Ubisoft’s Skull & Bones expands on the naval combat players loved so much in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, and in the gameplay demonstration shown during its E3 2018 show, we learned how allies can quickly become your worst enemies.
Set in the Indian Ocean, the gameplay footage we saw began with the player customizing their ship with numerous cannons, bows, and rockets before venturing out to track down a Portuguese merchant ship. Once it has been tracked down, they must quickly disguise their own ship as a merchant ship to avoid being spotted by the heavy defenses at a nearby fortress. Eventually, they’re able to catch it off-guard and quickly defeat it before climbing aboard and stealing its treasure. Unlike in Black Flag, there is no battling on-foot once this occurs. Instead, you simply acquire your loot automatically.
The noise from the quick battle attracts the attention of a nearby Portuguese frigate, however, which is capable of taking down players’ ships in just a few shots. This is where your friends come in — three more players pull up in their own ships, and the four charge forward, taking heavy damage along the way. The frigate is capable of anchoring itself to the sea floor in order to use “siege mode,” which allows the cannons to fire more quickly. It isn’t enough, however, and the players eventually destroy the frigate.
Friends aren’t friends forever, though. The four immediately turn on each other for control of the gold they stole from the merchant ship. As Ubisoft stresses, there is “no honor among thieves,” so those you work with can turn on you at nearly every moment. It seems to be taking a page out of the “Dark Zone” from The Division, which similarly mixes cooperative and competitive multiplayer together.
Skull & Bones is planned for launch on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC in 2019. A beta test will be held beforehand, and you can sign up at Ubisoft’s website right now. It features a “shared open world,” similar to Sea of Thieves, but with a much darker aesthetic and, by the looks of it, more direct storytelling.