Skull and Bones sets sail on February 16, welcoming players to the cutthroat world of the Indian Ocean during the Golden Age of Piracy. While you start off as a shipwrecked outcast, you'll fight, forge alliances, and make enemies as you build your empire and become a kingpin of the seas. And the adventure doesn't stop once you've reached the top. As a kingpin, you'll have the power to take on difficult endgame events and challenges to earn more riches and unlock new items, but that's just the start. Skull and Bones' first year will bring four seasons of new enemies to the Indian Ocean, starting with a pestilent pirate lord who rains poison from the sky.
In a recent co-op gameplay session, we had the opportunity to play around in Skull and Bones' endgame. Playing at the Kingpin level, the highest Infamy ranking, we had a fleet of ships and an arsenal of weapons at our disposal to plunder outposts and seize their means of production, hunt down a devastating sea monster, and sail into battle against the aforementioned pirate lord. Skull and Bones endgame is full of opportunities to take on legendary challenges, cement yourself as a powerhouse in different regions of the Indian Ocean, and even change up a few game mechanics.
Diversifying Your Income Streams
One such opportunity is capturing manufacturers. Early in the game, you can trade with or plunder such outposts for valuable resources to build ships, craft weapons, and complete contracts. Now, you can take control of them and make them work for you, turning them into valuable assets in your empire. Settlements under your control will passively earn you pieces of eight, a valuable currency used to buy rare and deadly black-market items, such as the blueprint for a gun that can spit fire at your enemies. As you take over more manufacturers, you can set up your own trade routes, which will increase your revenue and establish yourself as an economic powerhouse in different regions across the Indian Ocean.
In order to take control of a manufacturer, you have to take part in a Hostile Takeover or Legendary Heist. These world events are temporary opportunities that periodically become available throughout the day, and must be completed within a set time limit - or before another player comes along to snatch victory for themselves.
Hostile Takeover is a PvPvE event in which you attack an outpost that has a production chain and have to take out their towers while defending yourself against enemy ships that come to the outpost's defense (not to mention fend off other players who have come to claim the manufacturer for their own). Whoever deals the most damage to the towers will be successful, get control of the outpost's factory, and it will start making a profit for that player (hopefully you).
When my party took on a Hostile Takeover, we had a small fleet of ships to choose from - I picked the Brigantine, a DPS class ship designed for high damage and a quick getaway, which I loaded up with hard-hitting cannons and missiles. My approach was simple: use powerful long-range cannons across my bow to inflict massive damage while enemy ships sailed into the harbor, use short-range cannons to weaken them further until I got close enough to board them or ram my bow into their broadside, which is both incredibly satisfying and a great way to maximize loot you can take from the wreckage.
Despite our team's best efforts, a rival player crew gained control over the manufacturer before we did; we had been so focused on the attacking ships that they were able to deal more damage to the towers and claim victory. It wasn't a total wash, however. Even if you fail a mission in Skull and Bones, there are still opportunities to take advantage of. In our case, the takeover turned into a plunder event, where the three of us faced off against waves of enemies and were rewarded with increasingly valuable loot at the end of each assault.
Eager for another shot at seizing ownership of a manufacturer, we turned our sights towards a Legendary Heist. These events challenge you to attack a heavily armored merchant convoy and transport the goods you steal from them to an interested buyer, who will then give you control of a manufacturer. It's co-op event, but once you've stolen the cargo and are transporting it to the buyer, other players have the opportunity to attack you and pilfer the prize for themselves.
Determined to not get scooped by another team again, I set sail in the Snow, a tank-class ship designed to withstand heavy fire and with extra cargo space for storing my plunder. Then I equipped torpedoes on my stern designed to sink anyone who tried to give chase and steal the goods for themselves.
My team arrived at the scene shortly after another co-op party, and because this was the PvE phase of the event, our six ships worked together to sink the target. Of course, we all planned to win the cargo for ourselves - or to steal it from the player who did. Even within a co-op party, only one person can carry the goods and get the reward. It's automatically onboarded to the person who dealt the most damage to the merchant vessel - in this case, me. Once the goods were on my ship, I turned and made for the delivery port as fast as the wind would carry me. The other party tried to take me out, but my teammates stayed behind and fought them, giving them a chance to steal the enemy players' loot and giving me a chance to slip into the safe area of the outpost, deliver the goods, and claim the ultimate prize: the Raofia Weaver manufacturer.
The Raofia Weaver was a White Skull Rum manufacturer located just north of the pirate den Saint-Anne, and it would net 60 pieces of eight per hour once up and running, a hefty sum for any kingpin. However, to collect on these ill-gotten gains, I would need to deliver silver and sugar cane so they could actually start producing rum. A kingpin's job is never done.
Jaws of Retribution
Next, it was time to hunt a sea monster. We picked up the Jaws of Retribution contract, charging us to find, kill, and deliver the eye of a Tylosaurus to another pirate. We tracked down the monster, who could ram ships from the water's surface or dive beneath the waves only to leap in the air and slam into a ship like a giant red wrecking ball. Getting hit by one of its aerial attacks is devastating, and it sent me to my watery grave many, many times. Because the sea monster moves so quickly and in such a wide area, it was hard for the Barque in our party to land healing bombards, but by learning its attack patterns and communicating with one another whenever the beast was spotted, we were able to brace against its crushing blows (literally, remember to brace your ship in combat!) and defeat it. We picked up its eye to finish the quest, along with some monster meat, which turned out to be an ingredient to make some tasty (and stamina boosting) Tylosaurus Steak.
Tides of Terror
Just then, a new world event began: the Tides of Terror, which brought a formidable new foe to the seas. Philippe La Peste, the main villain of Season 1: Raging Tides, is a poisonous presence on the ocean, invading from the Caribbean to sow discord and disease with his pestilant crew. Throughout the season, La Peste will send increasingly difficult fleets of attacking ships to the Indian Ocean, culminating in a boss fight with La Peste at the end of Raging Tides. The Tides of Terror world event that we took on was that climactic boss fight, and it was time to remove his presence from our waters.
After seeing the damage the Tylosaurus did to our party, I decided to switch it up to a healing class, equipping the Barque with healing bombards so I could reinforce my teammates' hulls from a distance. La Peste's ship is a massive, glowing green vessel, and deals heavy damage by raining poison down from the sky. Periodically, his ship would deploy floating bombs in the water, critical to dispatch before they sank one of our ships. Agility was key in this fight to avoid poison mortars, floating bombs, and, occasionally, friendly ships. It was a brutal fight, but after a brutal barrage of cannon fire and flood-inducing firepower, we sent La Peste to the depths.
La Peste is just the first pirate lord who will invade in Skull and Bones Year 1: Rise of the Kingpins. Season 2, Chorus of Havoc, will introduce the Hubac twins, who have been sent by the King of France to eliminate pirates from the region. With two additional seasons planned, Into the Dragon's Wake and Shadows of the Deep, each season in Skull and Bones brings a new threat who have come to take a piece of your empire, complete with the own slate of world events. With the arrival of each pirate lord, local merchants and factions will become aware of their presence, and adjust their order of operations accordingly - which in turn will affect what commodities are valued most.
When you're a kingpin on the high seas, there's always another adventure waiting. The world events, ship classing and customization, and naval combat were just a taste of what Skull and Bones will have to offer when it launches on February 16 for Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, Amazon Luna, and PC through Ubisoft Connect and the Epic Games Store. You can preorder Skull and Bones today at the Ubisoft Store, or sign up for a Ubisoft+ Premium subscription to get three-day early access. If you want to test the waters of the Indian Ocean, be sure to register for the Skull and Bones Open Beta, which starts on February 8.