Ubisoft’s Skull and Bones game has gone through a somewhat rocky development cycle. The game was announced at E3 2017 and has reportedly gone through multiple reboots since. I even played an early build of the original game back in the day and it was good. However, I could not help but feel that after Rare’s Sea of Thieves game, Ubisoft couldn’t just release a simple old naval game. Let’s be honest, there isn’t much depth to Sea of Thieves and it is far off from being an RPG. Skull and Bones had to be something fresh. Something that feels authentic while also packing in all the Ubisoft spice we expect from these so-called “Ubisoft Original” games.
Skull and Bones might finally have its own steady ground to stand on. The re-reveal showcased an exciting action RPG where instead of kitting out your character with different helmets, chest pieces and boots to build them into a specific class, your ship is now your RPG character and I absolutely love this idea. You see, your ship needs gear and weapons and Skull and Bones lets you equip all sorts of items to it in order to create a unique build with its own playstyle. You can also choose from a range of ships including Cargo, Navigation and Firepower Ships that all have their own strengths and weaknesses. Finally! A pirate game where you can actually focus on stats and builds.
Ubisoft says that Skull and Bones is definitely a live-service game. You’ll most likely need an internet connection to play it as the world is active around you. World events pop up and you can band with a friend to experience them and if you take on a contract, you can also do this with a fellow pirate. Underneath the blue seas and wooden planks, Skull and Bones is also about growing as a pirate. You start with nothing and scouring the world for gear and loot makes you richer, more powerful and most importantly – more notorious. Ships come with a range of gear including cool weapons to equip like cannons and greek fire. Depending on your equipped weapon, will also result in what sort of approach you’ll take in combat.
As you’re a captain, you’ll also need to make sure your responsibilities are in check. This includes infamy. Higher infamy is earned through contracts and completing objectives. Either solo or with friends. You’ll also need to make sure your crew are happy by feeding them and keeping their equipment in tip-top shape. If you don’t they might turn on you…
Ubisoft says the game is set in a vast open-world and the studio aims to deliver the best naval pirate game around. The world is scattered with all sorts of things to do. Certain things can be done while you’re sailing the seas and some content is done on foot such as treasure hunts. You might just be exploring the ocean and bump into a world event that is based around a cargo fleet being escorted to safety. You are a pirate so blowing things up and stealing this cargo is definitely more important than letting it go.
As players gain more infamy, the game will get tougher. Harder challenges will put players to the test as they will need to plunder a fort that has more defences in place and won’t be scared to call upon giant Firepower Ships to help keep you away. Contracts are also vital to Skull and Bones‘ progression. These missions will task you to do all sorts of things around the world. Be it stealing gear or taking down certain enemies. These give you XP while also rewarding you with rare upgrade materials which are then used to enhance your ships. You’ll also get silver which is helpful for purchasing all sorts of items and gear in the game.
Going into contracts is all about preparation. You’ll need to actively equip your weapons on your ship depending on your playstyle and whatever mission you’re undertaking. The cargo you take with you when sailing is also the only stuff you’ll have until you find more or head back to your pirate enclave to equip more. This means you’ll need to take enough food to last the trip and even ammo so you don’t run out in the middle of a fight. What, you think pirates just had an unlimited supply of cannon balls underneath the cargo hold as you sat there spamming R2? Didn’t think so. While this system might sound relentless, it also helps create balance because the asshole shooting you down all the time has to run out of ammo so someone else can sink his ship.
It goes without saying that while your ship is important in Skull and Bones, the game is also going to offer various ways to look like a badass pirate. You can customise your character with all sorts of clothes and accessories and equip some cool cosmetic items on your ships too. Knowing Ubisoft, they aren’t going to hold back on the cosmetics and will probably have an entire in-game store where you can buy stuff with real money (facts are facts). Speaking of additional content, Ubisoft also says that all future content for Skull and Bones will be free for all players. The team is working on a full roadmap for the game which includes new challenges, raid content and more.
Skull and Bones is looking like quite a package at the moment. Ubisoft finally found its stride with the game and has seemingly built a fully-fledged pirate RPG. I personally loved the naval combat in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag so I do have faith that Skull and Bones is going to be a chunkier, more focused experience. The co-op features look great and while I am not completely sold on the whole “other players stealing your loot when you have just finished a plunder” idea, we’ll have to see just how this online world plays out.
Skull and Bones is set to launch on 8 November 2022 for PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC. Check out the deep dive gameplay below. You can also watch some more trailers on the Ubisoft channel here.