Adventures Ahead: ‘Return of the Damned’

The fates of both Flameheart and Pendragon will rest in players’ hands – but how?

The clock is counting down towards the Festival of the Damned, but there are those on the waves who have no time to indulge in revelry. After all, thanks to the Servant of the Flame and his loyal Reapers, the return of Captain Flameheart is imminent – so long as their plan succeeds, that is. Belle and her allies, meanwhile, are risking everything to ensure that Flameheart’s resurrection is thwarted and the notorious Skeleton Lord never reclaims his physical form.

Battle lines are being drawn and it’s almost certain that pirates will find themselves caught up in the brewing conflict. But before you pick a side, here’s a seaworthy summary of how all this came to pass…

Damned If You Do

When it comes to reviving their infamous leader, Captain Flameheart’s followers have clearly been playing the long game. Even before The Reaper’s Hideout was completed, Dark Relics were being gathered and the island known as Old Boot Fort repurposed as a ritual site – one intended to perfect the practice of summoning spirits back from the Sea of the Damned.

Once his soul had been unleashed by an unwitting Captain Pendragon, Flameheart wasted little time in deploying dangerous Ashen Lords and marshalling Ghost Ship armadas to menace the Sea of Thieves, but he himself was little more than a spectral onlooker in these encounters. Trapped beyond the veil, there was only so much influence Captain Flameheart could exert.

Now, though, the pieces are in place to empower a ritual that will restore Flameheart to physical form. This would potentially allow him to take charge of The Reaper’s Bones, although the devious warmonger may well have other ambitions in mind of which not even the Servant of the Flame is aware…

Return of the Damned: A Sea of Thieves Adventure | Cinematic Trailer

Duration 1:44

How to Get a Head in Business

Said physical form, as it turned out, was being meticulously restored by Stitcher Jim, having returned to the Reapers to fulfil his role as the Herald of the Flame. Once Jim’s involvement was confirmed and his work had forced him out of hiding, it was these preternatural preparations that gave the Pirate Lord’s allies their opportunity to strike.

A desperate assault on Molten Sands Fortress led to the defeat of Stitcher Jim and, courtesy of a triumphant Pendragon and his Sword of Souls, destruction of the skull that would have completed Flameheart’s body. Belle was convinced that this victory had put paid to any chance of Flameheart’s revival – but even in death, the Herald of the Flame had one last part to play…

With Flameheart’s remains and Stitcher Jim’s skull recovered from the aftermath of Molten Sands, the Reapers have used every last trick at their disposal to ensure the prophesised Time of Resurrection proceeds as planned. Should they succeed, their ragtag assembly of bones and brimstone will be transformed into a fully formed Skeleton Lord: Captain Flameheart, just as he appeared in his prime.

Painted into a Corner

There’s no longer any chance to prevent the Reapers’ ritual from taking place, but as the old pirate saying goes: “If you can’t beat ‘em…” At Shipwreck Bay, Belle and Pendragon are readying their own version of the ceremony and will attempt to summon Flameheart themselves, drawing him away from his waiting body so that his spirit can be cast into exile instead.

Unfortunately for Pendragon, participating in this desperate scheme has placed his own soul in jeopardy. If the Reapers succeed and Flameheart is reborn, it will be Sir Arthur who finds himself marooned in the furthest reaches of the Sea of the Damned, beyond even Belle’s ability to aid him.

Twin rituals. The fates of two powerful pirates hanging in the balance. Each side equally determined to secure their preferred future for the Sea of Thieves. Both Belle and the Servant of the Flame are calling for aid, and this is where pirates come in…

Pole to Pole with Maniacal Sailin’

The key to success lies in controlling Flameheart’s Sea Forts, which now burn with the six Flames of Fate – effectively transforming the entire Sea of Thieves into one gigantic Fort of the Damned rite. Within these Forts lie a multitude of Bewitching Dolls: powerful Dark Relics that can aid both Belle and the Servant in their respective rituals, depending on who pirates choose to deliver them to.

There is a catch, however – the Dolls draw their power from the Forts that house them, which means that the more Sea Forts are under a side’s direct control, the more effective the Relics will be. To that end, both Belle and the Servant are preparing special flags for those who are willing to join their cause. Acquiring one is as simple as playing (or replaying) the Adventure and speaking to the representative of your chosen side.

These flags can then be flown at conquered Sea Forts, capturing them for that side and increasing the power of Bewitching Dolls handed in (and causing the Forts to be defended by loyal Ancient or Reaper Phantoms, depending on who’s currently in charge). Since flags can be lowered at any time by passing pirates looking to sabotage their enemies, even if they’re not undertaking the Adventure, the stage is set for a frantic battle of strength and cunning that will span every region of the sea.

Soul Survivor

As if things weren’t deadly enough, vicious Soulflame Captains are being drawn to the Sea of Thieves in Flameheart’s wake. There’s no telling if and when they might make their presence known at a Sea Fort, but if one is encountered and defeated, its essence can be used to enchant a Bewitching Doll, further increasing the Dark Relic’s usefulness when handed in at Shipwreck Bay or The Reaper’s Hideout.

Whether it’s tearing across the map to claim several Sea Forts at once, viciously defending those bastions they’ve already conquered or lying in wait to snatch Bewitching Dolls from the clutches of pirates who let their guard down, different crews will approach the impending battle in different ways – and ultimately, their actions will determine whether it’s Flameheart or Pendragon who’ll be standing tall on the Sea of Thieves in the months ahead.

Which side will you stand with? You have until November 3rd to make your decision, for that’s when ‘Return of the Damned’ launches, with the two-week battle reaching its crescendo on November 17th and the winning side being declared shortly after. Choose carefully, pirates – the future of the Sea of Thieves lies with you…