Skull and Bones: release date on PS5 and Xbox, does it have PvP multiplayer - Ubisoft gameplay explained
and live on Freeview channel 276
It's not often that a game that's been in development for over 10 years turns out to be a classic.
These games, often mired in mismanagement, an uncertain artistic vision and an overblown budget, very rarely meet their - already relatively low - expectations.
But Skull & Bones, the new pirate warfare game from Ubisoft, might just buck that trend. The game takes the naval combat sections of Assassin's Creed IV (one of the best in that series) and fleshes them out to a full game.
It's certainly still looking intriguing a decade on from the start of its development, but will it be worth playing? Here is everything you need to know about it.
What is Skull & Bones?
Skull & Bones is the inaugural title from Ubisoft Singapore, and was initially inspired by the naval ship battles depicted in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag and Assassin's Creed Rogue, an element of those games that resonated well with both fans and critics alike.
The game's development journey commenced way back in 2013 initially as a DLC expansion to Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, before it later evolved into an MMO spin-off titled Black Flag Infinite.
Development rumbled on, and after the underlying technology the game relied on became outdated, the game was once again rebranded as a new, independent standalone project.
Over the years, it has been reported that the game has undergone numerous transformations in its vision and scale, resulting in multiple instances of the project surpassing its budget - and incurring a cost exceeding $120 million (£94.7 million) for Ubisoft.
Originally set in the Caribbean, the game's setting first shifted to the fantastical realm of Hyperborea before eventually settling in the Indian Ocean. The gameplay too underwent several redesigns, oscillating between an emphasis on naval exploration and ship-to-ship combat, and land-based survival elements akin to games like Rust.
What happens in Skull & Bones?
Due to the chops and changes in the development of Skull & Bones, it's genuinely a little hard to pin down exactly what the game will be until we actually get it into our hands.
But it is believed to be a tactical action game set within an expansive open world, in which players assume command of a customisable pirate vessel, navigating the Indian Ocean either solo for a single-player campaign or assembling a group of up to five players for player versus player engagements in Disputed Waters.
The game emphasises strategic use of wind positions to gain a tactical edge in combat, and players can amass a collection of diverse ships like sloops-of-war, frigates, and brigantines, each armed with weaponry such as mortars, broadside cannons and rockets.
Engaging in forceful collisions and boarding manoeuvres is possible, with damage output measured by health bars. Another pivotal feature is the multiplayer mode Loot Hunt, pitting two groups against each other in a race for treasure.
Ships' crow's nests serve as scalable lookout points, from which you can survey your surroundings with a spyglass.
When can I play it?
Originally scheduled to be released in 2018, Skull & Bones was pushed back to 2019. Then 2020. Then the "2021–2022 fiscal year". Then the 2022–2023 fiscal year.
Developers speaking to journalists have blamed conflicting ideas, management hurdles and a lack of consistent vision for the game's "development hell" journey.
Where is the best place to pre-order it?
One of the best places to pre-order Skull & Bones ahead of its 16 February release date is Game.co.uk, which is offering the console versions of the game for £64.99.