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Skull and Bones (Xbox Series X | S)

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Skull and Bones (Xbox Series X | S)

The game

The history of the development of Skull and Bones has been long and troubled: announced for the first time at E3 2017 and initially conceived as an expansion of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, the game then became an MMO spin-off called Black Flag Infinite and then suffered, in over the years, multiple changes in direction that led it to separate completely from the Assassins franchise and transform itself into an IP in its own right. The game revolves around piracy and naval warfare, with a fantasy context set in East Africa and Southeast Asia during the late 17th century, the height of the Golden Age of Piracy historical era. At this point several games will surely arise in your mind to compare this to Skull and Bones, but to understand it completely it is necessary to put aside any comparison: in fact the Ubisoft game is unique in the panorama of games about piracy, interpreting the theme in a completely different way compared to other titles with the same inspiration, Sea of ​​Thieves in first of all. If you were expecting comparisons with the Rare title, know that this will be the only time I mention the British team’s title in this review: the two games offer such different experiences that comparing them would be nothing but a futile exercise.

MX Video – Skull and Bones

It all begins with a castaway and survivor of a naval battle who finds himself on the beach among the remains of what was his ship. From this point on it is possible to customize our character by creating the avatar that will represent us within the video game. The customization options are limited but still allow the creation of a typical aspiring pirate who will sail the seas on the various ships that from time to time you will be able to procure based on your skill and the contracts that will allow you to acquire money, material, projects and Above all, get into the good graces of the pirate who commands the island, with the sinister name of John Scurlock.

The island is full of activities and characters that will be an important part of our character’s rise to fame as a fearsome pirate of the seas. The carpenter is important for providing us with tools and wood suitable for the construction of new ships, the blacksmith for the construction of weapons or the protection of the ship, tools for burgling wrecks, the atelier for taking care of our image by wearing clothes and accessories worthy of a high level. of pirate that we want to represent. All these (and other) characters actively contribute to the missions that will be assigned to us to obtain rewards, both economic and in the form of goods or services that allow you to level up as a pirate. They are therefore not ornamental figures but absolutely functional for completing certain missions to rise to fame in the pirate world.

As soon as you are ready, you can set sail from any point on the map by simply holding down the B button; then it is possible to proceed with the preparation of the ship with the weapons or accessories and sails that we want to show off and leave the safe waters towards the outside world that awaits us. The way the ship is operated depends on the type of ship itself, although it is always very simplified from a physical point of view. Raising or lowering the sails is done with a single button per action, and the inertia typical of sailing ships is very small and identical on all ships. It is possible to change perspective, go up to the observation point if the ship allows it, but it is not possible to go below deck nor interact with the other characters who are part of the crew.

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The crew constitutes an important element of the ship and not just a cosmetic one: during navigation it is possible to make them sing songs, they will warn us if they see ships and it is possible to see them busily at work during the manoeuvres, but they must also be fed and rested for keep your navigation skills at their best. For this reason there is a special indicator that goes down when the crew is dealing with actions that require effort and goes up automatically when they are sailing more calmly or are refreshed by drawing from the ship’s galley.

Due to a precise design choice, Ubisoft has enormously simplified the navigation dynamics, making it less laborious and less tiring to sail the seas. Even the water is not particularly sophisticated although at times sufficiently plausible, as are the wind and other physical phenomena such as waves and the different atmospheric conditions, which appear to be various but are in any case not central in the game dynamics as on the contrary they are placed battles both with other ships and with outposts that can be looted.

Precisely in the combat phase, the simplified navigation dynamics allow you to concentrate on the battle, both from a tactical point of view and from the aiming and boarding point of view. Based on the type of ship and its armament, it is possible to choose different approaches and fight with opponents by exploiting one’s strengths combined with alternating fast and slow maneuvers to get out of the line of fire. All armaments are characterized by a specific type, level of damage inflicted, shooting distance and reload speed. Once the resistance of the opposing ship has been weakened, it is advisable to come alongside it to board it and plunder all the riches, even the hidden ones.

The exploration component is less free and more limited to specific points on the map, rather than allowing free exploration of all parts of the mainland. With a view to putting at the center of Skull and Bones the fighting between fractions and the systematic theft of goods, exploration is relegated to a mere means to complete parts of the mission such as the exchange of information, the supply of weapons or other goods. Despite this choice, there is no shortage of discoveries and places to visit that can also become safe havens in which to carry out repairs, exchanges and purchases.

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Free navigation is also less central to the game, in particular because the seas are quite crowded and you end up, sooner or later, engaging a ship from an opposing faction. Sometimes the loot is too tasty. The presence of other players also allows you to engage in online competitive challenges without the need for lobbies or matchmaking. The ships of other players are present in the game as in any MMO and can be engaged (and plundered) or you can ask to join the group which from then on will pursue the missions jointly and receive the rewards upon completion of the contracts.

The game features speech in English, while texts and subtitles are completely localized in Italian.


Become the pirate you want

– The customization of the ship and clothing is practically infinite and capable of engaging you for a long time thanks also to the rich availability in the internal shop where you can buy, as usual, with different currencies that you can obtain as a reward in the game or by purchasing them from the store . The same depth also applies to the ship’s equipment, which can be the most disparate from both an aesthetic and functional point of view. It is possible to choose the most suitable weapons among those available and their configuration on the ship. The unique characteristics of each weapon substantially modify the offensive and defensive capacity of our vessel, favoring different types of approach to the poor victim. Life within the safe harbor of Sainte-Anne is also very varied and rich. The other pirates welcome us with positive or negative comments based on the outcome of the last contract, and it is possible to visit many different characters, each specialized in a sector, with whom to do business or accept assignments. Part of the activities possible in Sainte-Anne are also present in the other outposts where exclusive goods related to the activities of the faction we visit are obtained.

Exciting battles at sea

– The clashes with other ships are certainly exciting and engaging, starting from the sighting which includes information on the faction, characteristics and cargo, which is very useful for deciding whether or not to attack a vessel. Once we have decided to attack, the tactics to get the better of the opposing ship depend a lot on the equipment of ours, and therefore we can use mortar cannons for the approach phases from afar and then choose which side to approach the opponent from based on the type of cannon we have on our side. In one of my configurations I used different types of cannons for the different sides of the ship, in order to have more effective short-range cannons on one side, medium range cannons on the other side and mortars on the front. If you are lucky and aim well you can hit the weakest points of the opposing ships causing greater damage or, in the luckiest cases, immediate sinking. To capture a greater quantity of resources from the ship it is possible to carry out a spectacular boarding which will allow your intrepid crew to plunder the opposing ship and then sink it. During the approach it is also possible to use the muskets supplied to the crew when you are close enough to be able to hit the crew of the opposing vessel. Your maneuvering skills will also be useful in avoiding enemy shots as will the metal protection that you can activate with the right dorsal and which, together with the possibility of using the repair kits, provides further resistance against the most dangerous ships to face.

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I hate it

Non-existent physics

– The simplification of the navigation model could certainly have been an instrumental change to the main objective of the game, namely naval battles, but in the Ubisoft studios they went a little further. The model is trivialized to the point that the rudder works like a steering wheel, with the ship being able to turn 360° without any force from the sails, while the inertia of the movement ends abruptly when the sails are removed, as if we had nailed car. This is even more evident when using the view from the helm, which transforms into a huge steering wheel where even small changes in angle instantly move the ship.

A sea that is too crowded

– Part of the pirate spirit is represented by indomitable freedom, sailing the beautiful equatorial sea in search of adventure and discovery. All this is only partially present in Skull and Bones which disappoints everyone who was expecting a pirate game in the most adventurous sense of the word. There are too many ships, you can only go down and search the mainland at predetermined points and this takes away much of the pirate spirit of the game. The abundance of banners also reduces the desire to sail for the sake of it, to discover the seas and the panoramas, always intrigued by the possibility of making greater loot and increasing one’s fame.

Pay attention to details

– Adding the view from the helm was certainly a great thing and, to an inattentive observer, it might even seem very realistic and detailed. It’s a shame that the physics of the parts in motion and exposed to the wind are not always aligned with the wind that whips the sails, breaking the atmosphere that you want to create with this view.

Let’s sum it up

Skull and Bones it is not a pirate game, but a game of naval wars in a pirate style which offers the opportunity to criticize the choices made within the navigation system, which is not very realistic, and the exploration system, which is far too piloted. Despite this, if you take it for what it is, that is, a game of naval battles in the 17th century with a multiplayer heart, Ubisoft’s title can be played and offers moments of adrenaline during battles or assaults which are at times exciting and fun . In the current gaming world it is possible to correct the fate of a game during construction and make it progressively more attractive for potential customers, so the arrival of content and updates could potentially bring welcome improvements: we wish this to Ubisoft and to all lovers of pirate titles!

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