Following years of delays, Ubisoft’s upcoming Skull and Bones has had extensive coverage over the past month. A lengthy interview with game director Ryan Barnard now reveals a few juicy titbits, just enough to wet the beak as we anticipate the game’s launch.
The interview was conducted by Heidi Nichols of TrueAchievements, revealing a few key details not touched upon in the plethora of trailers received since July. Most importantly, Barnard has confirmed that Skull and Bones will not be a story driven game, relying on player exploration in lieu of an extensive single-player campaign.
In fairness, Skull and Bones was announced as a live service title, so the news is not that surprising to some, but there was hope that there would be some semblance of a storyline to – at the very least – inspire our swashbuckling antics across the open seas.
“We have narrative pieces — in the game, you’ll meet important NPCs called Kingpins which have their own stories that you’ll learn as you develop rapport with them by taking on contracts with them. There is an underlying story to the game with which we build the entire world lore, but that’s not the main focus,” says Barnard.
“We want players to create their own stories and be able to choose the type of pirate they want to be. That being said, what drives you through the progression system which we call Infamy, is the fact that you will gain access to blueprints in the game which will give you different types of ships, weapons, and armours, and you’ll need those as you move and explore around the world to be effective against new foes”
Some positives to take away; the game map will at the very least cover the coasts of Africa to the East Indies and each region will have its own unique weather and ecosystems. The world will be littered with enemy ships and rogue wildlife encounters, as well as dynamic events. These events will grant the player opportunity to raise their infamy.
“For instance, let’s say you’re doing a contract where you’ve got to sail from Sainte-Anne to a distant outpost. And along the way, you might meet a merchant who is afraid and needs protection… or it could be just a battle where one of the factions is attacking a settlement and you can either defend the settlement or you can join in as a player,” reveals Barnard.
Additionally, though combat will remain in the ocean, there are some on-foot exploration bits to discover in the form of outposts, dens, and most importantly hidden treasure.
“There are many different outposts to discover as a player,” Barnard says. “They all have encampments, sometimes multiple encampments even, which rotate through a system we have. So, for instance, there might be a certain faction one day and the next day be, you know, rogue pirates instead. This was part of how we wanted to ensure that the world changes and feel alive… treasure hunts are one of the things that will only occur at an outpost when you have finally discovered the location of that hidden treasure.”.
One thing that I would personally like to see (or hear) are sea shanties. In AC: Black Flag it was one of the most wonderful feelings listening to your crew bellow out an old school shanty as you sailed across the vast open seas. It made the world feel alive, especially in times when you wanted to avoid naval combat and sail endlessly. The feature proved so popular in fact, that Ubisoft hid a specific Easter egg in AC: Syndicate featuring a piano puzzle in the memory “Playing It by Ear” using the tune of “Lowlands Away.” It gave me instant chills and made me want to go back and play Black Flag all over again.
Skull and Bones sets sail this November 8, and even though there is no single-player campaign to discover, we’re still intrigued to see how Ubisoft’s swashbuckling affair compares to popular PVE-styled pirate adventure, Sea of Thieves. Until then, “Oh Watch on deck, oh Watch ahoy! Lowlands Away!”