‘Skull and Bones’ game review


Skull and Bones screenshot

Skull and Bones screenshot
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is one of the best in the franchise, transcending genres to become one of the most unique games. It blended swashbuckling action, stealth and many Pirates of the Caribbean elements with incredible naval battles. A risky formula was successful, and it sparked the idea for Skull and Bones. However, after years of delays, starting off as a humble Black Flag DLC, technology changes, and changes in its setting, it went into a never-ending loop of bad management decisions. Finally, since its inception in 2013, Skull and Bones is out, brought to life by Ubisoft Singapore and quite a bit of Ubisoft Pune.

Set in the Indian Ocean during the Golden Age of Piracy, you embark on a monotonous journey from shipwrecked nobody to legendary pirate captain. While encounters with famous pirates (and their excellent voice acting) offer glimmers of potential, their missions mainly serve as elaborate fetch quests. 

Upon launching Skull and Bones, players are greeted with the paradoxical instruction to “play nice, play fair, and play safe,” juxtaposed with images of rowdy pirates revelling in debauchery. This ethos contradicts the very essence of piracy, suggesting a missed opportunity for a gameplay experience akin to The Division’s Dark Zone mode, where treachery and betrayal are the norm. Gaming thrives on escapism, and Skull and Bones ought to cater to the desire for a true pirate adventure on the high seas.

The gameplay loop of Skull and Bones is straightforward: venture into the ocean, engage enemy ships and emerge victorious to increase your infamy and gather resources for ship upgrades. The controls, reminiscent of Black Flag and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, maintain familiarity, focusing on aiming, shooting, and manoeuvring. The expansive map is dotted with islands ripe for plundering, but interactions with the inhabitants often feel shallow. While not groundbreaking, this gameplay loop offers a solid foundation for a pirate-themed game.

Skull and Bones

Developer: Ubisoft Singapore 

Publisher: Atlus

Price: ₹4999 on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4 and PC

Skull and Bones effectively functions as a looter shooter, albeit on the high seas, akin to Black Flag, motivating players to grind for better equipment to transform their vessels into formidable warships. Beyond naval combat, opportunities for exploration abound, from scavenging for loot to hunting sharks. Strategic considerations, such as accounting for wind direction during combat and mastering the art of shipboarding, add depth to engagements. However, the absence of dramatic swashbuckling boarding sequences is lamentable.

Visually, Skull and Bones impresses with its detailed, weather-beaten ships, evoking the essence of the pirate era. The depiction of the sea and islands is equally beautiful, albeit marred by wooden character models. While the game exudes passion, it suffers from noticeable rough edges, indicative of a work in progress. Multiplayer is the game’s strongest suit, fostering enjoyable experiences when navigating the treacherous waters alongside fellow players.

That said, if you are looking for more Black Flag, then it is worth jumping into Skull and Bones. However, you may want to wait until Ubisoft makes good on its promise of more content fixes. If No Man’s Sky and Fallout 76 could do it, Skull and Bones can, too.

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