Skull & Bones, the latest new IP revealed by Ubisoft during E3 2017, puts you in control of an actual Pirate Ship unlike any game. If you have played Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag a few years back, you might have gone through a similar experience aboard the ships. Is Skull & Bones just the same as that past experience, or does it offer something completely different and revamped?
At E3, there were two games featuring the wonderful world of Privateers: Skull & Bones and Sea of Thieves. Although both take place at sea, the two offer a completely different vibe of excitement. Let’s take a look at Skull & Bones!
Following the good reception of the entire Pirate scenes in Assassin’s Creed: Blackflag – which in my opinion is the root of the game – Ubisoft announced Skull & Bones, a game designed entirely around Pirates, loot, and ship sailing. The CGI trailer shows exciting naval combat, tactic assault, and tons of loot. Not all trailers hold on to their word, so it was our job to see exactly what Skull & Bones offers.
Thanks to our friends at Ubisoft, we were granted the privilege to get a hands on with Skull & Bones. In that room, we were ten players, five versus five. The goal was simple, play a multiplayer game of what I believe was Loot Hunt. In this mode, you and your team must work together in order to secure and protect as much loot as possible. Loot can be found floating on water naturally or after destroying another ship. All you have to do is navigate to it in order to pick it up. Simple mechanic, right?
Although the general idea sounds simple enough, the execution requires a little more care. Navigating a ship isn’t easy in theory. Since each player mans a single vessel, controls have been adapted to perform the following tasks at ease:
– Higher and lower sails
– Drop and return anchor
– Duck to evade incoming shots
– Pivot ship
– Aim and fire weapons
– Automatically pick up loot
– Invade/Board enemy ships
The list of command sounds to be complicated, but the way the game was designed – and I can tell you this from a first-hand experience – everything feels natural. For example, instead of actually leveling sails one by one, two buttons on the controller act as an accelerator, and the other a decelerator. Sailing a ship and being at war simultaneously has never felt so easy. A lot of the commands are simple to grasp, but like most games out there, mastering it is quite a challenge.
During our first hands-on with Skull & Bones, we were given a choice between three type of ships: the Marksman, the Enforcer, and the Bruiser. While I picked the Marksman, the ranged specialist, m colleagues tested the other two. As a Marksman, I was proficient in ranged attacks thanks to my mortars and side cannons. Additionally, I was the fastest ship around, so setting up and getting into position to flank a target was quite and easy, and fun, task. Dealing damage to heavier ships while my teammates finish them off was the best strategy. Marksman is a good class to start with, but what about the other two? How can they assist?
The Bruiser, for example, is good at ramming into other ships. It is fast, but also very good at weakening enemy vessels so that it can drive right into it. The Enforcer, on the other hand, is the one tanking the hits and pulling aggro. Its job is to become a massive threat to the enemy to allow the Marksman and Bruiser to take down the enemy using their skill sets.
At first glance, it appears as though Skull & Bones can be played like any other multiplayer mode, whereas you run in gun the experience carelessly. However, I would recommend otherwise. The best thing to do would be to find a group of willing players and communicate your actions and targets as a team. This gets you closer to victory, and in the long run, will ease communication of any last minute crucial strategies. For example, during my test run, we were in the last phase when we have to run away and escape with the loot. During that moment, I was ahead and spotted a weak enemy ship. After some careful maneuvers, I was able to board and sink her, granting me quite a number of gold. I then began heading towards the escape route.
Naturally, I was followed. Because I was in direct communication with my team, I told them that at that instant, I was about to go down; I needed someone to sail with me in the case that I get my ship destroyed and drop the mass of loot I accumulated. My partner caught on and headed in my direction. My call was right! I got destroyed and seconds later, while the enemy ship was headed towards my sunken ships’ direction, my ally picked up the loot and made it safely to the escape zone. We won!
Skull & Bones is a game with huge online potential. It puts you in the shoes of the ship’s captain where you must cope with all the stress of being shot at while keeping your cool. It is a game where you get to know your ship on an almost personal level, the same way you would an actual car, for example. Skull & Bones has, in my opinion, a compatibility with eSports. Now all is left is to see which team are Kings of the Sea!