There have been many games throughout history that one could consider vaporware. Dead Island 2, Pikmin 4, Black Mesa – all these titles and more were believed to have entered development hell and likely never see the light of day.
Add Skull and Bones, the naval combat/pirate title, which reportedly began development in 2013, revealed at E3 2017 and faced multiple delays through the years. Rumors claim several reboots and a budget that exceeded $120 million, yet despite allegedly being “too big to fail,” getting to launch seemed like a monumental task for the developer.
Nevertheless, on February 16th, Skull and Bones is finally out on PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC (barring any other last-minute delays). Here’s what you should expect before embarking on the maiden voyage of this nightmarish project.
You’ll visit several locations throughout the various regions of Skull and Bones, including Forts and Settlements, but Pirate Dens will become a common haunt for players. They’re like social hubs for players and allow for taking on Contracts and accessing different vendors, from Shipwrights to Blacksmiths. You even meet the local Kingpin and must earn their trust to further your pirate journey.
Infamy is the core method of progression through the game, which you have to rank up to unlock different ships, blueprints, weapons and more. It even grants access to improved tools, speeding up the task of material gathering and offering a chance for bonus gains.
Contracts and World Events
You don’t have much from the outset, so taking on contracts to gain Infamy is key. Contracts are like quests and range from treasure-seeking to transportation and even assaulting merchant ships (though they take longer when playing solo). Multiple Contracts can be taken simultaneously, with higher-tier Contracts offering better rewards. There are also World Events – quests that spawn in the world and which several players can join and involve tackling challenges like looting a convoy before it reaches the destination.
Aside from exploring the Pirate Dens and other hubs on foot, Skull and Bones doesn’t offer a whole lot outside of your ship when exploring, but it does try to make the sailing realistic. Buoyancy and drag affect a ship’s physics, causing each to control differently, while wind direction and cargo weight can also impact their handling.
Players won’t just have one ship they commandeer throughout Skull and Bones. There are various types you’re encouraged to use, and their blueprints are available as your Infamy rises (though you still need to buy and craft it). Each ship has different loadouts, like the number of gunports on the Bow, Broadside and Stern, Furniture slots and more, not to mention cargo capacity, stamina, etc.
Each ship also has a dedicated Perk. For example, the Brigantine is equipped with Bullhorn, which increases damage from ramming and the Flooded status for damage over time and a slowing effect. Meanwhile, the Padewakang is about explosions and more damage to structures. Knowing the ideal ship for the job is important, but it can also affect exploration since smaller ships can sail inland through rivers.
Like in real life, the ocean can go from peaceful to dangerous in a heartbeat. Different weather will affect your ship, whether it’s rain or supercell storms – the latter can damage your ship, reduce visibility and flood the deck. Equipping your vessel to withstand it all while having enough resources to fight back in case of an ambush is important.
Combat and Weapon Types
There are various weapon families throughout Skull and Bones, each dealing different kinds of damage like crushing, tearing, explosive and so on. Different Mortar types can either deal explosive damage from afar with a long projectile travel time or even repair allied ships. Giant Ballistas deal extensive damage from afar but have a charge time, while Demi-Cannons fire faster but are best suited for fighting up close. It’s best to find the ideal loadout for your playstyle but knowing what your enemy uses and the best ways to work around it is also key.
Of course, it’s not enough to bombard, bludgeon and outright bully enemy ships. Your crew can also build up Fury to launch a crew-to-crew attack, which is the best way to obtain all of an enemy ship’s cargo. Unfortunately, this will only be a cutscene at launch, though the developer told TrueAchievemnts in July 2022 that it’s “meant to be a mastery level of combat, so it would be interesting to see how it evolves as the game evolves.”
Customization is more than just cosmetic – attachments include different types of armor against the various damage types. Major Furniture offers extensive boosts in power, but you can only equip one at a time. Minor Furniture offers smaller buffs, making crew attacks easier or providing utilities like increased cargo capacity.
PvP and PvE Only Servers
Right out of the gate, there will be PvE and PvP-only servers for players to jump into. The former allows up to three players to take on AI enemies (who become tougher but drop more loot based on the group size), while the latter makes it so that other players can either team with or attack you.
Skull and Bones will have extensive post-launch support for “many years to come” per the developer in July 2022. These include new World Events, group-focused events, ships, furniture, weapons, etc. Raids and dynamic events, like stealing from merchant ships, have also been discussed, and players can expect a seasonal structure overall.
$60 on PC, $70 on Consoles
As you may expect in this day and age, Skull and Bones is $70 on Xbox Series X/S and PS5. Microtransactions and battle passes sold separately, of course. However, if you pick it up on PC, whether through Connect or the Epic Games Store, it’s $60. The difference in pricing is a mystery, but if you want it for $10 less and have a decent PC, it’s worth noting.
Regardless of your platform of choice, crossplay is supported between all platforms. You can invite players through uPlay or even in-game to join and embark on adventures together. While the game is fully playable solo, crossplay should at least ensure a wider player pool when exploring the world.
Skull and Bones requires Windows 10 or 11, DirectX 12, a solid-state drive and 65 GB of installation space. Minimum requirements include an Intel i7 4790 or AMD Ryzen 5 1600, an Nvidia GTX 1060 6 GB or AMD RX 570 8 G GB, and 8 GB RAM in a dual-channel setup. This delivers 1080p/30 FPS at Low settings.
The recommended requirements include an Intel i7 8700k or AMD Ryzen 5 3600, an RTX 2070 8 GB or RX 5700XT 8 GB, and 16 GB RAM for 1080p/60 FPS at High settings. For 1440p/60 FPS at Ultra settings, you need an Intel i7 9700K or AMD Ryzen5 5600X, an RTX 3070 8GB or RX 6800 16 GB, and 16 GB RAM. Finally, for 2160p/60 FPS at Ultra settings, an Intel i5 11600K or AMD Ryzen 5 5600X, an RTX 3080 10 GB or RX 6800 XT 16 GB and 16 GB RAM.