SKULL & BONES
Developer Ubisoft Singapore Publisher Ubisoft Format PC, PS4, Xbox One Release 2018
At an E3 where Sea Of Thieves delighted, it was a bit of a surprise to see another multiplayer pirate title appear. In fairness, Ubisoft did it first: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag’s naval combat was rousing stuff. That component was built by the publisher’s Singapore studio; now, it is building an entire game around it.
Indeed, our 5v5 battle feels almost exactly like Black Flag at first. We play from the thirdperson perspective of our chosen ship’s captain, tapping buttons to order our crew to speed up, turn or slow down our vessel. But as we learn the rules – take down enemy player and AI ships for treasure, then escape safely to bank the most loot and win – tactics come to the fore.
In our Loot Hunt match, we choose to sail a Bruiser – a nippy, highly manoeuverable ship. Joined by two tankier Enforcers, and covered by a sniper-like Marksman, we’re swashbuckling with the best of them: flanking enemy ships using islands as cover, being an annoyance while waiting for backup, then swooping in quickly to secure points. But instead of heading for the exit to bank our ship’s significant plunder for the team, we try to prevent remaining enemy players from similarly escaping. We’re swiftly shot down and robbed. Oops.
The pace isn’t exactly rollicking, but Skull & Bones still manages to feel exciting, the air thick with war cries, sea spray and tension. Whether there’s enough going on here to carry a whole game is another matter; if the campaign, amount of ship classes and loadout customisation options are bountiful, however, Ubisoft’s ship may be about to come in.