Hands-on with Ubisoft’s Skull and Bones

Skull and Bones

Following the longstanding popularity of Assasin’s Creed IV Black Flag’s warship mode, Skull and Bones takes this specialized genre into epic AAA territory. In typical Ubisoft fashion, the game models and menu transition animations are polished with that AAA feel. Ubisoft invited Nerd Reactor into their secret demo area separate from the main Ubisoft booth for a first-ever hands on.

Demo Environment

This entire game takes place in a PvP environment, so all eight of our demo stations would set sail in the same Indian Ocean area. The ultimate goal would be to become the undisputed pirate king. This was accomplished by amassing a fleet of ships, creeping on NPC ships and pillaging their loot, and creating alliances with fellow players. The demo consisted of 3 ships to choose from: a balanced rammer, an agile speedster, and a heavily armored warship. Our coach suggested that we start with the balanced rammer, which fit my gameplay style anyway.

Creeping and NPCs

The game starts by dropping you right in the middle of the ocean. Moving into crow’s nest view gave me a wider view of my surroundings and all I saw were NPC ships. Taking these down took sly maneuvering and strategic canon fire. I say strategic mainly because you must slightly lead your target in order to score direct hits. For this demo, the basic weaponry fits into two categories: speed dampener and damage. My strategy of slowing down ships to home in on well-placed cannon fire made me a very rich pirate with a high bounty on my head from sinking NPC after NPC.

Pirate Alliances

It wasn’t long before I was able to set my sights on one of my demo neighbor’s warship. The diplomat in me knew that I would need to make a couple friends to take down higher value foes. It was an easy Accept/Decline invite sent via the crow’s nest view. When we amassed a team of 3 players, it was then that predator NPC warships started to take aim at us. It was a run for the hills situation since these predators were a bit high level for our ships.

Why Am I Not Moving?

You will learn fast that escaping from predators is not as easy as hitting the thrusters. I believe it was Sir Isaac Newton that once proved that a ship that sails into the wind stays put. Duh on me. Trigger happy all-offense captains need not apply here.

I came into this genre as a hater of Assasin’s Creed’s warship mode, but I have to say that the polished feel and the satisfaction of ramming enemy warships at full speed somehow swayed me. My critique of slow-motion gameplay was overcome with lush visuals and catchy shanties. I would urge all to give this a try, especially the haters that I once was. Skull and Bones releases in late 2018.

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