4 Ways Skull and Bones Lets Me Live Out My Pirate Fantasy (And 6 Ways It Doesn’t)

Skull And Bones arrived with the promise of perilous action on the high seas as you live out your fantasy of becoming a fearsome pirate king. But does it quite hit the mark? Will this multiplayer action adventure live up to the pirate fantasy or become a nightmare?

living the pirate fantasy   padewakang ship skull and bones
Image Source: Ubisoft via Twinfinite

Tales of daring buccaneers and swashbuckling adventures across the seven seas have always fascinated me. As a child growing up near the Cornish coast, I grew up on stories of pirates and sea monsters so I was looking forward to a new pirate-themed game.

Like most gamers during the early 2000s, it was Sid Meier’s Pirates! which first grabbed my attention and every other pirating adventure has had to live up to that classic to this day. Unfortunately, this latest Ubisoft title has missed the mark as far as the pirate fantasy goes.

Pro: Setting Sail

Ship sailing in Skull and Bones.
Image Source: Ubisoft via Twinfinite

Skull and Bones centers the action aboard the ship and Ubisoft has spent much of the development time perfecting the graphics. The sea looks amazing, and the ships are fun to sail for the most part.

The different viewpoints add to the sense of excitement as you slice through waves and past deadly sea creatures. Whales will leap out of the water ahead, and dolphins are happy to show off as you sail by. In stormy seas, you watch your crew cling to the rigging as the ship leans dangerously, battling against the winds.

It is an enjoyable journey, especially if you take your time to soak in the scenery and wildlife around you. The sounds and sights as you sail certainly add to the pirate fantasy of it all.

Pro: Sea Shanties!

Pirates on a ship in Skull and Bones.
Image Source: Ubisoft

Your crew know how to keep their spirits up and have a fine repertoire of shanties to sing. The first time you hear them lift their voices together in song is probably as you first approach the port of Sainte-Anne. It is the finer details that make a game unique, in my view, and these little moments add a bit of color to the whole experience.

The only downside is that you have no control over when the crew decide to sing, or what they sing. It would have been nice, as a captain, to lead the crew in a shanty just randomly as you journey through the open seas.

Pro: Ship Building

ship builder skull and bones
Image Source: Ubisoft via Twinfinite

I must admit I love a bit of customization in any game and was looking forward to an in-depth process with Skull And Bones. The shipbuilding and ship management side of this game is good and having the ability to add color to different areas of your ship is pretty fun.

The fact you have to harvest materials, refine them, and buy blueprints for a lot of the features creates a bit of a longer process than just unlocking and purchasing ships. I thoroughly enjoyed having to think carefully about what weapons and furniture to add to specific ships. Even the choice of ship determines the type of pirate you want to be.

Hopefully, there will be more ships added in future updates as nine does not seem like a lot and many players have found it quite easy to make their way to the highest-level ships in a short amount of time.

Pro: Money Making Schemes

The player character at Sacred Tree in Skull and Bones.
Image Source: Ubisoft via Twinfinite

Like many of you, I am the type of gamer who feels more engaged with a game if there are quests or challenges to complete. I am far more likely to spend hours on a game each week (or day!) if I am obsessing over the next part of the story, side quest, or XP-boosting challenge.

The available activities in Skull and Bones are really fun and make you some much-needed doubloons. You can find jobs by speaking to NPCs, on the jobs board, or by accepting a bounty or two. Visiting and plundering outposts or attacking and boarding sinking vessels are all part of the great pirating adventure! It is just a shame there aren’t more land-based treasure-hunting types of quests to complete the pirate fantasy.

Con: Lacking Depth

The player character preparing to cook in Skull and Bones.
Image Source: Ubisoft via Twinfinite

I was surprised to read that Skull And Bones was in development for over a decade. It doesn’t feel polished and complete, and it lacks depth. Don’t get me wrong, I love the ships and the battles on the ocean, but it feels lackluster, overall — or as if there could have been more thought put into some of the other features.

The movement on land is a bit janky and it is disappointing how much land is not available for exploration. Gazing up at the cliffside to see a rope bridge but being unable to climb it was pretty sad. The gameplay eventually becomes tired and repetitive after a while, making you hope for big adjustments in future updates.

A big part of the pirate fantasy is to be an independent adventurer, burying treasure and meeting buxom wenches but there really isn’t a lot of that.

Con: Ship Simulator

harvesting bog iron skull and bones
Image Source: Ubisoft via Twinfinite

As I mentioned, a lot of the gameplay is ship-based. You play more as a ship than a pirate much of the time. This is fine, up to a point, but a better balance of gameplay type would have been preferable.

Even in the 2004 classic, Sid Meier’s Pirates! you get to fight invading enemies on the deck of your ship or dance with the governor’s daughter at a ball. I would love to have had hand-to-hand combat on land and at sea and more disembarking to explore strange new lands.

This is especially true where resource gathering comes in. It makes no sense to be sawing and mining from the deck of your ship.

Con: Lonely Solo Pirate

skull and bones on the port dock
Image Source: Ubisoft

In Skull and Bones it seems better to be a pirate if you have pirate friends. Solo pirating is good but you get so much more enjoyment if you have a group of old sea dogs as company. With friends, you get to LARP as a bunch of salt-encrusted bilge-rats which adds a whole new enjoyable aspect to the gameplay.

You can, of course, join other players on your server but that isn’t quite the same as gathering your IRL friends to play. And with the hefty price tag for what seems like a ‘just okay’ kind of game, I don’t see many friend groups making this their new go-to title.

Con: Lack of PvP

A boat navigating choppy seas.
Image Source: Ubisoft

PvE is great but PvP adds a whole new sense of danger! I love a bit of chaos and PvP would truly deliver that. No one could be trusted and anywhere you turn you could run into a group of toxic pirate wanabes. Sure, the entire open ocean would be a free-for-all and that could quickly create problems, but surely it would be nice to have the option to turn the feature on or off at will?

The only PvP we seem to get area couple of little quests: one in which you could possibly steal from another player, and another where you all end up in a race to find something important. Not exactly thrilling.

Con: Shallow NPCs

bog iron in skull and bones
Image Source: Ubisoft via Twinfinite

Unfortunately, the NPC dialogue can be long-winded and dry, and the characterization doesn’t quite hit the mark. The words don’t always match how the mouth is moving and in 2024 there is no excuse for this sort of animation error or lack of thought.

If a game has a main storyline I want it to grab me by the amygdala and really draw me in. With Skull And Bones, however, I didn’t feel drawn to any of the people I was getting involved with. There wasn’t any warmth or loyalty, nor any rivalry or dislike. Basically there didn’t seem to be any real connection developing — either negative or positive!

Con: Repetitive Lands

A view from the ship in Skull and Bones.
Image Source: Ubisoft via Twinfinite

As I sailed around trying to find resources, eventually I noticed all of the land masses seemed familiar. Everything kind of looked the same. There was no real difference between one area and another, and not even the trees or rock types changed.

Even in the title intro when you start the game for the first time every place looks the same despite apparently being different countries in different places in the world. The map is supposed to be three times as large as the Assassin’s Creed Black Flag map, but with so much unavailable and with limited land mass, it feels smaller.

About the author

Rowan Jones

Rowan is a writer and educator from Devon, U.K. She has been writing about mobile and console games since 2020. Rowan loves puns and dad jokes, and also runs a secret meme page. She has a love/hate relationship with Dead By Daylight and a completely healthy obsession with Fortnite.

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