Ubisoft’s Long-Awaited and Delayed Multiplayer Pirate Game skull bones just leaked. Filming a six-minute introductory video appeared on reddit (although it was taken down at the time I was writing this) and it’s the kind of narrated playbook shown to testers or preview players before they try out the game, rather than raw footage of someone just playing it.
Since I really played some Skull & Bones in 2018 at a preview event (and probably watched the same type of video first), I was curious to see how familiar it looked and what had changed. My session took place after Skull & Bones was postponed to 2019, but before that it was postponed to 2020 and then postponed again to 2022-2023.
The footage looks pretty close to what I remember playing it. Unlike Sea of Thieves, where combat can take a while due to ships having only a few cannons that players need to reload, and a lot of time has to be spent managing the sails to get in the right position, combat in Skull & Bones it is much faster and the skirmishes from ship to ship are almost non-stop. Most ships are positively bristling with guns, with an NPC crew taking care of reloading and repairs, and the sails rise and fall in mere seconds to allow for quick manoeuvring. As a captain, you just drive, shoot and give orders to your crew.
While it’s nice to have teams of NPCs doing all the heavy lifting, you can’t take them for granted. According to the video, you’ll need to keep your ship stocked with food and supplies or your AI-controlled minions will lose morale and eventually mutiny, beating your head and removing you from power. It’s not stated what the repercussions of a mutiny are, but I suppose it’s similar to what happens when your ship sinks: you respawn at a nearby outpost with a progress penalty.
In the preview I played, the ships had something like the ultimate abilities you see in hero shooters, and the ship I commanded had a ram skill that I could activate between cooldowns. There’s no mention of ults in this new footage, though that doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t there yet. A disappointing part of my preview was the act of boarding enemy ships after weakening them with cannon fire. Boarding was just a quick combat scene rather than a real chance to use a musket or sword. It’s hard to say for sure, but that seems to be the case with the new images as well.
The reputation system in Skull & Bones is based on Infamy, which can be increased by completing bounties, and the higher your Infamy, the more bounties become available. According to the video, contracts can be shared between groups of up to three players, and Infamy can also be raised by exploring, treasure hunting, and other activities.
Player customization is also showcased, with a variety of clothing and accessories to stand out from other players. The world is full of NPC ships to attack, NPC-controlled pirate hunters patrol the seas, and players can naturally engage in combat as well or invite each other to team up on group quests.
While the high-speed action is more comparable to Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag than Sea of Thieves, and while the art styles are different (SoT has a cute, cartoonish look and S&B is more realistic), the loop Gameplay looks similar to Rare’s open world pirate game: get jobs at outposts, go to sea to fight, return with treasures, try on clothes. Skull & Bones also has crafting, however, where resources like wood and ore can be collected from islands and turned into upgrades to make your ships faster or more durable.
Keep in mind that we don’t know how recent this leaked video is, so the features may have changed since it was made. It looks like we’ll have an official look at Skull & Bones soon, as the official Skull & Bones account just suggested this morning that you should keep your eyes peeled. June would be our guess to get a real look at the next pirate game: while there will be no E3 this year, there will be plenty of E3-like reveals this summer.
Keep your eyes on the horizon… 🏝️ pic.twitter.com/BWaH9QfYUbApril 29, 2022