Our long-standing love affair with the pirate life is nothing new, but it does beg the question: why do we continue to be so drawn to this particular theme?
To hazard a guess, we’d say that men and women throughout the ages have always harboured a passion for adventure, thrill-seeking and exploration, and pirates are effectively the physical manifestation of these feelings. We can even turn a blind eye to their less reputable exploits, like brutal murder and ruthless pillaging, because it seems to come part and parcel with the roguish code they adhere to. Every pirate knows full well the unavoidable trouble that they’re getting themselves in for, and we respect them all the more for it.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, our penchant for pirates has played out as swashbuckling entertainment for generations. And with the recent announcement of Ubisoft’s Skull & Bones – a ship-based console game that is already garnering a lot of attention in the gaming world – now seems like a perfect time to unravel our affinity for pirate-themed drama. Yo ho ho, and all that.
The evolution of a genre
From written tales of Blackbeard in the early 18th century, through to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island a century later, the past 300 years have seen the piracy theme become gradually ingrained with different forms of mainstream media and culture. Even today, it’s easy to think of films such as Pirates of The Caribbean, The Goonies and Hook, where each is already considered to be a classic of their respective era.
And then, of course, there’s piracy in video games (no pun intended). As a genre, it became a perfect fit for role-playing adventure games like Sid Meier’s Pirates, which became hugely popular in the late 1980s. Fans of the classic point-and-click PC puzzle games will also remember LucasArts’ Monkey Island series, which combined a swashbuckling narrative with a memorable cast of characters and unique sense of humor.
In more recent years, the pirate theme has expanded even further across a range of gaming platforms, including the world of online casino gaming. Established operators like Slingo now offer numerous pirate-themed slots and bingo games, with Pirate Radio being a prime example. Following a standard 5-reel and 20-payline format, Pirate Radio is set on the galley of a ship and challenges players to tackle dastardly seafarers on their quest for gold, while new players can also pick up a 400% deposit bonus.
But perhaps the biggest splash in the world of pirate gaming has yet to come; in fact, it may very well be just around the corner…
Skull & Bones: The best pirate game ever?
The latest gaming venture from Ubisoft has certainly got people talking. Set in the Indian Ocean, it’s effectively a spin-off from Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, and builds on the popularity of arguably the most popular type of gameplay introduced in that game – naval combat.
A demo of the game was met with overwhelming positive reactions when it was tested at the annual E3 convention a few weeks ago. The PVP battling looks to be the game’s main draw, and allows players to team up against each other with aim of blowing rival ships to smithereens. There seems to be a selection of different ship classes to choose between, plus other customisable features for players to enjoy. If you’re keen to check out some of the PvP action yourself, check out this neat video that captures some of the best bits from the E3 demo…
Pretty neat, huh? But that’s not all. The developers have since announced that there will be also be a campaign mode that features an engaging storyline, iconic pirates and a host of other memorable characters. That said, it remains to be seen exactly what form a single-player storyline might take, and quite how closely related the gameplay will be to the main Assassin’s Creed franchise.
Skull & Bones is due to land in Autumn 2018 so there’s a while yet before we get to enjoy the full experience. It might be too soon to call it the best pirate-themed adventure game of all-time, but one thing’s for sure: for fans of pirate-themed gaming, the early signs are more than promising.
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