Skull and Bones
Ubisoft's Skull & Bones Naval Combat Is Interesting, But Is It Good Enough to Carry a Whole Game?
Written Tuesday, July 04, 2017 By Dom Peppiatt
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When most people think about Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, they don’t think about the highlight of the game as being the slightly unwieldy naval combat. Weirdly, that’s what Ubisoft has taken away and made a full game of in Skull & Bones and whilst we do have our reservations about exactly how they final product will turn out, we have to say, it’s pretty fun.

Ubisoft’s Singapore branch has been working on the naval combat since Assassin’s Creed 3, so it’s no real surprise to see that facet of gameplay get its own dedicated game. The whole premise of the title is that you’re a pirate, and you’ll be sailing around the ocean looting merchant vessels and generally being a menace to other players that operate in the same shared world as you.

The game is going to have single-player elements apparently, but in a hands-on demo at E3, we got to try out a few rounds of the PvP action in which we had to loot AI ships and escape with as much pilfered treasure as possible. To do this, we had to select one of three classes of ship - a short-range tank of a ship, a ‘sniper’ that could anchor and hit from range, and a nippy, little bruiser, too.

It was immediately clear that communication with your team is absolutely key here - no matter what class of ship you are, if you’re outmaneuvered, you’re dead in the water. Flanking will kill you, especially if you’re going up against two other ships at the same time. So you need to talk to your team, and ideally all go for the Dutch merchant ships which carry the most loot, and get on the defensive straight away.

Getting away from the scene of the crime is nice: there’s a wind mechanic that makes it feel really satisfying to sail out of trouble as other ships fight against the direction of the weather. Face buttons control the speed you travel at, shoulder buttons can trigger a special ability per class, and you can launch volleys of cannon fire parallel to your ship as each chamber gets refilled. It works, but it’s nothing fancy.

Mix a more complicated navigation control system than you had in Black Flag into that, and you’ve got a pretty cumbersome, but usually predictable way of moving your ship around. There’s a lot of detail in the world - the ocean looks incredible, and the characters on your ship all look pretty good in action… but it’s just a bit dull, overall.

Granted, we only managed to see one mode in the PvP part of the title, and the full game will reportedly have a full single player mode, customisable ships and ‘notable characters’ from the series, but we don’t know if what we played is up there with Ubisoft’s other successful multiplayer titles. Yeah, it all feels solid and it plays well, but without seeing more from this game, there just doesn’t seem to be an amazing amount of depth there. Which is ironic, considering the whole thing is set atop an ocean. 

You can sign up for the Skull and Bones beta here.


User Comments
Forum Posts: 12
Comment #1 by Sillyrobot822
Tuesday, July 04, 2017 @ 08:09:21 PM
Um...what? The naval combat/exploration was literally the aspect of AC IV that everyone loved the most from that game. Did this writer actually play AC IV?

Forum Posts: 2
Comment #2 by No Dice Soldier
Tuesday, July 04, 2017 @ 09:39:01 PM
#1 I personally think him playing Metal Gear survive crewed him up a bit. Give him a few months to recover.

Forum Posts: 16
Comment #3 by TheWonderBoy
Tuesday, July 04, 2017 @ 10:18:37 PM
@1 You said exactly what I was thinking after reading that opening line.

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #4 by YunGFLASHyy
Tuesday, July 04, 2017 @ 10:45:01 PM
Didn't even get past the first paragraph because I facepalmed so hard smh. The naval combat in AC IV was literally THE main takeaway and most popular aspect of the game after the brief naval sequence in AC III that left people wanting more without satisfying that desire.

How can you be so out of touch with reality??

Forum Posts: 1055
Comment #5 by Wolfwood
Tuesday, July 04, 2017 @ 10:53:07 PM
"When most people think about Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, they don’t think about the highlight of the game as being the slightly unwieldy naval combat." Stopped reading. So much wrong here.

I honestly think pulled a IGN and got the wrong person to play a demo for a game based on features they didn't like to begin with.

Forum Posts: 91
Comment #6 by Last2Night
Tuesday, July 04, 2017 @ 11:43:24 PM
People still read his articles? He's the outcast here, the whole community shits on him. Its beyond my understanding why he is still employed here.

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #7 by BoosterGold87
Wednesday, July 05, 2017 @ 12:37:14 AM
@4 LOL literally the same here. 1st paragraph and I did a double-take. Didn't bother reading the rest. Honestly, if he didn't like AC4's naval combat, I don't give a lick what he thinks of the demo.

Forum Posts: 26
Comment #8 by RuiG87
Wednesday, July 05, 2017 @ 05:46:14 AM
Wait what? When everyone mentions Black Flag the first thing that pops to mind is the naval combat, since that was the highlight of the game...i've got to ask do you even play games?

Forum Posts: 69
Comment #9 by MAXTHUNDER99
Wednesday, July 05, 2017 @ 06:42:58 AM
Well, No Sea of Thieves for me. I'll be waiting on this game now.

Forum Posts: 1329
Comment #10 by railroberto
Wednesday, July 05, 2017 @ 07:27:08 AM
When I found out they were making a game like black flag but solely centered around naval combat. I was sold. Here take my money.

Forum Posts: 82
Comment #11 by Frankie Godskin
Wednesday, July 05, 2017 @ 01:11:44 PM
I'm one of the few that hated the naval combat in ACIII--and the reason I didn't buy ACIV was because the naval combat was front and center in the game. In the reviews and fan discussions everyone kept going on about the ship combat. Even those of us who didn't play the game know this.

Forum Posts: 83
Comment #12 by Crazybasil
Thursday, July 06, 2017 @ 09:39:34 AM
Well, I was literally dreaming about the naval element recieving it's own game since AC3. And the power of my facepalm was insane when I saw this article.

Forum Posts: 177
Comment #13 by Ceromorth
Thursday, July 06, 2017 @ 10:06:07 AM
'When most people think about Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, they don’t think about the highlight of the game as being the slightly unwieldy naval combat' Seriously, is there anyone who doesn't? WTF!

Forum Posts: 5
Comment #14 by shoryuken
Monday, July 24, 2017 @ 03:04:00 PM
For Honor again? And think carefully before insulting me on what I'm sayig.

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #15 by GILH
Sunday, August 06, 2017 @ 03:45:46 AM
It always seems to me that Ubisoft games always have the more interesting ideas and game mechanics. But they always glitch the hell out or are massive disappointments, with a few that are exceptions. Thankfully games that are glitchy as Ubisoft's tend to be get fixed. And if it is terrible it gets crapped on by reviews. Hopefully this will be one of those exclusions where everything just lines up right.

Forum Posts: 1178
Comment #16 by IAmFlownominal
Wednesday, September 06, 2017 @ 12:32:31 AM
I was saying from the start in ACIII that they should release a dedicated naval game. AC4/AC Rogue were great steps towards that, but still at the core needed to be about Assassin's Creed. This game is exactly the thing I've been hoping for. Ubi gets shit on a lot, some of it very much deserved, but never say they don't come up with some unique gameplay.

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