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Ubisoft shows off Skull and Bones' "narrative gameplay" in new devstream

Dead men do tell tales!

Following this week's announcement of yet another delay for Skull and Bones, Ubisoft has shared 30 minutes of new footage from its beleaguered pirate adventure, focusing on what it calls the game's "narrative gameplay".

It's perhaps something of an unexpected place to return after a lengthy absence, given Ubisoft insisted Skull and Bones was "not a narrative-driven game" last summer, but it does at least give players a better idea of how the publisher is attempting to inject a bit of variety into the action.

As Ubisoft explained last year, Skull and Bones is overwhelmingly focused on sailing and combat, with players only able to disembark their ships and explore dry land at a limited number of locations, defined as outposts. Functionally, outposts serve as places players can trade, cash in contracts, pay off factions, and meet other players - but, as detailed in Ubisoft's latest gameplay devstream, they're also locations where they might find narrative content Ubisoft is calling "investigations".

Skull and Bones: The Deck - Gameplay Devstream.

Investigations are a "way to tell a story through a series of steps", and can be initiated by discovering messages in bottles, unearthing scraps of lost journals, or simply by talking to characters in the world, and will provide clues to finding a specific treasure.

The investigation Ubisoft chose to demo in its latest devstream told the tale of a brother and sister who both believed themselves to be the rightful heir to the throne in the coastal African region the sequence was set.

Rather than taking players on a grand, cinematic narrative adventure, investigations - whose story elements are relayed entirely through on-screen text and accompanying narration - are more of a simple framing device, guiding them through several standard seafaring activities. In this instance, players must first sail to the location where the brother is said to have absconded with the crown, whereupon they're required to complete a single stage of a settlement plunder (a core mechanic of Skull and Bones, as we learned last year) to receive another message leading to a new location.

Upon arrival, it's simply a case of parking up alongside a shipwreck and hitting a button to retrieve the next clue, which then points players to a final location - in this case, a port where they can disembark and locate some buried treasure, bringing the sequence to a close.

Each investigation, Ubisoft explains, will fill in a little more backstory of a key character in Skull and Bones' lore, Captain Freeman, who was said to have taken part in the biggest heist ever seen in the world's fiction. Ultimately, by piecing together clues, players might be able to find the location of Freeman's missing treasure.

The full 30-minute livestream also discusses some of Skull and Bones' other features, including shanties and the variations seen in different parts of the in-game world.

Ubisoft is yet to share a new release date for Skull and Bones following its most recent delay, but says it'll have more news "very soon".

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Matt Wales avatar

Matt Wales

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Matt Wales is a writer and gambolling summer child who won't even pretend to live a busily impressive life of dynamic go-getting for the purposes of this bio. He is the sole and founding member of the Birdo for President of Everything Society.

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