top of page
  • Writer's pictureMatthew Rondina

Skull and Bones Review

Skull and Bones, Ubisoft’s long-awaited pirate game, has finally come to port after a long voyage, was it worth the wait? My full review.

Skull and Bones has finally arrived offering a chance to experience life on the open sea. Since the title’s original announcement back in 2017 its experienced several delays for different reasons. I was worried the game might never release. Now, seven years later, it has finally come to port offering piracy and naval warfare fans a massive world to battle in, explore and plunder. Ubisoft Singapore, the lead developer of Skull and Bones, also worked on the acclaimed Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Black Flag is known for its incredible naval combat and ranks among my favorite games in the series. Many Assassin’s Creed fans clamoured for a more elaborate version of Black Flag’s high seas action, and Skull and Bones was born.

"Assassin’s Creed fans clamoured for a more elaborate version of Black Flag’s high seas action, and Skull and Bones was born."

It’s been a long wait, but the golden age of piracy has finally returned. If you ever wanted to live the fantasy of being a ruthless pirate and command your own ship, this might be the game for you. In this review, I’ll delve into the game’s features, strengths, and weaknesses, and deliver a final verdict. Let’s hoist the sails and chase that horizon in the world of Skull and Bones.

 

Skull and Bones Review Details

Platform: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PC and Amazon Luna 

Developer(s): Ubisoft Singapore 

Publisher(s): Ubisoft 

Genre: Action-adventure, naval combat

Modes: Online multiplayer 

ESRB Rating: M for Mature


A Pirate’s Life for Me

Skull and Bones is set in the 17th century, during the “Golden Age of Piracy.” You play as a pirate who is trying to rise through the ranks and become an infamous scourge of the seas. You start your adventure after getting shipwrecked in a massive battle. This early sequence acts as a tutorial, and it instantly brought me back to my fun times with Black Flag. It was great to try out a powerful ship, experiment with the game’s systems before having it taken away via an enemy ambush.

"This early sequence acts as a tutorial, and it instantly brought me back to my fun times with Black Flag."

After that you return to the pirate haven of Sainte Anne, where you must prove yourself to John Scurlock, a pirate kingpin. Your second mission kicks off your pirate career with a fetch quest to collect supplies to build your own ship. From there, you’ll encounter various characters, and events that will shape your story and reputation. The story of Skull and Bones is not its strongest point, as it acts as a pretext for all the multiplayer piracy. Unfortunately, it still quite generic and predictable, in most parts with clichéd characters and dialogue. The story is serviceable, but takes a backseat the gameplay, this is where the Skull and Bones experience is most fun.

Skull and Bones Gameplay

The gameplay of Skull and Bones is by far its biggest highlight. It’s all about sailing the ocean as you pillage ports and sink enemy ships in search of loot and building your infamy. About 90% of your time with the game is playing as the ship and controlling the mechanics around it like sails, weapons, and crew. One thing I really liked is customizing your ship with different weapons, sails and figureheads, each with their own stats and attributes. I’ll get this out of the way early: there are microtransactions, but they currently seem only cosmetic with no “pay to win” buys available. Along with this you can also choose from different classes of ships, such as the agile brigantine, the powerful frigate, or the versatile sloop. Each vessel has its own strengths and weaknesses, and you can switch between them during your high seas adventures.


Naval Combat at its Core

The naval combat is the core of the game, and it is fun and satisfying. You must use the wind, waves, and the environment to your advantage, as well as your ship’s arsenal and special abilities. In fact, I found myself needing to carefully manage my crew’s stamina and the wind direction constantly to really optimize my ship route.

"The naval combat is the core of the game, and it is fun and satisfying."

I also really like the different camera perspectives around the ship, you can sail with a third-person view, first-person with the captain’s perspective and finally, my personal favourite: a beautiful cinematic view from the crow’s nest.

You can fire broadside cannons, chain shots, mortars, and rockets at your foes, or ram them with your hull. If you are more surgical toward the end of a battle you can also board enemy ships and loot them for extra resources and rewards. When it comes to enemy ship boarding (one of the most exciting moments from AC: Black Flag) it’s been completely removed and replaced with a cutscene which is disappointing.

Outside of that the ship combat is streamlined but fun, as you must deal with different types of enemies, such as merchant vessels, pirate hunters, naval patrols, and legendary ships. You also need to keep an eye on environmental hazards, like tropical storms, fog and reefs, which can affect your visibility, maneuverability, and damage your vessel.


The World is Your Oyster

The game also features a vast and beautiful open world to explore and plunder. I found it relaxing to take in the scenery in between battles the views are stunning. The Indian Ocean is divided into several regions, each with its own climate, culture, and wildlife.

"I found it relaxing to take in the scenery in between battles the views are stunning."

You can discover hidden islands, caves, shipwrecks, and treasures, as well as interact with friendly or hostile NPCs. You can also take on various contracts and activities, such as trading, escorting, raiding, and more. The game also has a dynamic weather system, a day and night cycle, and a reputation system, which can affect your gameplay and encounters.

Skull and Bones multiplayer experience

The game is designed as an online “live service” multiplayer pirate game, where you can team up with up to two friends as a fleet or compete with other players in PvP events. The game supports cross-play and cross-progression across all platforms. Ubisoft promises the game will be constantly updated with new content and features, such as seasonal events, new ships, new regions, and new modes. So far, I've found quite a lot of pirate misadventure and could easily sink dozens of more hours into the world of Skull and Bones.

"So far, I've found quite a lot of pirate misadventure and could easily sink dozens of more hours into the world of Skull and Bones."

Gameplay loop is “grindy” in Skull and Bones

The gameplay of Skull and Bones is not perfect, however. It can get repetitive and grindy, as you must do the same tasks repeatedly to level up your ship and unlock new items. As I previously mentioned I was met with a fetch quest less than 20 minutes into my experience with the game and then it immediately led to another similar mission. I found myself meeting characters then jumping into heavy inventory menus right away and it was a little much.


The game also has some technical issues, such as camera glitches and environmental assets deforming. The experience also lacks some features that would make it more immersive and enjoyable, I really wish it had more gameplay options away from the ship like Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag did. I get the focus is naval combat, but it would be great to have more time moving about with your character.

"I get the focus is naval combat, but it would be great to have more time moving about with your character."

Not to say these sequences don’t exist, like treasure hunts offering a chance to move around but they are very limited in scope and interactivity.


Skull and Bones Graphics and Performance

The graphics and performance of Skull and Bones are pretty good for the most part. The game uses the AnvilNext engine, the same engine used for Assassin’s Creed: Origins and Odyssey, and it shows. The game looks sharp and realistic, with detailed textures, lighting, shadows, and reflections. The water physics and animations are great, as you can see the waves, the splashes, and sunlight dance over the texture. It’s the next best thing to experiencing the water for yourself on a tropical vacation. The game also has a lot of variety and diversity in its visuals, as you can see different landscapes, and wildlife. I love sailing into alcove and be greeted by a beautiful sunset as a flock of flamingos fly by, I’ve taken more than my fair share of in-game captures.

"I love sailing into alcove and be greeted by a beautiful sunset as a flock of flamingos fly by, I’ve taken more than my fair share of in-game captures."

One area the game could use some work is with the NPC character models which look really stiff. I found my character looked good and could unlock some interesting looks as the game progressed.

 

Setting sail on the PlayStation 5

I conducted this review entirely on my PS5 and the game ran smoothly on the hardware and took advantage of the console’s features. The game supports 4K resolution, 60 FPS HDR, which really make the visuals pop. The game also takes advantage of the DualSense controller, which adds haptic feedback and adaptive triggers giving your ship’s arsenal a deeper “feel.” The DualSense offered a variety of feedback when it came to lighter rapid fire weapons which had less resistance to activate. Heavier weapons like the long guns have a greater resistance to each pull. Overall, each weapon on my ship had a distinctive and unique feel thanks to the controller.

Final Thoughts on Skull and Bones

Skull and Bones is a game that will appeal to fans of naval combat and open-world exploration. It offers a lot of fun it its naval combat gameplay, as well as stunning visuals and sound design. The game is not without its flaws, however, such as a lackluster story, some technical issues, and a potential lack of longevity. Overall, Skull and Bones is a fun pirate adventure that is worth checking out if you are looking for some swashbuckling adventures to build a pirate legacy.


Skull and Bones PROS

+Fun and satisfying naval combat

+Vast and beautiful open world to explore and plunder

+Plenty of customization options for ships


Skull and Bones CONS

-Generic and predictable story

-Repetitive and grindy missions

-Technical issues

-Lack of gameplay options away from the ship

-Cannot customize your crew


Overall Assessment of Skull and Bones

Gameplay: 7.5/10

Graphics: 7/10

Sound: 7/10

Replayability: 6.5/10


Overall Rating: 28/40 (70%)

A copy of the game was provided by Ubisoft to conduct this review.

 

About the Author - Matthew "Dapper Tux" Rondina

Matthew has been involved in all things gaming since the 8-bit era. He is a veteran of the video game and tech industry who has been passionate about technology and gaming for over 20 years. Along with being the Managing Editor of dappertux.com, he has bylines with Best Buy, Cineplex Entertainment, Mobile Syrup and Walmart. Follow Matthew’s gaming + tech adventures on multiple social platforms with the handle @dapper_tux via "X", Instagram, Threads, TikTok and join in on the fun!

 

Please note: dappertux.com uses affiliate links to provide a means for this website to earn advertising income. The blog may earn a referral commission on purchases made via these links.

 

Comments


bottom of page