Sea of Thieves, arguably one of Microsoft’s most polarizing IPs, should be thanking its lucky stars right now that Skull and Bones has been delayed. Yes, two entirely different experiences, however, the foundation of each remains very much the same – enabling players to enjoy the life of a pirate. Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love myself some Sea of Thieves. In fact, I cant quite get enough of it. I’m still nowhere near the status of Legendary Pirate, but I still find myself drawn back to it on a weekly basis.
There’s no denying that the sheer lack of content has had a huge hit on the player base, with the core experience failing to maintain its allure as a result. Though, Rare are fully aware of this and are actively working to inject new and exciting additions as time moves on. The first of which arrives on May 29th and comes in the form of The Hungering Deep; bringing a new AI threat, new ways to play, new rewards and more. Following on from this will be The Cursed Sails and then The Forsaken Shores, later in the year.
Rare states that they have three internal teams working on the aforementioned content on a rotational basis. That means that when The Hungering Deep arrives, the team working on that will then begin working on new content, which will release after The Cursed Sails, and so on and so forth. It’s a great system that will see new additions implemented on a semi-regular basis, something I’m sure you will agree, is of vital importance. Sea of Thieves isn’t a bad game, it plays well, it functions well and it’s easy to understand. It’s just very empty.
The Hungering Deep is (as described by Rare) a medium sized content drop, given that the team working on it has only been working on it since launch. However, The Cursed Sails and The Forsaken Shores will be larger in scale, due simply to the extra development time. We’re not sure what, or when, new content will be injected into the game after this, but Rare’s roadmap seems to suggest that there’s room for two to three new drops leading into Fall 2018; the space in which Ubisoft’s new IP, Skull and Bones, was initially due to launch.
Ubisoft announced at a recent financial call that Skull and Bones will now launch in the financial year of 2019, which is fancy talk for somewhere between April 2019 and March 2020. This delay is arguably one of the best things to happen to Sea of Thieves. Say what you like about Ubisoft, but across their IPs, they never release a content-light experience. Ubisoft’s titles are usually bulging with content, ranging in over forty hours of play before players have seen and done everything within; such as The Division or Assassin’s Creed.
Skull and Bones, despite being the more adult-themed experience, could have easily have obliterated Sea of Thieves like a Galleon smashing the shit out of a Sloop. Skull and Bones’ creative director Justin Farren states that:
One year ago we proudly announced Skull and Bones at E3 2017. Since then, we’ve been hard at work developing Ubisoft Singapore’s vision of the pirate fantasy while looking very closely at the feedback we’ve received on our forums and social channels. That continued feedback is vital – we want to build a community that shares the same excitement we have for Skull and Bones.
Here in Singapore, this is our biggest game yet, and it is a project filled with immense passion. Many of us have been working on it for the last few years, and want to make this game right in order to achieve our ambition to deliver the ultimate pirate game set to thrill players at launch and for years to come.
Our goal remains as clear as ever: build a shared systemic open ocean that captures the essence of the pirate fantasy and is full of activities. We aspire to create a game where the act of attacking and robbing ships at sea — and where every single decision you make — requires you to carefully assess the risk versus reward.
We also are building a world rich in lore and stories, where you’ll come across memorable characters and have the canvas to create your own stories. Letting you set your own objectives and to take down your rivals on your own terms is key to the experience we want to create.
Already, Skull and Bones’ vision is clear cut and concise, though more importantly, it appears as though it will be heavy on the content. Had Skull and Bones released at the end of this year, its content alone would have put Rare’s efforts to shame. The promise of an ocean that’s “full of activities” and “risk versus reward” as well as “rich in lore and stories” are three things that Sea of Thieves needs now, more than ever. Skull and Bones’ delay might have just given Rare that extra time to get their foot in the door beforehand.
Will this have given them enough time to stand just as firmly as Skull and Bones when it arrives? That remains to be seen, but Rare must be feeling the pressure from that statement alone. One of the most fascinating aspects of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag was its piracy and ocean exploring/combat. To say that Ubisoft is crafting an experience that not only builds on that, but is one hundred percent focused on that, is nothing short of exciting and intriguing. Rare simply needs to use this extra lead time to get their vision realized.
I fully understand and acknowledge that these games are polar opposites as far as their presentation, their target audience and their accessibility is concerned, but I’ll eat my hat if strong comparisons are not drawn closer to launch. The bottom line here is that both of these experiences aim to offer the ultimate pirate adventure. Rare would do well to pay close attention to Ubisoft’s history of delivering well rounded captivating IPs. They’ve been given a gift with this delay. Will it be enough in the long run? Only time will tell…