encounter in and of itself, but perhaps most notable for the fact that it's very explicitly designed around inter-crew team work. You'll need to work together to summon the beast and to fight it, and the few hours I spent in-game today saw rival crews in a remarkably co-operative mood, waving and dancing and not immediately trying to kill one another, which makes for an incredibly refreshing change. Sea of Thieves desperately needs to encourage greater variety in its crew interactions, and the new AI threat is an excellent first step.
The new speaking trumpet is directly related to this; it's a tool intended to facilitate co-operation, enabling you to bellow at distant ships - things like HELLO THERE DO YOU HAVE A DRUM? - without putting the fear of a cannonball death into them. Oh, and yes, there's a drum.
The other addition intended to encourage better crew communication is the flag system (accessible from the crow's nest), letting you state your intentions from afar based on the colour flown above your mast. Crews sporting the Jolly Roger, for instance, are probably best avoided.
Many of the new features are slowly introduced through a new Moby-Dick-inspired story quest, themed around the old drunk Merrick. It's a nice idea in principle, mixing lore with welcome clue solving and exploration, but it's a little too brisk, and is rather undermined by Rare's decision to set half of it across "hidden" locations that the Sea of Thieves community has been all over since beta testing - robbing it of its wow factor. It definitely feels like a step in the right direction in terms of enriching the world with its own unique lore though.
Today's update also brings tattoos and scars - a new variety of cosmetics which, although hardly a game changer, do at least offer another means of personalisation, and another avenue for gold expenditure. In fact, there's a decent array of new cosmetics, with new plain sail colours (a budget alternative to the very expensive fancy sails currently in-game), a new Majestic Sovereign clothing set, item colour variants, and new dress options for Pirate Legends.
Elsewhere, update 1.10 improves the cosmetics box screen, so you can better preview the items you equip - although, ludicrously, there's still no option to preview an outfit on your pirate before you buy it - and there are the usual range of bug fixes. Disappointingly though, "washed-up" treasures and messages in a bottle are still absent, two weeks after being disabled.
All in all, there's a solid breadth of stuff in Sea of Thieves' The Hungering Deep update, and it bodes well for the future, suggesting that Rare is focussing on the right elements as it expands its game - and there should be more to look forward to soon as the developer's schedule of regular weekly limited-time events, challenges, and objectives get underway.
You can read today's full patch notes on the Sea of Thieves website.