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Skull & Bones: Hands-On With Endgame Content

After playing the first few hours of Skull & Bones in a couple different iterations last year, I was understandably eager to skip over the humble origins of my pirate captain getting washed ashore in rags and get with the plundering. As luck would have it, Ubisoft answered my prayers by letting me go hands-on with their upcoming ship-based piracy RPG for over four hours to take their endgame and seasonal content for a spin. And while the unfinished product I played wasn’t always the most intuitive or polished experience, it’s clear the developers have put a lot of thought and effort into providing lots of ways for players to keep growing their pirate legend far beyond rolling credits, from battles with giant sea creatures to an ambitious seasonal content roadmap. I, for one, can’t wait to play more.


The first thing that stuck out when jumping into Skull & Bones’ endgame content was just how advanced the ship buildcrafting can get. While I got a good taste of the early customization options during the beta weekends last year, seeing dozens of cannons, ship hulls, mortar guns, and more, each with their own special effects and passive bonuses, was dizzying. One ship I built was optimized for dealing damage over time with every weapon slathering the enemy with oil and flame, while another one I built to support my teammates with the ability to heal allied ships by peppering them with cannonfire. There wasn’t nearly enough time to try out all the options, but seeing all the possibilities laid out before me has convinced me that Ubisoft really isn’t messing around when it comes to customization.


With my fleet of uber-powerful vessels assembled, I dove headfirst into some of the more challenging world activities packed with high-end rewards. Hostile Takeover, an activity similar to the Plunder encounters from the beta, had me and my fellow picaroons fight off waves of increasingly powerful ships and were well-compensated for our wanton destruction. Meanwhile, Legendary Heists sent us after a powerful ship carrying valuable cargo and surrounded by half a dozen heavily armed allies. While both of these activities were the same good ol’ pirating fun I’d already experienced during low-level play, I’ll admit I was pretty disappointed with just how samey they felt to everything else I’ve already played. I mean, sinking waves of enemy vessels isn’t exactly dull stuff, but I found myself waiting for some kind of twist that never really came.

For example, during Legendary Heists, after you kill the pirate captain and make off with the loot, you’re given a limited amount of time to get the cargo to an outpost, presumably giving others the opportunity to rip you off and take the loot for themselves. But Skull & Bones doesn’t give any sort of indication that this PvP opportunity has begun or encourage others to go after you in any way, leading to what amounts to little more than a quiet ride through the Indian Ocean to turn in the bounty with little fanfare. It’s also weird that these big world activities, which bug you with a big popup alert every few minutes when one becomes available, only let three players into the activity, which makes them feel pretty anticlimactic and smaller scale than I expected. Even worse, if you’re in a party of three players like I was, joining one of these activities doesn’t automatically sign your party members up along with you, which lead to these awkward moments where the world event’s seats filled up before the whole crew was able to join, so one or two of us just had to sit back and wait for the event to end, sadly unable to profit from the affair.

The first season, called Raging Tides, pit us against a deadly, poison-obsessed pirate named La Peste.

Thankfully, these disappointing encounters weren’t all that was in store for me with Skull & Bones’ endgame, as my crew and I learned when we accepted a bounty to take on a massive sea creature that’d been plaguing the waters. As I watched this massive serpent-like monster submerge himself then pop up to swallow my friend’s ship whole, I felt a lot more positive about the kinds of things I’ll get to look forward to with the endgame. It was also great that once we slayed the beast, we were able to use its rare and valuable remains to craft powerful consumables and equipment to power up even more.

I also got a preview of Ubisoft’s plans for the first full year of support for Skull & Bones, which includes four seasons, each with their own theme and new enemy to contend with. The first season, called Raging Tides, pit us against a deadly, poison-obsessed pirate named La Peste, who bombarded the ocean with incredibly deadly toxic clouds and sent tiny suicide-bombing dinghies after us to explode in our faces. It remains to be seen how much content each of these seasons will deliver, but with this epic fight as a sampling, I could see myself adding Skull & Bones to my live-service rotation.


Travis Northup is a writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter
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