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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Pirates at E3 2017: Sea of Thieves vs. Skull & Bones

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - Just because they're both pirate games doesn't make them similar.

We thought, since Microsoft's E3 2015, that Rare Ltd.'s Sea of Thieves would be the only pirate-themed game we should have to be paying attention to. And the Microsoft E3 2016 log was nothing but obsessing over when the Sea of Thieves trailer would show up. So when you go to the current year, we expect that Sea of Thieves is getting pretty close to being finished, and Microsoft's E3 2017 revealed that Sea of Thieves is due for an early 2018 release.

...And that's all the pirate content we expected from E3 2017. But, lo and behold, Ubisoft sailed in and reveals Skull & Bones at their conference! Why, this is an open-sea multiplayer pirate adventure as well! Can the market handle TWO pirate games?

...Yes, I believe they can. They're totally different, though you would be forgiven if you just took a glance at their respective websites and thought they're similar: 

Sea of Thieves Rare Ltd. become a pirate legend website character designs freedom life
Sea of Thieves says you can “BECOME A PIRATE LEGEND”.

Skull & and Bones Ubisoft Become the ultimate pirate Indian Ocean ships design
Skull & Bones says you can “BECOME THE ULTIMATE PIRATE” and “forge your legend”.

While the taglines each game uses are basically the same thing, it's no coincidence that Sea of Thieves advertises individual pirates, while Skull & Bones advertises individual ships. That's the key difference, and it's more of a difference than it sounds.

Sea of Thieves is all about the quality of the other people you're playing with. No individual pirate has enough power to carry the day: It is all about team-building and teamwork within a huge world for you to explore. Each player will be in a role within one pirate ship, and it's much more about that immersive roleplaying as a pirate. There's definitely still loot-grabbing and combat, though.

It appears that Skull & Bones has each player controlling a ship with NPC crew members. The team is therefore of a bunch of ships working together as a pirate gang. The game is not really about roleplaying as a pirate, but rather taking conquest of the seas with pirate ships. It's much more combat-focused as you try to pick up loot from people, like a lot of other Ubisoft online games. The difference is that rather than controlling a person with powers, you control a ship, so there's different movement mechanics than being on-foot.

Sea of Thieves speaks more to me than Skull & Bones does, as someone who would rather roleplay with great friends than just grind for loot. I suspect that the teammates in Skull & Bones would be measured in their worth by their knowledge of and place in the meta-game, and how min-maxed they are, and whatever. The teammates in Sea of Thieves would be measured in their worth by how sociable they are, along with their commitment to suspending disbelief. Totally different yardsticks (well, both developers favour metres). The Sea of Thieves stick is much closer to what I enjoy in games, but you may think differently and that's okay.

(Then again, I'm the guy who plays For Glory on Super Smash Bros. For Wii U for a social experience.) 

It's entirely possible that Ubisoft uses “and” instead of “&” in their game title. Ubisoft is pretty inconsistent in this regard. Meanwhile, Sea of Thieves has always been Sea of Thieves, instead of something like “C of Thieves”. Would that be a rhythm game? Anyway, share your thoughts on the games and their differences here.

Regardless of differences, fans of either game should be on Team Pirate.
What happens if you don't have any friends, though? How do you enjoy the game then?


  1. So is this basically a Pixar vs Dreamworks sort of coincidence like with Bugs Life vs Ants and Finding Nemo vs Shark Tale?

    1. And more...!

      I don't know if these are supposed to be coincidences, or Ubisoft saw the very public Sea of Thieves demonstrations for the past 3 years, figured, "Hey, we had Black Flag and this is received very well, so let's compete in the thematic space because we can."
      And, of course, Ubisoft can pump out games much, much faster than Rare.

  2. Out of these two games, Sea of Thieves is the one that is more up my alley as well. Based on the descriptions I've read, it is the closest game to resemble the Pirates of the Caribbean Online game from about a decade ago.

    P.S. "The team is therefore of a bunch of ships working together as a pirate gang."
    I believe that the first "of" should be removed in this sentence.

    1. Let's see...

      Well, this article kinda sucks. According to the talk page, it was a victim of an EDIT WAR that reduced the amount of content on the page. This doesn't really tell me much at all as-is.

      ...nah, I'll keep the "of". It's a useless word that adds no value, but it's not inherently WRONG.


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