Skull and Bones Review – Captain, We Expected More…

Skull and Bones on PC

When I heard that Skull and Bones was finally being released, I was over the Moon. The chance to be a pirate again and relive the time when I played Assassin’s Creed Black Flag seemed like a dream come true. Unfortunately, the reality is different.

Let’s get something straight right away, maybe my hopes were too high, and that’s probably because of my previous experience with similar Ubisoft titles. I am a die-hard fan of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. I do think it’s fair to have great expectations from Skull and Bones and make certain comparisons.

After all, Edward Kenway is still one of my favorite AC protagonists, just behind Ezio and Arno. That’s why I was so prepared to start a brand new pirate life.

When I started Skull and Bones, the beginning seemed promising. You set sail on an important mission with your crew, but your plans soon come to a rough end. British sailors ambush you and sink your ship, leaving you in the middle of the sea.

Start of Skull and Bones.
Image Source: Ubisoft via Twinfinite

After you manage to get to shore, the real story starts. You take the role of the pirate captain and your task is to get a new ship for your crew and start earning some treasure.

That’s when you realise something is missing – there isn’t much you can do while on foot. It comes down to just walking around pirate dens and islands in search of merchants and the job board. For everything else, you need to get back to your ship. Oh, and for some reason, your character can’t swim.

And I’m not joking when I say ‘everything else’ is on your ship. The only fighting you ever encounter takes place exclusively offshore. To my surprise, that even includes both looting and boarding.

To loot enemy treasure, all you need to do is navigate your ship close to theirs, press a button and the spoils are automatically yours. And if you hoped you’d board their ship and fight them face to face, that isn’t the case. Instead, when you weaken the enemy ship to a certain point, the job is done.

To be fair, naval battles are satisfying. They are engaging and once you finish one, you immediately want more and continue to sail around to find another ship to sink.

pirate Naval battle in Skull and Bones
Image Source: Ubisoft via Twinfinite

The main story does lack depth, though. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t relate to most characters in Skull and Bones. NPC dialogue is far too generic and after a short conversation, they usually just tell you what your mission is, and that’s about it.

You would at least expect there to be a backstory or a famous adventure connected to a few NPCs. Instead, they mostly serve as traders or as someone who gives you quests, without any deeper conversations or interesting aspects about them.

If you compare this with Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag‘s characters and narrative, which served as inspiration for Skull and Bones, it’s really disappointing. From the amazing story of the Kenway family, where we followed Edward evolving from a regular pirate thug to an elite member of the Order of Assassins, we’ve progressed to this.

Something that perhaps compensates for the lack of a more concrete story is a huge open-world map in Skull and Bones. You can roam around the open sea for hours and hours and still have a large number of places left unexplored. Maybe the best way to do that is to acquire as many treasure maps as you can and begin searching for the fabled locations.

There’s a lot to see and do in that open world. That’s why you should follow my steps and focus your efforts on getting the strongest ship possible.

That way you can sail the open waters without fearing the danger of shipwreck or that your enemies will sink you. The stronger your vessel is, the harder it is for anyone to even get near you.

After the British sink your ship at the start of the game, you and the rest of the crew manage to reach the island of Sainte Anne and save yourselves. This island later becomes the main Pirate Den in the game, with numerous merchants and fellow pirates. They also give you side missions to help you progress and strengthen both your crew and ship.

The map of Sainte-Anne in Skull and Bones.
Image Source: Ubisoft via Twinfinite

For some missions, you will have to sail around entire continents to get to the desired location. In the meantime, you can enjoy the beautiful open sea. Your crew can also make the journey interesting with the sea shanties they sing, unless they’re in the middle of a naval battle, of course.

Something also worthy of praise is the PvP activities. As a multiplayer game, Skull and Bones provides you with the experience of finding your place under the pirate sun while encountering players from all over the world.

What I found most entertaining when it comes to PvP is certainly the Hostile Takeover events. In them, you don’t fight other players but instead compete against them to see who can take down more NPC ships.

Scenery in Skull and Bones.
Image Source: Ubisoft

For those who want to test their abilities against other players, there are Legendary Heists. Their concept is more than interesting because you join forces with others to take down the convoy with treasure. But once you do that, you turn on each other and the last surviving pirate crew gets to take all the treasure.

When all is said and done, though, I can’t shake the impression that Skull and Bones could have been a much more complete pirate game. After AC Black Flag and Rogue, both of which include a lot of sailing and naval battles, you’d expect a new game to be at least as complete.

Instead, we got kind of a simplified version of a pirate game, with limited options on what to do outside your ship. Maybe some of these things will be fixed and improved in future updates, but for now, all that remains is to explore the vast map and strengthen your ship as much as possible.

Skull and Bones

Reviewer: Nenad Milićević