Analysis of Skull and Bones: the Ubisoft quadruple A game we’ve been waiting for a decade

Lower the sails and raise the anchors, because a highly anticipated review is coming.

Analysis of Skull and Bones: the Ubisoft quadruple A game we’ve been waiting for a decade
Chema Carvajal Sarabia

Chema Carvajal Sarabia

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I vividly remember the day when Ubisoft first announced Skull and Bones. It was E3 2017, I was covering the conference for an international media outlet, and we all stood up from the couch when we saw the black sails of the pirate ships sailing the seas.

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This game was the response to a game that had worked wonders five years earlier, in 2013 exactly, and was called Assassin’s Creed Black Flag. The purist fans of the Assassin’s Creed saga criticized the game a lot, but us regular players had a great time sailing and looting in the Caribbean.

It was then that Ubisoft realized that a game about ships, pirates, camaraderie, and action could work very well. Whether it was part of the Assassin’s Creed saga or not. That’s why at first Skull and Bones was a DLC for Black Flag… to end up being a standalone game that took too long to be released.

Welcome to Sainte Anne, home of pirates

We have waited seven years since its first trailer, but the game is finally here. The Ubisoft team asked the press to take our time to play, calmly and with friends, before giving our verdict.

For that reason, we took an extra week, as the game was released on Tuesday, February 13th in early access for deluxe edition buyers. In my case, I’ve already spent about 20 hours pirating and have been able to play alone and with up to three friends. So hold on tight to the ship because a storm is coming.

The game presents us initially as a survivor castaway from a naval battle at high sea. A small boat rescues us and keeps us safe. That’s when our story begins.

Forced to go to Sainte Anne, a prosperous port where there are only pirates and people of ill repute, but where they need us to continue fueling the wheel of piracy in the Indian Ocean.

Of course, the game is designed as live services, so the story is what it is while the missions escalate in difficulty and variety. Let no one be deceived, here we have come to become the greatest pirate of our time and the missions are excuses to learn how to play.

Navigate, assault, loot and board

The game delivers what it promises: we spend the day at sea, sailing our ship in search of battles, collecting goods, and completing missions. And the game gradually teaches you its depth.

Once we arrive at Sainte Anne, the different stalls and merchants show you what the game is about and how to play it. Get a bigger boat, for that you need to buy the blueprint, collect these materials and pay some money. Perfect.

Now you need better cannons, so go to the blacksmith and get the level 3 torpedo blueprints, now collect the cast iron and nickel, now pay for the labor… and so on with every aspect of the game.

Luckily, the progression is not very demanding and we are catching on. Both that and the different types of missions. From the main ones, which advance the story and give you fame and recognition among pirates, to assignments, treasure maps, investigations, and contracts with the rum smuggling network.

After 5 hours of playing, one starts to realize that the game only asks and asks… in exchange for some fun and a lot of combat.

Too much cinematography in a truly captivating world

But in all of this, which sounds very good and has had me hooked for a week, there is one negative point that I am unable to overlook. Because it hurts me that it is like this, especially when its predecessor had already solved this problem that I am going to describe: there is no life outside the ship.

All the interactions we have with other ships, with other forts, with other players… everything is cinematic. There is no hand-to-hand combat, only from the ship. Do you want to board? Throw the hooks and let a cinematic tell you what happens and what loot you collect.

Do you want to raid a strong enemy? Once again, fight against watchtowers and ships, but in the final part, let an identical cinematic be the one to say what you have looted from the outpost.

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Even the interaction and movement of our pirate is clumsy, erratic, and not very believable. Without going any further: he doesn’t even know how to swim, if you go too deep into the water, it will push you out as if you were a message in a bottle floating in the sea.

If after playing Skull and Bones you watch a video of an assault from Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag your soul drops to your feet… and rightfully so.

And it hurts because the environment they have recreated in Ubisoft is impressive. The islands, the outposts, the ships, the sunsets… even the sea is impressive (but not more than the sea of Sea of Thieves, that prize still belongs to Rare).

A game that time can treat very well and that is not the meme we feared

If we take into account other games of the same style, as happened with No Man’s Sky or Sea of Thieves, for example, it is possible that Skull and Bones ends up becoming the ultimate multiplayer pirate game we always wanted.

But right now, it’s not what we expected when they sold us the perfect pirate life simulator. Be careful, because it’s very fun and has a lot of room for improvement, but it lacks some key pillars to establish itself as something that endures over time and accumulates millions of players.

Of course, what has been released is not a minor game or a meme, it is a good game that is fun to play and looks really good, but in my opinion, to convince everyone, there are parts that are missing. And the cinematics fail to mask that lack of effort (or desire).

Skull and Bones DOWNLOAD

We give a vote of confidence to the Ubisoft team, and if you feel like trying it out and don’t want to spend 70 euros right away, you should know that there is an 8-hour free trial waiting for you right now on your PS5, Xbox Series X, and PC.

Chema Carvajal Sarabia

Chema Carvajal Sarabia

Journalist specialized in technology, entertainment and video games. Writing about what I'm passionate about (gadgets, games and movies) allows me to stay sane and wake up with a smile on my face when the alarm clock goes off. PS: this is not true 100% of the time.

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