When I first got my hands on Skull & Bones during its last closed beta in August, I was stunned that this legendarily elusive game actually existed. Now, with a release date in February of next year fast approaching, it would seem any doubt that this seafaring adventure won’t see the light of day is fading. Now I just want to know if it’s going to be good, and after another six hours in the most recent closed beta this past weekend, I find myself more hopeful than ever that this plundering simulator might actually capture the attention of me and my friends. Though the most recent beta included some odd and unexpected changes to the story, my friends and I dove deep into the waters of this ship-based adventure’s RPG mechanics and came away pleasantly surprised.
First off, if you haven’t seen our preview from a few months ago, you should go and check that out, because the vast majority of my praise and cautious optimism still applies. Having a chance to develop my sea legs a few months ago, me and two of my fellow skallywags spent a good chunk of the weekend tinkering with our boats and exploring as much of the map as we could before running into horrifyingly overpowered enemy crafts that turned us into driftwood in one second flat.
Skull & Bones Slideshow
Upgrading and customizing your very own piracy vessel remains one of the coolest things Skull & Bones offers, and that’s especially true after the first few hours once I acquired the means to craft class-based ships with specific strengths and weaknesses to suit my playstyle. For my part, I like to prioritize DPS and enjoy getting in close and smashing the enemy craft to pieces, so I built “The Rammer,” a ship that’s great for doing as much damage as possible. Meanwhile, the other members of my party built a tank-y ship called “The Defender” and a support-focused ship called “The Sentinel,” so that when we fought as a crew, we had the perfect diversity of specializations we needed to absolutely crush any poor landlubbers who dared set sail in our seas.
Combining these different ship types with various kinds of weapons like long-ranged sniper cannons that do lots of damage versus others that blast large volleys of close-quarters fireballs, and attachments that adjust various resistances and armor scores, made Skull & Bones feel like a true naval RPG, and it felt like my crew had only just begun scratching the surface of what’s possible, with dozens upon dozens of more powerful options locked out for vessels of our level.
After the previous beta, I praised Skull & Bones for having a story that was surprisingly more fleshed out than I was expecting, and while that still held true in this second beta, there were also some really bizarre changes to the narrative I don’t fully understand. For example, in the early moments of the previous beta I found a dying pirate captain, Abel Rassler, who served as a jumping off point for the rest of the story, but in this latest version, when I went to loot that same ship, the good captain had already expired, leaving me to quietly grab his stuff before leaving.
I’m really not sure why this major story change happened! Maybe Ubisoft got feedback that there was too much talking in the early part of their cannonball-focused pirate game, or perhaps they just cut this part out of this beta since participants were only allotted six hours of playtime, but it wasn’t the only big one I noticed. There were also a few significant dialogue changes, and one of my main crewmates had been replaced by a new character altogether. It’s pretty surprising that, after all these years of development, they’re still making significant story changes in the four months since the last beta. But then again, I suppose that’s what betas are for. Here’s hoping that’s not a sign that the script’s going through too many last-minute rewrites this close to launch.