I’m a huge fan of Sea of Thieves. Despite the dearth of PvE content, I found the PvP side of things to be immensely satisfying. There’s nothing quite like being able to sneak onboard another player’s ship, lying in wait until they’ve stocked up on treasure, then immediately stealing all their stuff and jumping overboard to wait for your buddy to steer your own ship over to pick you up.
After playing a little bit of Skull and Bones at E3 this year, I also found that there was a lot to love about this game. The naval combat was a real highlight, and the different ship types lent themselves well to different kinds of play styles. There were also cool co-op missions that you could take on with other players in the area.
And yet, I found myself wholly unsatisfied with both games for different reasons, and couldn’t help but wonder what sort of imaginative pirate game we’d get if both Ubisoft and Rare had pooled their ideas and mechanics for one definitive title. Both Sea of Thieves and Skull and Bones excel in different areas, but they’re also sorely lacking elements that are present in the other.
I Don’t Want to Be a Boat in Skull and Bones
This is by far my biggest complaint with Skull and Bones so far. Combat and movement is strictly limited to the ship, and there’s no land or melee combat to be had. What’s more, every ship is commandeered by one player. What made Sea of Thieves so fun was being able to team up with a crew of people to manage different parts of a ship – one person would be a lookout in the crow’s nest, another would be in charge of manning the cannons. Most of the intricate ship functions in Skull and Bones are either automated or executed with a button press, including boarding ships and raiding islands.
While the melee combat in Sea of Thieves is very simple, the PvP situations you can get in are extremely tense, and it’s just not the same in Skull and Bones. It’s worth noting that you can walk around on land in your lair, but when you’re out adventuring, you’re confined to the ship. Look, Ubisoft, I want to be a pirate, not a boat. Studying treasure maps and digging up lost chests on land is part of being a pirate. Boarding a ship and being engaged in the process of stealing loot from other people is part of being a pirate. Let me do that.
Sea of Thieves Needs Better PvE Content
From the short demo I played during E3 2018, it was already evident that the PvE activities in Skull and Bones were far more varied and exciting than in Sea of Thieves, at least while you’re at sea. There were limited time co-op missions, where players could team up to take down a Portuguese fleet and share the treasure. And there were random appearances by bounty hunters, who would chase you down once your ship was filled with loot. There’s a lot more incentive to team up with other pirating crews to take down NPCs and be rewarded with even more treasure.
In Sea of Thieves, the PvE quests are all just fetch quests where you pay for a map, go to an island, and collect either a chest, skull, or random animal. Then you bring your item back to the faction leaders and you’re rewarded with a very pitiful amount of gold. There’s also a kraken in the game, but there’s no reward for beating it. The Hungering Deep added the massive shark boss, the megalodon, but there’s no reason to tackle it again once you beat it and get a hull customization item.
The rewards in Sea of Thieves are pitiful, and the PvE content you have to trudge through for them are tiresome. As fun as it is to just mess around with other players in PvP, the fact of the matter is that the PvP scene is going to die out if the PvE content isn’t strong enough to keep the co-op players around.
Both Games Need Better Customization and Player Interactions
To be completely fair, Skull and Bones isn’t out yet, and it’s possible that we could see better player interaction in the game once it releases in 2019. However, from what I’ve seen so far, there’s very little in the game to truly make your pirate and ship feel unique to you, and the same can be said for Sea of Thieves as well.
Skull and Bones and Sea of Thieves don’t necessarily need end game content or raid-style bosses that players can grind for loot. However, if Ubisoft and Rare are going to use cosmetics as the primary drive for players to keep playing, they need to make it more enticing. For starters, Skull and Bones already provides quite a bit more options when it comes to upgrading your ship: you can change the entire look of your ship, and you can also upgrade the cannons to make them more powerful. However, there doesn’t seem to be any way to customize your actual pirate. Again, this comes down to the core problem with the game: let us play as a pirate, and not a boat.
On the other hand, Sea of Thieves feels a little barebones when it comes to ship customization, and this problem is worsened by the fact that it’s so incredibly difficult to grind for money. Ideally, both games should allow you to spec out your ship and pirate however you want, and since cosmetics are the main point of the game, players should be able to invite pirates to visit their ships to see the kinds of treasures and decorations they’ve amassed during their travels. Think of it as a mini base-building element that lets you decorate your ship however you want, then being able to show it off to other players in your server. If you can’t show your stuff, what even is the point of grinding for cosmetics in the first place?
These are just a few ideas that would make both Sea of Thieves and Skull and Bones much more compelling as pirate games. Let us know what you think in the comments down below.