PC Previews PS5 Xbox Series X|S

Skull and Bones Preview: A Sea of Mediocrity

Skull and Bones

Originally slated for release in 2018, delayed to 2019, then essentially forgotten about. Skull and Bones is finally in beta stage and we have our first impressions of it. But was it worth the wait? You don’t have to wait until 16th February to find out…

I wanted to love this game more than I have ever wanted anything before. I love pirates, I loved Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag and Assassin’s Creed: Rogue. The ship combat was amazing and the feeling of sinking a ship or plundering it by boarding and taking over, was something that is yet to be rivalled. Skull and Bones fails to understand this at the first hurdle.

Starting life as a DLC-cum-spiritual successor to Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, it has taken over ten years to finally come to fruition and what we have here is, honestly, a pretty standard looter-shooter.

‘Unfulfilling’ Gameplay

The gameplay loop in Skull and Bones is as follows; make a character (with the ridiculously minimalist creator), start in a small and enclosed training area, learn the basics of piracy, congregate with other players in a hub, do some unfulfilling quests, leave the training area and start the main game. The main game follows exactly the same loop but makes it a tad more complicated with the addition of systems, some of which make no sense at all.

Upon leaving the hub – which allows no actions other than interaction and walking, regardless of the colourful threats you receive from your callous counterparts – the real problems for Skull and Bones become apparent.

For a pirate game, Skull and Bones is light on the ground for actual piracy. You won’t see any on-foot shenanigans a la Pirates Of The Caribbean or Sea of Thieves. The focus here is the ship-to-ship combat.
The ship-to-ship combat is very similar to that of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, with one exception: it isn’t very fun. The combat suffers with the same problem that the guns in Destiny did. The combat lacks the punch and heft which one would expect from such an event. And that is only once you have crafted and looted enough to actually be useful in battle…

Skull and Bones: A Crafting Story?

For the first few hours, Skull and Bones is more survival-craft than old timey ship combat simulator. The crafting takes place within poorly-timed minigames which can often activate at the worst possible times. These reward you with minimal resources even with successful gathering. Each minigame requires you to press a button when the arrow lands within a certain portion of a measure, in order to gain full resources from a source.

My ship was a gloriously understated behemoth I aptly named The Last, as it was the last thing anyone would ever see – or so I thought. The combat in Skull and Bones lies more heavily in luck and happenstance than actual skill. You will spend more time dodging pop-in assets, than enemy fire and – more often than not – these unexpected obstacles can be the difference between you sinking down to Davy Jones’s locker, or managing to reduce the health of the enemy in order to board them and loot them for all their wonderful riches. Not that you will do any actual looting. All the looting takes place in cut-scenes and you are automatically given the spoils of war, via an on-screen pop-up – funny, I don’t remember that in all those pirate movies?

Skull and Bones looks awful. Now, I know how clickbait that sounds, but it’s true. For a game that is releasing in 2024, Skull and Bones looks terrible. The water in Skull and Bones is an artefact-ridden and pop-in mess, the rocks look like early PS2 assets, and it is obvious that the real meat of the development time went into the ship design and character design.

Was it Worth the Wait?

Skull and Bones is a game focusing more on microtransactions, in-game cosmetics and ‘people-pleasing’. It is never going to be a real contender for existing pirate-based games like Sea of Thieves.

Skull and Bones takes three shots off its port-side into its own bow. It adds nothing to the sea of mediocrity. It is destined to a life of poverty as it floats as jetsam on the seven seas, or at least until the next live-service disaster makes port…

You Might Also Like