Skull and Bones Preview: Social Seafaring & Swashbuckling

The long-anticipated Skull and Bones promises a unique pirating experience set during the Golden Age of Piracy. Set to release this fall, Skull and Bones is open-world swashbuckling game that lets players become the most renowned pirate by building an empire from the ground up. Screen Rant attended a special preview event for the game, which featured insight from World Producer Vanessa Seow and Game Director Ryan Barnard alongside new gameplay footage.

The setting of Skull and Bones - deemed by Barnard as "open sea" versus open world - is based on the sub-tropical Indian Ocean during the era referred to as the Golden Age of Piracy, which took place from the mid-1600s into the 1700s. During this time, the Indian Ocean was a hot spot for trade routes, and in turn a hot spot for piracy as well. The game aims to balance the historical elements of the time with a fantasy interpretation of pirates, letting players explore and plunder to their heart's content.

Related: Ubisoft's Pirate Game Skull & Bones Gets Rating Following Leaks

Players will begin Skull and Bones having just survived a shipwreck, with only a spear to protect themselves from danger and a small ship called the Dhow in need of repair. It appears that some resource collection and light crafting will play a part in at least the beginning of the title, as players will need to gather materials to help repair their ship. Seow and Barnard emphasized the creative options offered by the large amount of different combinations players can make when it comes to their battle gear and sea-faring vessel as they progress. Progression is a large part of Skull and Bones in almost every aspect - players can improve their ship, weapons, armor, and jobs available to them as they work on gaining wealth and reputation.

The first location players will encounter in Skull and Bones is Sainte-Anne, introduced as one of the many pirate dens present in the game. Inspired by the secret pirate supply networks in the Golden Age of Piracy, pirate dens will be hubs where players can pick up new contracts, craft weapons and ships, and buy provisions like food for their crew and ammunition for their weapons. Non-combative multiplayer elements of Skull and Bones will also be available here - and presumably other hubs as well - with footage showing players interacting with actions like waving and dancing.

Infamy is the core to a player becoming more powerful in Skull and Bones. Infamy is gained through a myriad of different pirate activities and victories, and can be used to unlock better blueprints for ships, weapons, and armor. As players gain infamy they will also be offered increasingly riskier contracts that come with larger rewards. Things like successfully completing contracts, plundering, and treasure hunting will all contribute to infamy and help raise the notoriety of the player.

Infamy will not be easy to gain in the dangerous world of Skull and Bones, which is described as a place where "everyone and everything wants you dead." Enemies come in many different forms in Skull and Bones - when players first begin, they will have to rely on their trusty spear to protect themselves from dangerous animals like crocodiles and hippos as they work to repair their ship. As they progress, they'll encounter enemies like other pirates, pirate hunters, and even corporations that will prove tough adversaries as well. If a player does not treat their crew well, they may even find themselves up against a mutiny.

Related: What Pirate Video Game Is Best (& Why)

Even the weather and the ocean itself can be an enemy to the player in Skull and Bones. Bad weather like violent storms can happen at any time, as can things like crashing waves and dense fog. Realistic ocean physics will affect how players will need to navigate with their ship, as well as how their weapons will function. Players can even use weather and waves to their strategic advantage - fog can be used to surprise the enemy, and proper maneuvering can lead enemies right into the eye of the storm.

Naval combat was called a "core experience" of Skull and Bones, and Barnard promises that the combat will be "visceral, fast-paced, and rewarding." Unlike the game's inspiration Assassin's Creed: Black Flag, combat will focus more on ship versus ship battle than boarding enemy ships and fighting on deck. For some conquests, players may send their crew aboard the other ship, but they will not accompany them. The game offers many weapons which can be used in ship-centric combat, such as cannons, mortars, and Greek fires.

Although it can be enjoyed solo, at its core Skull and Bones is a social game - things like enemy takedowns are designed to be both easier and more rewarding with the assistance of other players. Upon release, two different servers will be available for the game: a player versus player server for those who wish to fight with other real-life pirates, and a server for co-op play. Players can switch between the two servers as they please, and will not lose progress for doing so.

Skull and Bones promises an epic pirating experience for both groups and single players. It's worth noting that the game has been designed with Ubisoft's games as a service model in mind, meaning players can likely expect a lot of DLC for the game after its release. Although there's still a lot more to be learned about the game's world, it looks like Skull and Bones may live up to the many years of anticipation behind it.

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Skull and Bones will release for PC, PlayStation consoles, and Xbox consoles November 8, 2022. Screen Rant attended a private preview presentation for the purpose of this article.

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