HomeReviewsSkull and Bones Review

Skull and Bones Review

Skull and Bones

Developer: Ubisoft Singapore
Publisher: Ubisoft
Platforms: PC, Xbox Series X (Reviewed), PlayStation 5
Release Date: Available Now
Price: $69.99 USD – Available Here $109.95 AUD – Available Here


Back in 2013 Ubisoft took their Assassin’s Creed franchise to the seas in what was one of the biggest departures the franchise had ever seen up until that point, by placing players in control of an assassin who also happened to be a pirate and could take part in numerous pirate activities. Four years later, Ubisoft announced that they had been working on an entirely pirate focused game in the form of Skull and Bones for a few years already. Then, what happened will likely turn into a topic of much discussion for quite some time. Developed by Ubisoft Singapore and, rumored to be contractually obligated to release, Skull and Bones went through development hell over the course of nearly a decade of development with countless changes behind-the-scenes, scrapped projects, shifted focus, and more. With numerous issues that saw the pirate game delayed over five times, Skull and Bones was finally released and just dropped its first Season Pass. With such troubled developmental seas, has this ship managed to sail forth to treasure?


Players begin their voyage on the open seas in a heated battle, manning a massive ship while battling against numerous British vessels whose sails blot out the horizon. When the player inevitably loses, they manage to survive the shipwreck and are rescued by their new first mate Asnah and an unnamed crew member aboard a Dhow, a barely floating vessel meant for hunting wild game. Despite being a colossal failure, it turns out the player was set-up to sink and their survival and ability to deliver even a meager amount of goods manages to impress John Scurlock, the local pirate Kingpin. Scurlock takes the player on as their lackey while setting them out on the seas to take on various tasks only for the inevitable to happen before players move on, talking to another group for a small portion of a similarly poorly developed storyline. In fact, even Asnah, the player’s first mate, is often only given small hints about her past with players left to infer much from her outfit, since she never will tell players about her tattoos despite mentioning them nonstop.

The pirate haven of St. Annes serves as the player’s initial starting point but players will eventually find another large scale pirate port that they can use as their main base, but the majority of the actual story comes from outposts and even that is kept to the bare minimum. Players will interact with NPCs that have unique quests as well as repeating ones and while it may appear that some areas have more going on with their designs, the only hint of detail comes from notes or newspapers players find scattered around various outposts, obtained from pillages, or sinking certain ships. The whole plot is ironically bare bones and mostly serves as a vessel to get players into the seas and exploring, giving their missions some form of storyline to try and drive players forward. Ironically, once players hit their own “Kingpin” notoriety rank, they will be given a cutscene showcasing how fancy they are as a new pirate lord while hearing about an ally in the distant seas that never appears while showcasing new elements of “The Helm” that truly controls the seas endgame content despite its also, at least currently, lack of storyline.

Given that we waited until the first season pass content launched for Skull and Bones, it is worth noting that there is some extra storyline involved here, though once again it is kept to the bare minimum. In this case, a new plague-riddled pirate and his minions have begun traveling the seas and players will need to be wary of his massively overpowered ship with no weaknesses and new forms of weaponry that, ironically, advancing the battle pass can provide counters to. A new NPC is introduced to help introduce the introduction of this plagued villain but, again, it is kept to the bare minimum.


As a pirate there are a few things that players will need, but the first thing any good pirate needs is a ship to call their own even if it is good for nothing besides hunting sharks and crocodiles. The ship options as players progress through the game happen to be quite impressive, as player’s increase in rank, either unlocking or purchasing blueprints for larger more capable vessels with more gun ports, better storage, and a wide-array of special stats between them all. Considering Skull and Bones is an online game and does offer co-op play options as well as pvp events, Ubisoft has gone the extra mile here to give players a number of unique ways to build and outfit their ship. This includes ships that have better healing capabilities, cannons that somehow fire healing rounds, ships that have higher defense and can ram others, cannons that act similar to shotguns, long distance cannons, mortars or rockets that can set ships ablaze for constant damage or lay them low with flooded decks, and more. In fact, this customization is one of the most unique aspects when it comes to outfitting your ship, especially when players manage to find a playstyle that works for them, mostly.

Despite offering a wide-array of builds, Skull and Bones does feature a ship “level” system depending on the gear equipped and taking on ships, forts, or even small manufacturing plants can show significant differences depending on how players are equipped and if they are “up to snuff” level wise. In fact, one of the most notorious enemies players may initially encounter is a high level “Privateer” on a small looking vessel that will crush anyone on even a larger vessel. This includes the new “Plague” pirates that now populate the game as part of the seasonal content. This means that, while players are encouraged to build and outfit their ship however they want, trying to make sure you reach an equipment level is always going to play a factor.

Along the same lines, actually obtaining the ship equipment, repair kits, furniture, etc. all ties together into the core gameplay loop that is traveling from place to place, sinking ships, pillaging forts and towns, and harvesting through really generic timed mini-games. A lot of this content is highly enjoyable at first glance and, in the case of ship combat, is truly exceptional feeling most of the time, but a lot of it is kind of bland. Before we go into the meat of the content and what is the best, it is worth noting that the only actual “on land” gameplay involves walking around, talking to NPC merchants or quest givers, and that’s it. Even when it comes to hunting down treasure on a treasure map, players will simply travel to a location hinted at on the map where a giant notification will appear and, upon exploration, a large glowing marker will appear where the player captain will brush off the chest like some dust covered it up and yank it up wholesale from the ground.

All forms of pillaging a base simply involve keeping your ship within range of the location while your “crew” loots the location when not battling out against the faction’s warships that come to its aid or taking out its defensive towers. The longer players survive a pillage, the better rewards, but even a fully pillaged location is simply shown off by having a quick cutscene of the crew celebrating their haul that is the exact same every time. Even boarding enemy ships that have been damaged enough is no longer an act that players actually take part in, instead it is simply a cutscene after successfully grappling an opponent’s boat for some bonus loot and still watching the boat sink after, with no actual player interaction beyond choosing whether or not to take all the loot or leave some behind for whatever reason.

Now the actual ship combat, that is where Skull and Bones shines. Sailing and controlling your ship feels absolutely wonderful, navigating with the ever-changing wind to make the most out of the ship’s top speed, which is oddly limited by having a stamina meter affecting how long players can keep their ships at full mast. Slowing down to make tighter turns, aiming the camera to either the front, back, or either side to aim your weaponry at a target, all of it flows well and even a bit arcade-like with how things play out. Sailing through a storm is a delightful experience despite how chaotic it can make things feel and even rogue waves can spawn in the open ocean, forcing players to either try their best to sail out of its path or brace and hope they can survive. Oddly enough, it is impossible to actually lose cargo in a storm though it is possible for other ships to drop some of their own. That being said, should players end up sinking they must travel back to their location to regain any actual cargo they had, though things such as repair kits and ammunition don’t count.

In combat players will battle it out against other ships using their wide-array of weaponry as mentioned before, with various status effects depending on the weaponry. “Crew Attacks” that deal extra damage or interrupt a ship repairing, like throwing Molotovs or firing rifles can trigger at times and players must be close to pull them off. All of the player’s ship’s weaponry has reload times and maneuvering the ship to make the best use of their loadout and even things like repair kits also have cooldowns depending on the kind used, meaning players cannot constantly heal as they duke it out on the seas. Sailing through a storm, taking on a convoy of merchant vessels to loot their cargo, bracing for their return fire, all of this makes ship combat an absolute blast and honestly, it is truly remarkable in Skull and Bones.

This bright shining highlight is unfortunately about all Skull and Bones has going for it unfortunately, as even the endgame content involves “Pieces of Eight” a separate currency from the silver players earn through standard gameplay and trading. These Pieces of Eight are gathered either through manufacturing and smuggling illegal goods but primarily from building an empire of locations that will do that for the player over time. These takeovers are PVP based events though some PVE ones are available, but the PVP element currently is a bit broken thanks to an exploit that is seemingly unfixed as of now. Outside of a PVP event, players cannot attack one another or deal damage, but in an event everything is free game. The problem is, should an opponent be teaming up with someone outside of the event, their friend is completely immune to damage and can sit there healing their ally as much as they like, leaving players struggling against a seemingly unbeatable team. There are also world-bosses that are larger bombastic fights that are exciting to take part in and some forts can be pillaged by teaming with others, but for the most part players will find themselves only participating in events triggered by the world itself and hoping the other pirate captains join in.

Now, it is worth noting that the first seasonal content for Skull and Bones has launched and with it comes its season pass content. The season pass is a bit unique as it gives players tokens for reaching certain goals that can then be used on three separate paths that have different rewards. It is worth noting that all of the paid content on the battle pass is cosmetic only but it is quite interesting looking, especially since ship customization is truly exceptional here and one of the best ways to make your ship stand out on the seas while the free content are things like weaponry, armor, and weakpoints for the Seasonal boss. Players on the paid line will receive all of the extra cosmetic content alongside the standard gameplay content and, it is worth noting that, should players complete enough of the season pass they can nearly pay off the next one if it follows the same pricing point as this one. The cosmetic offerings in the store are paid using “Gold” which can be bought in the shop or, as mentioned, earned in the paid line and many are quite outrageous compared to what is on offer. There are plenty of cosmetics both for the pirate captain and their ship available through standard silver purchase that allow for an extensive level of surface level of customization but obviously some of the best is paid only and a bit of a bummer in a full priced game such as this.

Audio & Visuals

Sailing on the seas in Skull and Bones is a wonderful looking experience as the ocean has never looked better. This is especially true during storms that can rage randomly as players sail through seas that could be calm one hour and churning an hour later. Navigating these waves is a wonderful delight and partaking in ship combat during these massive storms is incredibly impressive looking and the same can be said about the cosmetic side of things as mentioned before. Unfortunately the same cannot really be said about the actual character models as they are a bit on the predictably generic side while most of the places players explore are interesting at surface level and nothing else. It is also worth noting that the game is riddled with graphical issues that appear fairly often anytime land is involved. Embarking on land can result in the ground textures taking forever to load or never loading at all and there are times players can be sailing and witness the land looking like a gorgeous hue of colors only to realize it hasn’t loaded properly yet and will pop-in with its often generic mountainous or jungle design.

The soundtrack features a thankfully expansive amount of sea shanties with a number of them being familiar favorites from Black Flag as well as a number of new songs that are as delightful as ever. Players can tell their crew to sing at will though they will not if players are in combat. It is worth noting that the crew will still chime in quite often, calling out ships endlessly. As for the NPC dialogue… it’s serviceable at best for as little of the storyline they involve, though the accents do seem authentic at least.


Skull and Bones is the type of game that does one thing exceptionally well to the point of being absolutely exhilarating but manages to make nearly everything around it as stale and bland as possible. Taking part in ship battles feels amazing, exchanging cannon fire, sailing to outmaneuver the target and nail their broadside and dealing massive damage only to finish it off with a generic boarding cutscene. Combine this with the loop of harvesting materials for upgrades, non-existent on-foot gameplay, and the fact that the endgame rotates around a chore like task with even the Seasonal Pass content being unimpressive and Skull and Bones’ amazing ship gameplay can’t help salvage this leaking ship of a live service game.

Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.


Skull and Bones nails its ship combat and sailing so wonderfully it becomes a highlight amongst generic gameplay loops, bare bones story, and chore-like endgame tasks.
Travis Bruno
Travis Bruno
After playing games since a young age and getting into anime a bit later on its been time to write about a little bit of everything.
<i>Skull and Bones</i> nails its ship combat and sailing so wonderfully it becomes a highlight amongst generic gameplay loops, bare bones story, and chore-like endgame tasks.Skull and Bones Review