E3 2018: Hands-on – Skull & Bones

No, Skull & Bones isn’t just the Assassin’s Creed naval wars setting wrapped into a spin-off game of its own. Instead what you get here is a game that is as close to the world of pirates as you’ve ever seen. It’s a treasure chest filled with gems you simply would not expect in this day and age and it’s somehow won over my blood-soaked pirate heart.

I’m not going to lie, I was a little apprehensive about playing the game. Even though I enjoyed the naval battles in Assassin’s Creed 3 and the games that followed, I just couldn’t shake the thought that a game based solely on this style of game would be any fun. How wrong I was. Skull & Bones understands what it is to be a pirate, and pirates are not really nice people. It requires you, as the player, to think like a pirate. What does that mean? Put yourself first, no matter who you screw over to win.

From the outset, we had three ships to choose from. The BlackHorn – built for ramming opponents, The Jaeger – a nimble ship with powerful cannons and Royal Fortune – heavily reinforced to withstand substantial enemy damage. Each ship also comes with a unique special attack. The Black Horn has high speed to increase the damage it causes when ramming other ships, The Jaeger can charge the front cannons to annihilate other pirates and The Black Horn can anchor the ship for the use of infinite-firing and rapid reloading. There is a ship for every pirate. Me? I went for the powerful beast that was The Black Horn. This ended up being a good idea.

In total, we had eight players playing and with that, we all had important decisions to make. Do we befriend other pirates, or do we simply blast them to bits? I decided that it was a good idea to get some allies on my side. A look through your telescope gives you a low-down on any ship in your surrounding area. The items they carry onboard could be yours if you sink the ship, but at the same time, it could aid you to take down bigger ships. Therefore I made sure to ask a ship with a high level to join my group. It was my lucky day as the pirate accepted my request. Together we went on a killing spree.

A press of the Y button has one of your crew members looking for an objective or any incoming dangers. Unlike Assassin’s Creed’s naval battles you don’t have various speed levels to jump between – you either move ahead fast(ish), or you don’t. Pull in the left trigger to aim cannons down the side of the ship and blast away with the right trigger. It’s an extremely satisfying feeling when you see the health of the opposition dropping. Damage it enough and you can board the ship to take all that’s there. Where I enjoyed Skull & Bones the most was in terms of being a real pirate bastard.

After becoming friends with that super powerful ship I mentioned earlier, it was time to make a new “friend”. I requested another pirate to join my group, which she did, and as soon as she turned the ship around (these ships turn at a slow rate) I turned the tables on her and blasted the hell out of the ship. That’s right, I gave this pirate a sense of false security and a good reason not to ever trust any bastard pirate out at sea (sorry Pippa…). At the end, my other pirate buddy and I scored loot. You’re always trying to keep your wits about yourself. Should you receive too much damage you can repair your ship by pressing up on the D-Pad, but you also only have a limited number of repairs before you run out of material to fix your war machine.

There are objectives to be met, but in all honesty, I was having far too much fun with the other players to bother with the mission at hand. If this is what Skull & Bones is all about then you can sign me up, matey.

Married to a gamer and she kicks my ass at most shooters. If the game is enjoyable I'll play it, no matter the format.

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