Skull and Bones is the upcoming pirate game from Ubisoft Singapore (with help from teams all across the globe) where players can take to a fictionalized version of the Indian Ocean and engage in piratical pastimes such as raiding, mercantilism, and lobbing spears at sharks.
We got a chance to try Skull and Bones during the Open Beta which is running from February 8-11, it was a good chance to see what’s been going on with the development right before its imminent release on February 16. Of course it will release only if it doesn’t get delayed… again.
Players start off as a subcaptain underneath another pirate, this state of affairs only lasts as far as the tutorial though. After an attack by the British Empire, your captain is dead and you pilfer his body for a map and letter of introduction to John Scurlock, one of the biggest movers and shakers of Saint Anne.
Combat, at least early on, is very straightforward. You have three loadout slots on your first ship for weapons and with three culverins to start, there’s not really any strategy for picking what angle to take shots from. I’m expecting this lack of strategy to improve with access to different weapons and ship types.
World events and exploring for resources is fun and tedious in equal measure, turning your ship is a chore (as it should be), but the stamina system is frustrating to deal with as you need stamina to push your ship to full speed, there’s no room for minute movements and I can’t help but feel I may have missed some treasure because of it. The radius for looting is pretty large, but when your only movement options are: Stop, Go, and Go Faster, it’s easy to feel like you missed something. A way to slow down or trim the sails just a bit would be welcome.
The chore of sailing is dulled by one thing: singing. There’s an option to get your crew going with a shanty on the radial menu, and I have to admit some of them go pretty hard. During my first siege on a tower my crew started belting out the “Skull and Bones” shanty and I got chills from how cinematic it felt.
Skull and Bones is off to a pretty okay start, and in the recent gameplay deep dive from Ubisoft we got to hear them talk about their expansive end game and plans for seasonal content updates. But if things don’t get shaken up soon, I’ll be disappointed; after 6 years of delays, my expectations are high.