Skull and Bones review

by on February 26, 2024
Release Date

February 16, 2024


Skull and Bones is a weird one. It’s been in development for almost a decade, originally inspired by Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, and it has started to lose its relevance through various delays over the years. Those similarities feel more distant than they would have done if released sooner, as some of the gameplay feels dated now, yet there’s still something pleasant about spending your time sailing the seas of the Indian Ocean and welcoming the stunning views. If you’re expecting a pirate’s life akin to that of Jack Sparrow, it would be best to temper your expectations.

There’s still plenty to like about Skull and Bones, specifically the nautical combat that never grows old. Whether facing up to an armada or a bunch of pirates, those minute-to-minute decisions of when to fire and when to hold back in case a better opportunity to fire can provide tense and enjoyable battles. Seeing an enemy ship slowly succumb to your barrage of cannonballs is something I never got tired of, and what makes it better is seeing the fruits of your labour pay off, whether in how you attack or the different types of changes you’ve made when customising your vessel.

You’ll spend the majority of your time sailing the high seas as opposed to wandering around sea ports and shanty towns. When you do step foot on solid ground, Skull and Bones feels loose and far less polished than when on board your ship. For a developer who often nails movement of its protagonists and the living and breathing worlds you wander around in, Skull and Bones lacks massively in this department. NPCs are void of any real personality, acting as quest givers and little else, all spouting generic dialogue behind lifeless eyes and animations that feel like they were ripped from the game it was an offshoot from.

Thankfully, you’re journey from pauper to pirate overlord plays out through finding trade routes on the seas, gathering resources, and ship combat. Skull and Bones has a full economy where you’ll learn to reap the benefits of smart trading, leading to purchasing blueprints and upgrading your artillery and and armour. Certain items are cheaper to buy in one place, but can be sold for more in another, leading to some interesting and beneficial trades. Your business acumen will be tested the more you progress, but it’s all worth it when you’re heading into a tough battle with the right kind of loadout for your ship.

Progress in Skull and Bones centres on your infamy. By completing quests, whatever they may be, will lead to an improvement in your rank. This leads to new blueprints for better weapons and ships, and in turn defeating tougher enemies. There’s a story of sorts, but at no point was I invested in it. It’s a generic tale that failed to grip me, with characters that for the most part are forgettable. There’s a fair amount of grinding to do if you want to be ready for the later quests, and unless you’re invested in its flow of progression, there’s a good chance you’ll fall of it quite quickly.

It doesn’t help that the promise of the pirate life is mostly void of the fun stuff you see in the movies or have read about in history books. You’re not going to be encountering any krakens or ghost ships, and the sense of becoming Blackbeard in a grander sense never feels like you’re turning yourself into a legend of the seas. The open world feels very Ubisoft in the sense that icons are sprawled across the map, but there’s little exploration on the ocean. Most areas feel barren, and it’s a little disappointing, and when you to get to stretch your legs at one of the outposts, it mainly just another place to take on fetch quests and little else.

Yet despite these criticisms, there’s still something satisfying about sailing across the seas and taking in the sights. It can be cathartic between battles, and it’s definitely worthwhile spending time taking in the sights. The act of sailing is pretty basic, managing the stamina of your crew by changing how your sails are hoisted, with the occasional change in viewpoints from third-person to first, and a look through your spyglass to check out what nearby ships might harbour. Regardless, it makes traversing the world enjoyable, although more interaction with it would have been appreciated.

Being a live service game, Skull and Bones has potential going forward, but at present it’s a by-the-numbers affair. The story is rather dull, and the missions aren’t particularly fun, yet there’s a satisfaction in buying blueprints and upgrading your ship. It’s a pretty game when at sea, but the moments on land are its weakest. For every good thing about it, there’s a counter, and it feels like Ubisoft has done its best to just get it released after all the problems its encountered during development. It’ll be interesting to see how the roadmap plays out in the next year, but at present it simply isn’t exciting enough, which doesn’t fit with the pirate life I was hoping for.


Fun combat
Plenty of customisation
Interesting economical aspects


Dull story
An empty world
Some poor NPC animation

Editor Rating
Our Score


In Short

Skull and Bones might have been a better game had it released sooner, but at it's fun combat is dampened by its rather dull progression.