Skull and Bones Review in Progress - Open Beta Impressions
12.02.2024 - 21:57
Like spotting the first sign of shore after years adrift, Skull and Bones has finally, actually found its way to launch. Six separate delays and several different concepts that were forced to walk the plank might’ve made you understandably apprehensive about Ubisoft’s long-brewing pirate game, but I’ve already found a yo-ho-whole lot to be excited about after spending nearly 30 hours with its surprisingly unconstrained open beta this past weekend. The 17th-century Indian Ocean works well as avast open world to be explored and plundered, the RPG mechanics are (briny) deep with opportunities for buildcrafting alongside your fellow scurvy dogs, and the naval combat you’ll spend bucca-nearly all your time on the high seas engaging with is tactical and consistently entertaining. Aside from the expected instability one usually encounters with a beta for an online game, the only red flags so far are the lackluster story and a list of endgame activities that feel like they could become repetitive in short oar-der. I won’t be able to complete my voyage until the full version sets sail later this week, but I’m already excited to sea more.
Skull and Bones is fairly unique in the grand scheme of open-world RPGs in that it gives you direct control of a ship and lets you sail the ocean as you pillage ports and send enemy ships to Davy Jones’ locker in search of loot and infamy during the Golden Age of Piracy. Alone or alongside the ships of up to two friends as a fleet, you’ll gather resources and complete action-packed heists to feed your greed and climb Jacob’s progression ladder as you power up your vessel, which is usually a blast. Though it might be tempting to compare this live-service, pirate-filled RPG to Sea of Thieves, they really couldn’t be more different – Skull and Bones focuses entirely on wonderfully intricate maritime gameplay and commodities/economy simulation, not running around on foot as you get into sword fights and eat unpeeled bananas stem-first.
While it’s a bit odd at first that you only ever get to explore the world by controlling your ship (aside from brief intermissions at the social hub), it took just a few hours for me to not feel like I was missing out on much. That’s primarily thanks to how good the ship-to-ship combat quickly becomes. After a fairly underwhelming opening meant to help you get your sea legs with the glorified hunk of driftwood as a starting ship, things really open up. Once you start to upgrade and customize your vessel to fit your playstyle, then tackle some of the more challenging areas and activities that require you to seriously up your game, Ubisoft’s strict focus on navals fights works a lot better than I thought it would.
Skull and Bones appears to have only
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