Skull and Bones launches on February 16, 2024, bringing open-sea exploration and naval combat to Xbox Series X|S players. For those eager to set sail across the vast Indian Ocean and get a taste of the pirate life, you can register now for a chance to play in the closed beta from December 15-18, 2023.
Your goal in Skull and Bones is to become a pirate kingpin, amassing riches, a fearsome fleet of ships, and an infamous reputation along the way. Doing so, however, is easier said than done. When the game kicks off, you’ll be caught on the wrong side of a devastating sea battle. Shipwrecked, you’ll gather what resources you can to make your way to the pirate den of Sainte-Anne, where your rags-to-riches story begins in earnest.
The first thing you need to understand about Skull and Bones is Infamy. Infamy is a measure of your progression, and a pirate’s most important resource in Skull and Bones. It determines what contracts are available to you, what ships you can build, what resources you can harvest, what weapons you can craft, and so much more. Doing just about anything in Skull and Bones will grant you Infamy, from hunting crocodiles and smuggling rum to tracking down bounties and unearthing hidden treasures.
Get to Know Sainte-Anne
If you want to rule the seas, the first step is getting comfortable on land. The pirate den of Sainte-Anne is where you’ll acquire contracts, build new ships, and buy and sell your goods. It’s also where you’ll craft the weapons, attachments, and furniture you’ll need to outfit your ships. You’ll also be able to get your pirate’s appearance just the way you like it, manage your cargo to maximize profit, repair your ships, and customize them with the right tools for the job at hand. Sainte-Anne is also where you’ll meet John Scurlock, a pirate kingpin who will set you on missions to pursue the golden path of Skull and Bones (which will net you the best rewards and the most Infamy).
Grab some contracts and any available missions, pack in a few repair kits, and set sail! Your journeys will bring you back to the pirate haven soon enough, hopefully with more cargo than when you left and not too many holes in your hull. Your actions on the open ocean will often net you valuable loot, but they also come at the cost of resources that you’ll need to replenish, like ammunition and repair kits. Upon your return to port, complete your contracts, cash in your loot, craft an upgrade, stash extra supplies for later, take on more contracts, top off your survival resources, and head back out. This is Skull and Bones’ early gameplay loop, and it’s how you’ll start to build Infamy and a name for yourself.
Build Your Fleet
Of course, a pirate is nothing without a ship, and your first proper vessel, the Bedar, will let you explore the Red Isle, the area around Sainte-Anne where danger and opportunity await. Before you set sail, you’ll need to get your Bedar ready to engage in Skull and Bones’ bread and butter: naval combat.
All ships in Skull and Bones have weapon slots for the varied cannons and other artillery you’ll unlock. The Bedar has three slots – one on the left, right, and front of the ship (port, starboard, and bow respectively, for the nautically inclined). Eventually you’ll unlock ships that have four attachment slots, which will allow you to add weapons to all four sides of a ship. Many of your early contracts will focus on sinking a certain number of a specific ship type or plundering settlements, so you’ll need to be well-armed.
The starting cannons are equal to the task early on, but soon enough, you’ll want to specialize your armaments. Long guns are good for hitting targets from a (relatively) safer distance and pinpointing enemy weak points, while demi-cannons act as ship-mounted shotguns with a wide, short-range area of effect. As you grow your fleet, more exotic weapons like bombards, torpedoes, sea fire, and more can dramatically alter the way you fight at sea. Similarly, the armor plates you choose for your ships boast different resistances. Metal armor protects you from piercing damage, while wetted hides will shield you from fire-based attacks. If you’re having trouble with a particularly difficult fight, scout the enemy ships with your spyglass to reveal what kind of damage they are dealing and what they are vulnerable to, then return to the nearest pirate den to change your ship’s loadout to meet the challenge.
As you seek to upgrade your weapons, armor, or buff-granting furniture, you’ll need to reach certain Infamy levels and find the proper blueprints, which may very well be located far from Sainte-Anne. Luckily, each vendor will make it clear what level you need to be, and where you can find the specific blueprint you’re looking for.
Sail With a Cutthroat Crew
While contracts will supply you with dedicated objectives to complete, there’s plenty of opportunity out on the open sea. Hunt merchant vessels, plunder settlements, trade goods, gather crafting resources, track down blueprints, and uncover the map to see what else awaits you. You’ll often encounter other players as you explore, and in Skull and Bones, you can interact with them in two ways. The first is by playing together in co-op: approach their vessel or send up a flare to call for help, and you can join in a party to take on tougher challenges for better loot. Teaming up is crucial for more difficult objectives, like timed world events. As the name suggests, these events expire if not completed quickly. For example, you may encounter a rich merchant convoy carrying rare and valuable goods, but their heavily armored ships won’t go down easily – and if you don’t sink them before they finish their route, their rewards will be lost. Team up with nearby players or friends to take them down in a coordinated assault and reap the benefits.
Co-op is also helpful for those pirates who keep an ear open for rumors and gossip at Sainte-Anne. Conversations you overhear might lead you to a mysterious ghost ship that only appears at night, or a vicious sea monster. These events are some of the toughest challenges Skull and Bones has to offer, but with the help of a fleet of friends, anyone can overcome even the supernatural.
If you’re feeling a bit more cutthroat in your quest for riches, PvP challenges are also available. All you have to do is find a legendary treasure map. These will lead you to some incredibly valuable loot; the only catch is that it will mark your location for all nearby players and allow them to attack you. If they get the better of you, they will steal your cargo and claim the legendary map’s treasure for themselves. With great risk comes great reward, and it’s up to you to decide if you want to chase the treasure, or hunt those who do.
Becoming a Kingpin
As your Infamy grows, so too does the world of Skull and Bones. More advanced contracts will take you to far-flung corners of the Indian Ocean, and bigger ships and better weapons ensure you’ll be able to survive in those corners.
Infamy comes in tiers, and once you reach the Brigand tier, you’ll join The Helm, a secret smuggling network, and unlock your own pirate liar. At this point, you won’t be completing tasks for others, but running your own operation as you acquire exotic materials and refine them into illegal goods to sell on the black market. Upgrade The Helm, seize key territories, and expand your operation to stay in business and dominate the seas.
Play Your Way
Ultimately, how you play Skull and Bones is up to you. Will you adventure on the on the high seas alone in search of treasure? Will you band together with a group of friends to wage naval warfare and hunt other players? Will you chase down every blueprint and hidden secret across the Indian Ocean? And perhaps most importantly, will you have a pet lemur or a pet cat on board your ship? There’s no wrong way to play Skull and Bones, so get ready to become a pirate Kingpin when the game launches on February 16, 2024, and you can get up to three days of early access by pre-ordering the Premium Edition now on the Microsoft Store for Xbox.
Skull and Bones