Swashbuckling, open-world sandbox Sea of Thieves has changed considerably since its debut in 2018, and its release on Steam is the perfect excuse to pay it another visit.
Adventures now come in all sorts of shapes and sizes in Sea of Thieves' sandbox; there are bite-sized voyages, big cinematic quests, tough optional challenges such as the Skeleton Forts and Skeleton Fleet battles found by sailing to a skull or ship cloud - and others that evolve emergently while out in the world. You can even do a spot of fishing.
Your first port of call, however, should be the Maiden Voyage tutorial, which provides basic hands-on experience with the likes of sailing and ship repairs. Even then, you might have questions about what to do from there - once the entire ocean is yours for plundering.
This page will explain how to get started and what to do in Sea of Thieves, and the various types of quests and adventures available to you.
On this page:
- How Sea of Thieves works: Progression, structure and goals to get you started
- How Voyages work in Sea of Thieves
- What to do first in Sea of Thieves: How to start a Voyage and vote for a quest
- What are Tall Tales and how do I begin one?
- What are Commendations in Sea of Thieves?
- What are some of the other activities and quests I can do in Sea of Thieves?
How Sea of Thieves works: Progression, structure and goals to get you started
At its heart, Sea of Thieves is a open-ended sandbox, which rarely dictates how you should play. Its non-linear structure means you're pretty much able to define your own goals, and progress can be whatever you make of it. There are, however, certain tasks and achievements which can give structure to the experience as you while away the hours on the ocean.
You might, for instance, decide to work your way through the hundreds of bite-sized Achievement-like challenges known as Commendations, which can earn you titles, gold, doubloons, even rare cosmetics; you might prefer some swashbuckling adventure, courtesy of Tall Tales, which brings story and unique mechanics to the Sea of Thieves.
What are Trading Companies?
If there's one thing that could be considered an overarching goal though, it's the long journey toward becoming a Pirate Legend - a hard-to-achieve title that grants access to the Legendary Hideout and an exclusive faction known as Athena's Fortune.
In order to be crowned Pirate Legend, you'll need to reach Level 50 in any three of Sea of Thieves' six applicable Trading Companies: the Merchant Alliance, the Gold Hoarders, the Order of Souls, the Hunter's Call, the Reaper's Bones, and the Sea Dogs (found in Arena mode).
To level up in each Trading Company, you'll need to perform specific tasks that grant Reputation. For instance:
- Donating fish and meat to the Hunter's Call
- Defeating Emissaries to further the nefarious aims of the Reaper's Bones
- Participating in Arena mode battles to impress the Sea Dogs
- In the case of the Gold Hoarders, Merchant Alliance, and Order of Souls, turning in items and completing special quests known as Voyages
In all instances, as you rise through the ranks of a Trading Company and reach specific milestones, you should speak to their representatives at outposts and seaposts in order to unlock the next tier of rewards for a small amount of gold.
These include special titles, new cosmetics, and, in the case of Voyage-based Trading Companies, harder quests with higher payouts. Notably, in order to maintain Sea of Thieves' level playing field, you'll never earn items that will make you stronger or give you a player advantage.
Eventually, after some considerable toil, you'll reach Level 50 in three Trading Company, at which point you're able to speak to the Mysterious Stranger loitering toward the back of any outpost tavern to earn the title of Pirate Legend, which we explore in more detail elsewhere.
How Voyages work in Sea of Thieves
The type of quest you'll likely encounter most frequently are Voyages, which form the backbone of the Sea of Thieves experience. These are guided activities which lead to one or more islands on the ocean, where you'll be required to complete a specific task.
Each Voyage type offers a a slightly different focus, and can be purchased from those representing four of the seven available factions (Hunter's Call, Reaper's Bones and Sea Dogs don't offer Voyages).
Three of these four Trading Companies - the Merchant Alliance, the Gold Hoarders, and the Order of Souls - can be found at each of the seven outposts on the Sea of Thieves:
- Sanctuary Outpost and Golden Sands Outpost in the Shores of Plenty
- Plunder Outpost and Ancient Spire Outpost in the Ancient Isles
- Galleon's Grave Outpost and Dagger Tooth Outpost in The Wilds
- Morrow's Peak Outpost in The Devil's Roar
Trading Companies found in The Devil's Roar, incidentally, while functionally similarly to those elsewhere, offer tougher quests with higher rewards.
The other Trading Company which offers Voyages, Athena's Fortune, is only accessible to Pirate Legends from within the Legendary Hideout.
Let's go through these one-by-one.
The Gold Hoarders indulge in the classic pirate activity of treasure hunting, handing out treasure and riddle maps that lead to loot on specific islands.
Some take the form of an X-marks-the-spot maps, and you'll first need to visually determine your destination by comparing its island to those on your ship's ocean-wide map. Riddle maps, meanwhile, will name your destination in the first line, and then gradually reveal clues relating to landmarks on that island.
Voyages are completed once you've located all associated treasure for the current Voyage, but you won't get gold rewards or Reputation until you hand that loot over to a Gold Hoarder representative at any outpost.
The Order of Souls concerns itself with the acquisition of unearthly knowledge, siphoned from the skulls of the undead. As such, the Trading Company's quests demand that you search out and defeat fabled Skeleton Captains and their crews, turning their skulls over to an Order of Souls representative once the deed has been done.
Mechanically, Order of Souls Voyages are probably the simplest available; each time, you're told exactly which island to visit and how many Captains you'll need to defeat in order to compete the voyage. Do remember that while Voyages end once all targets have been eliminated, you won't get any gold or Reputation until their skulls have been turned in.
The Merchant Alliance specialises in procuring and shipping trading goods and their Voyages comes in two flavours. Basic voyages will require you to locate a animals - pigs, snakes, and chickens - of specific colours and then drop them off with a Merchant Alliance vendor at a named location.
The second type of Merchant Alliance Voyage takes the form of a Cargo Run, requiring you to collect a number of goods from an NPC (often but not always located on the starting outpost), as listed on the Voyage itself. Then it's a matter of delivering them to another NPC, located at another outpost, a seapost, or even an island.
Goods must be delivered before the deadline (use the stopwatch in your inventory to keep track of time) and can deteriorate if mishandled, reducing the reward granted upon delivery; plants must be kept wet, rum bottles must be kept unbroken (jumping, falling, and impact will damage them), and cloth must be kept dry, so avoid storms and dunking them in the ocean. Unlike other Trading Companies, Merchant Alliance Voyages are only completed once all goods have been delivered.
Athena's Fortune is a faction for Pirate Legends that have proven their worth elsewhere on the Sea of Thieves, and its Legendary Voyages are lengthy undertakings. Each generally consists of eight individual Voyages selected randomly from across the Gold Hoarders, Order of Souls, and Merchant Alliance, so expect a lot of variety here.
Once all eight Voyages are complete, you'll be granted one last Voyage, mechanically similar to those of the Gold Hoarders. However, this final chapter will lead to an enormously valuable Chest of Legends, providing gold and the Reputation required to level up in the faction once handed to the Mysterious Stranger loitering toward the rear of any outpost tavern.
What to do first in Sea of Thieves: How to start a Voyage and vote for a quest
When you've decided what type of Voyage you fancy - killing Skeletons, digging up buried treasure, or rounding up animals - pick the related Trading Company representative at an outpost and have a chat with them. You'll able to use your gold to purchase a Voyage and can hold up to three unactivated Voyages of any sort at a time.
Note that each representative will only have three Voyages to sell within any in-game 24 hours period, and their stash will replenish at 6am each day.
When you've bought a selection of Voyages, decide which you want to do first, and then head to your ship, which should be moored up at the dock nearby. Once onboard, place the quest on the Voyage Table (not to be confused with the large map table) then get all crew mates to vote to begin the Voyage by interacting with the scroll that appears. It's also possible to vote to cancel the voyage in the same way.
Once a quest begins, you'll be treated to a small musical flourish and an on-screen title card, at which point one or several maps will appear in your quest wheel (which is separate to your equipment inventory) and will remain their until each task is complete. With the maps at hand, that's it! Your quest has begun - and it's up to you now to go and solve it.
Note that Voyages will only remain active for the duration of a session - all in-progress Voyages will be forfeit and all maps will disappear once the last crew member has logged off.
Note that random Gold Hoarders, Merchant Alliance, and Order of Souls maps can also be acquired by poking around in barrels or opening messages-in-bottles found on your travels. These will be added to your quest wheel immediately (voting isn't necessary to begin them), and don't contribute to your three unactivated Voyage limit.
What are Tall Tales and how do I begin one?
Sea of Thieves' second type of guided quest arrives in the form of Tall Tales. These are fully voiced, highly cinematic (and usually several-hours-long) swashbuckling adventures full of fearsome baddies, deadly traps, forgotten islands, and more, and each usually introduces its own unique mechanical twist.
Unlike standard Voyages, progress is saved as checkpoints are reached, meaning you can quit the game at any time and resume at a later date using the save slot in the relevant tab.
Tall Tales can be activated by interacting with a specific item in a specific location - and, as with Voyages, a majority of crew members will need to vote on the item to get the adventure underway. Provided the option is turned on in your Settings menu, your ship's map will display tooltips indicating the locations of all currently available Tall Tales. If an icon is greyed out, you may need to complete earlier quests in a specific story arc.
A good place to start is the Shores of Gold Tall Tales story arc - which starts with The Shroudbreaker - which consists of nine sequential quests leading to the titular lost island and its boundless treasures. To embark on the quest line, visit the Mysterious Stranger at any outpost tavern and interact with the journal on the barrel to the right. As you complete each Tall Tales chapter, the next will unlock, and you'll be given prompts on where to proceed next.
Each Tall Tale can be repeated as often as you like and there's incentive to do so in the form of optional sub-quests which grant additional Commendations and rewards. These can be found in the Commendations > Tall Tales section of the in-game menu.
What are Commendations in Sea of Thieves?
Commendations are optional smaller-scale challenges that players can work towards over time, eventually unlocking titles, currency rewards, even special cosmetics, ranging from unique ship parts to tattoos.
These don't formally begin and end in the same way that Voyages and Tall Tales do, but can be tackled as and when you choose. Simply peruse the available Commendations in the relevant menu, find something you like, and get cracking.
Usefully, these are sorted into thematic groups - so you might consider attempting several related Commendations at once - and more are added on a regular basis.
Getting started? Read what to do in Sea of Thieves and take take part in the Maiden Voyage tutorial, which teaches you the essentials of sailing and ship battles. It's also useful for beginners to know how to survive fights with skeletons and the kraken. Elsewhere we have advice on how to get easy gold and doubloons, complete skeleton forts and The Shroudbreaker, take part in fishing in Sea of Thieves and Sea of Thieves island maps.
What are some of the other activities and quests I can do in Sea of Thieves?
As well as the above, Sea of Thieves features recurring and limited-time events and quests beyond those of the core game. These offer a range of rewards and provide new goals to work toward on a regular basis.
Somewhat similar to Commendations, Daily Challenges (introduced in May 2020) are optional small-scale challenges that offer gold or doubloon rewards when completed. You'll find the day's current quest listed in a panel on Sea of Thieves' main menu before entering the world. Daily quests refresh at 12:59am (UK time) each morning.
Rare is beginning to experiment with Regular Events, which introduce a specific recurring activity to the Sea of Thieves at fixed times.
At the time of writing (June 2020), Rare is running a mind-boggling array to celebrate the Steam launch.
There is also currently the new Fort Nights event, which runs every Friday from 7pm to 7am in the UK, increasing the rewards received when players turn in stronghold loot from Skeleton Forts. Details of regular events should appear on Sea of Thieves' main menu, its Twitter page, and events hub website.
Limited-time Bilge Rats Adventures
Sometimes, a monthly update might introduce a new limited-time Bilge Rat Adventure. These can be perused and purchased from the jovial fellow known as Duke, who hangs around inside all outpost taverns. Bilge Rat Adventures run the gamut of challenges, from PvP-focussed events to Voyages designed to introduce new mechanics.
They'll often come with their own limited-time rewards and Commendations, so it's always worth speaking to Duke to see what's new. Some rewards and Commendations will stick around after an event, but time-limited ones are always clearly marked.
In addition to Bilge Rats Adventures, Sea of Thieves features longer-term limited-time events (usually lasting several weeks), themed around specific activities. These usually require players to complete challenges in high numbers - catching a certain quantity of fish, for instance, or sinking a certain number of ships in Arena Mode - in order to receive limited-time rewards.
Somewhat unhelpfully, these don't, at the time of writing, have a formal presence in-game; although progress is recorded, it's not visible from any menu. Instead, you'll need to keep track using the relevant page on Sea of Thieves' event hub. These events can crop up unexpectedly on Rare's whim, so it's worth keeping an eye on the official Twitter page for more details.