Skull and Bones - 2019 release date, a swashbuckling beta, and everything else you need to know

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Skull and Bones is the brand new pirate simulation currently in the works at Ubisoft, a swashbuckling online adventure through the world of piracy, plunder and portholes. Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag proved that naval combat was so much fun it deserved a game all of its very own, and Ubisoft decided was ready to take on the salty seas, giving us a first peek at the game back in 2017.

Of course that was two years ago, and we didn't get much expect a multiplayer deathmatch with boats and a few handfuls of sea salt. By 2018 though, Ubisoft's E3 press conference, we got to see a persistent world game, shared between all the people playing it. Think Destiny with big boats and fashion choices that wouldn't look out of place on an 80s pop album cover. 

Skull and Bones will be out sometime in 2019 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC - ready to take on its seafaring rival Sea of Thieves - and here's everything we know about it so far. 

Skull and Bones release date - when is it coming?

Skull and Bones is due in an irritatingly vague '2019' window, which means we may not get to play it for over a year. At worst, it could be coming at the end of 2019. The game was originally due to release in 2018, when it was revealed at E3 last year, but that has obviously slipped back. One good thing there though is the game changed massively from it's first E3 reveal to the second showing, with a far more expanded world and mechanics so it look likes Ubi is using the time well. 

Skull and Bones beta - when and where can you sign up? 

Another good sign regarding that delay is you can already sign up for the Skull and Bones Beta, so they're at least thinking of letting the general public play it soon. Ish. Here's where you sign up for the Skull and Bones Beta

Skull and Bones gameplay - what will we do?

Crudely, Skull and Bones gameplay is all about sinking other ships. The subtlety is in the method and the reason. You're essentially out there to get loot and become a powerful pirate - the trailer makes many references to getting to the top of the food chain. Sailing works similar to how it does in Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag - you steer around the ocean, then shoot cannons at other boats. There are different types of shot, which allow you to cause damage to other ships or take out their ability to sail or shoot back. Each boat can be fitted with a special ability now so, for example, you can have a cannon that fires eight shots in one volley, or the ability to fire without waiting for a cooldown. 

You'll have different ways of sailing too. We see in the demo that you can disguise yourself as ships from different factions, and you can set your sails for speed, rather than combat or the ability to manoeuvre. 

The idea, however, is that you can team up with other pirate ships and combine your various abilities to take down the really big enemies and claim maximum loot. You'll need to buddy up to sink the big warships, even if you're powered up yourself. The only problem here is that alliances are fluid in Skull and Bones, so you may find that your team mates turn on you when it's time to divide the treasure.

Skull and Bones trailer - where can I watch it?

There's a new trailer from E3 2018, and you can watch it above. It sets the tone for the game and gives us a taste of some of the characters and customisation options we'll have in the game. And it's pretty damn exciting too...

Skull and Bones customisation

There are loads of ways to customise your ship in Skull and Bones, and it seems that different set-ups will be useful for different scenarios. We see the ability to change sails, weapon set-ups, and figureheads in the demo, but expect there to be loads more options in the final game.

You'll need to adapt because the conditions of the game will change according to the predictions of a fortune teller. Yes. You're given an outlook for each session and will have to change your play accordingly - so, for example, high winds mean that there are more merchant ships to plunder, but greater competition for them. Not sure how that correlates, but it's all in the demo. She'll also advise on weather and trade routes too.

It's worth noting that you can also hop off your ship and look around your own private island. Expect there to be plenty of distractions here too.

Skull and Bones weather and mythical creatures

Weather will play a role in Skull and Bones too. We see in the trailer that the pirate crews encounter a massive typhoon. Expect there to be rough seas, high and low winds, and maybe even lightning storms to contend with too.

And then there's the kraken... We saw the kraken at E3 in 2017, but it didn't show up in the latest footage or trailer. It's probably still in the game but we noticed that the gameplay has changed (and evolved) significantly since last year, so perhaps all the over-the-top stuff has gone. Probably not, though.