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Skull and Bones is a Refreshing RPG Adventure with a Surprising Survival Twist 

Five minutes into the Skull and Bones open beta, I found myself deserted and alone on a small island with nothing but a rickety dhow and some rags to preserve my dignity. After a brisk chat with an unfriendly pirate, I was back out on the treacherous waters of the Indian Ocean, hunting for scraps and clues to locate a nearby town. 

After landing on the secret shores of Pirate Den Sainte-Anne and introducing myself to its leader, John Scurlock, it was time to prove myself as a fearsome, scallywag of the seas. Fortunately, Skull and Bones set up a surprising myriad of avenues to do so; once you’re through its carefully crafted tutorial stages and introduced to the services that Sainte-Anne offers, Skull and Bones opens up and allows you to traverse the seas at your leisure, and peril.

Progression is based on Infamy, your Infamy will grow as you complete missions. How you do this is up to you – from missions in the main quests, side-quests from random encounters, or scooping up a task from the jobs board, be it taking down a specific target or quietly smuggling some commodities into a marked port. 

The heart of Skull and Bones is its ship-on-ship combat – you’ll spend the majority of your time sailing the seas and they are not particularly friendly. Combat feels extremely satisfying, cannonballs and explosives land with conclusive thuds, and their rate of fire feels realistic without being sluggish. Skull and Bones‘ customization system allows you to kit out your ship to suit your playstyle, whether you want to be up close and dealing damage with the Bedar, or supporting your fleet with a hardy Hulk that can stand strong against incoming fire.

However, there’s a lot more to consider than indiscriminately sinking every boat you stumble upon. Nearby ships can be identified, you’ll be able to see how powerful they are, what faction they align with, perhaps most importantly, what cargo they’re carrying, allowing you to weigh up whether it’s really worth the trouble. In those moments, I am roleplaying a pirate, choosing who to respect and who to blast to smithereens based on what I need in that moment. 

The variation of vessels goes one step further, which adds another welcome element of role-playing to your adventure. As your Infamy rises, you’ll gain access to bigger, better ships, each with different strengths. It’s not as simple as just buying a ship, though, you’ll need the silver to purchase it and the materials to build it. However, you’ll still need specific classes of ships to complete certain missions – for example, a dhow is required for hunting, which means it doesn’t become immediately irrelevant as soon as you get a more impressive vessel. Switching back to my little boat to spear some alligators felt like a realistic break from launching fire into the sides of massive Barges, making for a truly fluid pirate experience.

This is where Skull and Bones really intrigued me – there’s a visceral joy in getting onto your boat, sailing out and learning where to buy (or steal) materials needed for upgrades. As you explore, you’ll learn about trade routes and the materials they supply. If you want for example, a big pile of Cobalt or some Fine Linen, your best bet is to loiter around that route and attack ships that are carrying it. If you want to sell any excess goods, Skull and Bones has a trading system, where goods will be worth more to certain traders at different times.

It’s more than just looting whatever you can grab and then rushing to the nearest port – its crafted to make you think about the goods you’re taking and how you’re going to offload them. It’s worth noting that if your ship is destroyed, your loot will be left floating in the ocean for anyone to take, so making quick decisions is paramount.

There are other quality of life inclusions that takes the edge off some of the more laborious parts – you can quick travel from bigger ports and settlements, but it’ll cost a small amount of silver and time. Your crew will tire from speedy sailing and slow the boat down, but you can craft meals and buffs to keep them working longer. 

Skull and Bones‘ early game feels promising – there’s plenty to do, and a motivating progression system that encourages exploration and upgrades. You can also have a pet cat with a peg leg, which is obviously the best thing in the world.

Skull and Bones sets sail on February 16, available on Xbox Series X|S. 

Xbox Live

Skull and Bones

Ubisoft

167

$69.99

Pre-order and get the Highness of the High Sea Pack, which includes the Notoriety Garb and the Coronation Firework! Enter the perilous world of Skull and Bones, a co-op pirate open world action-RPG experience, to become the most infamous pirate kingpin!
Engage in thrilling naval battles, craft a variety of unique ships, and forge unlikely alliances as you overcome the odds and bring mayhem on the seas. Be part of an immersive open world that introduces new challenges and features every season. – Engage in thrilling naval battles and equip a multitude of powerful weapons as you risk it all for the biggest loot. – Sail the lawless seas solo, or team up with two friends or other players to partake in shareable contracts and rewards. – Face cutthroat pirate hunters, deadly sea monsters, unpredictable weather, dangerous rogue waves, supernatural threats, and more as you explore a vast open world. – Craft and sail up to 10 different ships at launch, each with unique perks to match your own personal playstyle. – Grow your infamy and unlock resources and opportunities to get riskier contracts and upgrade your equipment. Persistent internet connection, Ubisoft Account, Microsoft Account, and Game Pass Ultimate or Core (subscriptions sold separately) required.

[This article originally appeared on Xbox Wire]

Xbox Wire

Posts by this account are syndicated from Xbox Wire.

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