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Skull and Bones: Ubisoft's pirate MMO has a new vision, but still no release date

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Skull and Bones, Ubisoft's piratical MMO, is turning out to be quite the tease. It was announced in 2017, we got to play it in 2018, but here we are in 2021 and there's no sign of a release date. Not even on the horizon. Not even with a nautical telescope. 

Recently we did get an update from Ubisoft Singapore, the studio working on the game, to let us know it was still a thing, but had seen significant changes to implement a "new vision" for the project. We're yet to see any trailers or gameplay that show us exactly what that new vision is, but at least it's proof of life. 

The last time we saw Skull and Bones it borrowed heavily from the naval battles of Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag, and added the chaos and excitement that comes from teaming up with friends online. It's hard to imagine how much has changed since then - you have to guess that the game will at least be getting a visual upgrade for PS5 and Xbox Series X - or what new features will have been added to reflect the latest trends in online games. Hopefully, we'll find out soon, and get closure on the ghost ship that is Skull and Bones. Until then, for all the details on its troubled voyage, and some hints at what to expect when it finally does get a release, keep reading.

Skull and Bones release date - when is it coming?

Skull and Bones has had more trouble with release dates than a galleon has with barnacles. At least mention, during an earnings call, the game was scheduled for a 2020/2021 fiscal year release, which is a pretty big window even by game developer standards. 

The video posted to Skull & Bones' official Twitter in 2019 seems designed to stem the tide of any disappoints as Ubisoft continues to work on the game. "Rest assured that we are working as hard to ever to make sure the game is going to be as great as possible, and quality remains our number one focus," says producer Karl Luhe. "We will be back as soon as we can with exciting new updates." 

Now, thanks to a September update from Ubisoft Singapore creative director Elisabeth Pelle, we know it's still in production, but needs more time. Expect it to be all quiet on the horizon until for a few months yet.

Skull and Bones 2020 update

Ubisoft Singapore creative director Elisabeth Pellen updated fans on progress in September with the following statement

"Production on Skull and Bones has been in full swing with a new vision. Our teams at Ubisoft Singapore are fully committed to launching the game, as well as supporting it for many years to come," she wrote.

"Many of you have been wondering why we’ve had to postpone our launch. The answer is that we simply needed more time. We dreamt something bigger for Skull and Bones, and these ambitions naturally came with bigger challenges."

"These difficulties resulted in necessary delays for our game. Critical questions needed to be addressed over the past several months such as: how do we modernize the classic pirate fantasy? How do we ensure a more immersive and visceral experience? How do we create cool and memorable moments in-game? For most of these questions to be answered, it was clear that we needed more development time."

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

You can already sign up for the Skull and Bones Beta, so they're at least thinking of letting the general public play it at some point. 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?

The newest trailer is 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.

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I'm the benevolent Queen of the US, or - as they insist I call it - US Managing Editor. I write news, features and reviews, and look after a crack team of writers who all insist on calling trousers "pants" and don't think the phrase fanny pack is problematic.