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Skull and Bones Delivers a Mediocre Pirate Ship Sim — GeekTyrant read full article at

Ubisoft’s Skull and Bones has finally released after about a decade of development. Gamers have been heading to the Indian Ocean to enjoy some pirate-themed fun and I’ve even given it a shot. Ubisoft was kind enough to supply me with two codes for review (PC and Xbox) and you can read my honest opinions below. If you want to give the game a try yourself you can grab a copy for Luna, PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X|S from various outlets including the Xbox store (affiliate link), the Ubisoft Store (affiliate link), or GameStop (affiliate link).

Enter the perilous world of Skull and Bones, a co-op pirate open world action-RPG experience, to become the most infamous pirate kingpin!

Engage in thrilling naval battles, craft a variety of unique ships, and forge unlikely alliances as you overcome the odds and bring mayhem on the seas. Be part of an immersive open world that introduces new challenges and features every season.

Skull and Bones has been a pretty hyped up game. It’s been in development for about a decade and fans were excited for a spiritual successor to Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag. Sadly, the game appears to have fallen flat and Ubisoft is not helping their case. Them calling it a AAAA game is laughable to say the least. Let’s dive more into the actual game though.

I’m going to start with the good things about Skull and Bones. First, the sound design team seems to have done a fantastic job. From a graphics perspective, the game looks decent. It’s not the worst, but it’s not as good as other recent video games. On PC, it is nice to see the system requirements are not too crazy. I mean the minimum specs allow for a 4th-gen i7 or a Ryzen 5 1600 which are both very old and the recommended specs go up to an i7-8700K or Ryzen 5 3600 which are solid and affordable CPUs. Even the GPUs aren’t too bad.

Another pro in my book is the setting. We’re going to the Indian Ocean which seems to be explored less in pirate media. I like this change of scenery personally. In addition, Skull and Bones offers cross-play and cross-progression which I am a huge proponent for. The final pro is that the naval combat is pretty good. You have a variety of cannons that you can use and so you do need to learn how they all work together, but once you do that you’ll be blowing up enemies and merchants in no time.

Sadly, Skull and Bones has a lot of disappointments. First, it feels like the team put all their time and energy into the naval combat as that is the focus of the game but then literally everything else is an afterthought. The story is extremely clumsy and almost nonexistent. There might as well not be any land portions of the game. It’s pretty bad. The land portion of the game just lets you do merchants, in-game mail, crafting, etc.

Towards the beginning of the game you get to create a character (a terrible experience I’ll discuss later) but at the end of the day there’s no reason for it. Your character is only there so you can interact with NPCs in little hub areas. There’s no combat, there are no significant choices for you to make, heck, you can’t even swim! After creating your character, you’re picked up by a couple of NPCs who suddenly decide you’d be a good captain. You are given no motivation to do anything in this game and that’s its biggest folly. At the end of the day, the only reason to play Skull and Bones is because you want to roleplay a pirate ship (not a pirate) and play with pretty good (note: not great) naval combat). This is supposed to be a live service game with seasons and everything. If players aren’t given incredible reasons to return to the game, it will die a very fast death.

Sadly, there’s even more I want to discuss. One of those NPCs that picks you up at the beginning features some of the worst voice acting I’ve heard. They seem too focused on nailing their character’s accent that there’s no room for any inflection, emotion, etc. Also, we’re going to revisit the character creation. At first I thought it was neat that it was a puddle on a piece of shipwreck. However, you can only see from the neck up and can only turn your head about 45 degrees. This means that you can’t get a good look at 100% of the different hairstyles and can’t even see most of the tattoo options. Thankfully, you can eventually go to a Vanity Atelier to change things and get the full 360 treatment, but it’s still frustrating that you have to get to that point in the game.

When you talk with an NPC, you’re typically given two dialogue options to choose from for your mute character and they’re usually both extremes. Oftentimes one will sound like you’re the biggest butt kisser while the other sounds like you’re the biggest tool. It really adds to the feeling that they didn’t really want to include a story or land elements. In addition, while walking around, it just doesn’t feel good. It feels awkward and while you can stop inputting movement, your character will continue for about 3 more steps. It doesn’t feel good. I know that games like to have some level of momentum and I even went to Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (another Ubisoft game) and there’s some momentum physics, but it’s only 1 extra step and feels a lot smoother.

The game does allow for 3-player co-op. If you do this, only one of you has to actually do the work of any quests that you take on together. There are times when it was fun to partner up with my wife, but I get the feeling that it doesn’t really do much unless you participate in PvP or late game.

Another problem I have is gathering resources. You have to find a node and then do a little mini-game to gather resources. This isn’t a big problem, but it’s possible for someone else to go and harvest resources leaving empty nodes. If there’s a decent number of players at the same time, it’s going to be very hard to actually get resources you need. Not a great idea for a live service game if you ask me.

If that’s not enough, the boarding party is a joke. I thought, “what would be more pirate than sending a boarding party onto another ship to take it over.” I may not have been wrong, but I was disappointed in how boring it was. You aim like you are going to shoot the enemy ship and instead press a different button. If you’re close enough then you’ll throw grappling hooks that hopefully hit the other ship. If it connects then you merely get a message that you looted various items and that’s it. This would have been the perfect way to incorporate your character into some action or to have some kind of minigame.

I do want to take a second to mention a big problem my wife had with the Xbox Series X|S version of the game. She switched from Quality to Performance in hopes of everything feeling smoother and the game hard froze our Xbox. We had to do a hard restart by holding the power button on the Xbox down and then I had problems with the network which prevented me from playing games until I did a restart through the controller. I’m not sure if this is widespread, but it is worth mentioning.

At the end of the day, Skull and Bones feels like a mediocre game where you get to take on the role of a pirate ship, not a pirate. There’s very little to bring players back and I don’t know that I’ll load it up. I think I’d rather buy Black Flag and play that. The fact that Skull and Bones has been in development for 10 years makes me really question what took them that long?

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