Skull and bones for PC is a tactical action survival game, set in an open world environment with third-person player perspective. It is different from the usual run of survival games – fun as those can be – in that you will constantly be setting out to sea to achieve your aims, rather than staying static in one place and trying to defend your homestead as it grows.
About the GameThe game begins in a way familiar to fans of the survival type game, with the character washing up on a beach with nothing to their name but some ragged clothes and a few odds and ends. Struggling to survive as they make their way to the nearby town of Sainte-Anne, which is something of a pirate haven, you arrive in town and begin to work at getting back out to sea to earn some infamy and cash. There is not much to do in the way of sailing: most of your at-sea action is in the hands of your NPC crew, but you must keep an eye on their morale so they don’t mutiny on you – they must be kept happy, well fed and in regular receipt of their promised dram of rum or whisky! Despite the lack of ropes to pull on and what sits to belay, you want to be mindful of your ship, keeping an eye out for invaders and other pirates. If something does happen to the ship, you will spawn in the nearest safe place, but your precious loot, cargo and treasure – everything you had on board – is all gone, just waiting in the middle of the ocean for another player to zoom along and snaffle it. Experience points in this game (usually XP) are called ‘infamy’, and the more you have, the bigger ships and better quests you can earn. This gains you a bigger target on your back. There are NPC ships, loaded to the gunwales with pirate-catching privateers who are anxious to capture themselves a big bad pirate captain for a fat bounty, all over the seas and they will hunt you down with skill and enthusiasm unless you are a bit cautious in your travels. Throughout the game, you will loop through a series of quests, improving your might and infamy with each go-round, setting off to sea, winning, earning and gaining, and then coming back to stash it all safely, before heading off again. It is exceedingly satisfying to progress from ragged castaway to imposing fleet captain over the course of the game.
The Nitty GrittyAs might be guessed from the title, the game is all about piracy and includes both solo play, with the player taking the character of a pirate captain; and multi-play, with up to five crewmates, battling other ships in Disputed Waters. The game arose from the highly popular Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag and was originally intended as an expansion pack, then as an MMO standalone game, before gaining enough popularity and demand to become a fully-fledged game in its own right. Microtransactions are a feature of this game, but you can slug it out the hard way and achieve your goals without laying out any spare money if your finances are tight. Your health bar lets you know how much more damage you can take when you are under attack – or give, if you are the aggressor: ramming other ships is a great way to get close enough to board, pillage and rob them, before returning to your ship and letting theirs sink! All ships have crows’ nests that you can climb into to gain a bird's-eye view of the surrounding ocean and gain a clearer idea of how the battle is going. With solo play you can sail off across the Indian Ocean all alone, following the single-player campaign. You will learn on the go: how to use the wind to gain the best position when sailing. And you will also have an impressive armoury to learn: broadside cannons, mortars and rockets, all of which fit in the many types of ship that you can acquire, by honest means or nefarious ones. New ships to collect include frigates, sloops-of-war and brigantines – a range from cargo ships to nippy navigators to fire ships which have exotic weapons, like Greek fire which is always fun to splash about. And while you are getting to grips with all of this, you will also be on the lookout for treasure, loot, and goodies like telescopes and so on, which you can then use to improve your chances in battle. Multi-play games include skirmishes going head-to-head on treasure hunts, seeing who gets the most treasure the quickest. Customisation in the game is good and detailed: for example, plating your ship with overly heavy armour renders it practically unsteerable and uses up most of the room you should be keeping for cargo and loot. Many of the activities you would expect to be land-based can actually be done from on board, with ‘resource nodes’ temptingly placed out to sea for you to sail past and collect resources like newly mined ores, felled and prepped timber, and even freshly skinned animals.
What to Do At Sainte-AnneSainte-Anne, a sort of pirate safe-space, operates as the game’s central hub and you can get up to all sorts while you have a breather from sea-battles. You can:
- Pick up missions and quests that will earn you infamy, supplies and customisations
- Talk to NPCs, who can provide vital clues and information to help you complete your current task
- Craft ships and equipment to fit inside your ships, the size and impressiveness of your vessels increasing with every increase in your infamy levels
- Buy provisions – unhappy crew members can mutiny, so keep them well fed!
- Befriend other players. The open world nature of the game means that some of the other ships you come across will be peopled by fellow players – team up with them, trade with them, or – if you like – battle them for their loot!
- Work on treasure maps – what is the point of being a pirate captain unless you have a little stash of precious loot hidden away with detailed maps on how to retrieve it tucked about your person?