Skull and Bones Gets Lost at Sea | Review

Skull and Bones has finally arrived, but the pirate life we dreamed of when it was initially revealed seems little more than a mirage at sea…

Oh Captain, My Captain…

In 2018, my hype for Ubisoft’s Skull and Bones was at an all-time high. After a hands-on experience at E3, I knew this was going to be the pirate game I had always wanted. After being delayed a plethora of times, Skull and Bones has finally found its way to the mainland.

Skull and Bones
Developed By: Ubisoft Singapore
Platforms: PlayStation 5 (reviewed on), Windows, Amazon Luna, Xbox Series X|S
Release Date: February 16, 2024

Right from the start, Skull and Bones wets your scurvy pallet with an amazing battle between you and other ships. After a fierce battle, you lose your ship, crew, and all your belongings to the unforgiving sea and must start anew. From here, you build your character into the pirate you want them to be. From customizing your character to customizing every aspect of your ship, Ubisoft sets players down the right path of building your pirate how you want it, but in the just of things, we somehow get lost along the way.

When we first begin the game, we’re given a small boat to get started with. This boat serves as our primary mode of transportation as we take on various tasks to gather the necessary resources for building a bigger, more powerful pirate ship. I was filled with excitement at the prospect of setting out on my pirate adventure, exploring the many islands scattered throughout the vast ocean and collecting valuable resources along the way.

It was my dream to construct the most impressive pirate ship in all the Seven Seas. I was determined to make that dream a reality. With each new task I completed and each new resource I acquired, I was one step closer to achieving my goal and becoming the most feared pirate around.

Once you have completed a few missions, you will come across the beautiful island of Sainte-Anne. Despite the dangers, Sainte-Anne serves as a hub for pirates and a place to rest and resupply before embarking on your next adventure.

While exploring the island, you will have the opportunity to meet “The Lion of Sainte-Anne,” John Scurlock; a notorious pirate who is obsessed with wealth and power. He sees an opportunity to use you and other pirates to take over The Red Isles and become the most powerful Kingpin in the region.

Scurlock will offer various missions that will require you to engage in battles, raids, and other illegal activities. In return, he promises to reward you with riches beyond your wildest dreams. However, you must be careful when dealing with Scurlock as he is known to be cunning and ruthless.

Yet, as I progressed further into the game, I found myself enjoying the missions less and less. While the initial missions were engaging and exciting, I soon found myself overwhelmed by the sheer number of side quests and tasks that were required to progress through the story.

Despite the game’s efforts to bring the world to life with its many missions and side quests, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by the amount of tasks I had to undertake all at once. The sheer volume of side quests made it difficult to keep track of the main story, and I was drowning in a sea of menial tasks.

To make matters worse, many of these missions were grind-heavy. They required traveling long distances to gather materials like uncut gems, fabrics, metals, or wood. These tasks quickly became tedious and repetitive, making me dread taking on any more missions and sapping my enjoyment of the game.

As you progress through the game, you’ll eventually meet up with someone who will introduce you to a secret organization called The Helm. The Helm is an underground group that specializes in crafting high-value trade goods. Once you gain access to The Helm, you will be able to work with them to create these goods, which can then be sold for a significant profit.

By selling these high-value trade goods, you will not only earn more money but also gain more infamy and reputation in the game. This, in turn, will help you to progress further in your journey and achieve your goals.

The problem, however, is this feature only adds to the already heavy grind-like nature of the game. While it offers a new and exciting way to earn money and reputation, it can also be time-consuming and requires a significant amount of effort.

I comprehend the need for hard work and dedication to accomplish one’s objectives. To become the ultimate pirate, one must acquire a vast arsenal of weapons and equipment. But some of these missions can be easily overlooked, which brings your progress to a halt.

I was excited to play Skull and Bones as it promised to be an enthralling action RPG that I thought would be filled with cinematic storytelling about the pirate’s life. However, I realized that the game was not what I expected.

In contrast to Ubisoft’s other titles, Skull and Bones lacked a story-driven adventure. The missions felt repetitive and tedious, resulting in me losing interest in the main storyline. While it was enjoyable at first, I soon found myself creating my own story instead of following the one that the game had intended. I aimlessly wandered the ocean, ignoring the various missions piling up in my queue.

I found myself playing the game simply to make it more enjoyable by playing how I wanted to. I was determined to create my own pirate story, rather than following the game’s storyline. While this was fun, I couldn’t shake the feeling the game had not lived up to my expectations. Ultimately, while Skull and Bones provided a decent pirating experience, it failed to deliver the cinematic storytelling that I had hoped for.

Ship Battles, Exploration, and Co-op Saved The Day

The mainline story campaign of the game was quite underwhelming. The missions felt tedious and lacked the excitement and thrill that I was hoping for. However, to progress through the game and increase my Infamy, I had to complete many of these missions.

Infamy is essentially a measure of how notorious and feared you are in the game. It’s a progression system that acts as a badge of honor and a symbol of your power and strength in the game world. The higher your Infamy, the more respected and feared you are by other players.

While completing contracts is the easiest way to gain Infamy in the game, I found it much more thrilling to engage in other activities such as sinking ships, hunting wildlife, and plundering villages. These activities not only helped me gain Infamy but also kept me engaged and entertained throughout the game.

As I delved deeper into the world of Skull and Bones, I began to realize there was much more to explore and experience beyond just building my Infamy, but I couldn’t help but notice the graphical presentation of the game was somewhat lacking.

However, I soon discovered that the issue was not with the game itself, but rather my graphical settings. After switching from Performance to Quality on my PS5, I was taken aback by the incredible visual difference. The Ubisoft Anvil engine truly shone through, as the shimmering water, stunning night sky, and even the explosions from ships I engaged with looked breathtaking.

Although this switch did cause my frames-per-second to drop slightly, it was well worth it to see the game in its full glory. I was amazed by the level of detail and realism that the Anvil engine brought to the game, and it made me appreciate the effort that was put into creating this incredible world even more.

As I delved deeper into the game, my love for it was reignited. The exploration aspect of Skull and Bones was simply breathtaking. As I navigated through the game’s various locations, I was struck by the sheer beauty of each one. The Red Isles, for instance, was a sight to behold with its stunning landscapes and crystal-clear waters that reflected the sunlight in mesmerizing ways.

The Coast of Africa, on the other hand, offered a unique blend of natural beauty and wild swaps that left me captivated. And let’s not forget the East Indies, which was a true gem with its exotic landscapes filled to the brink with active trade. The intricate details and vibrant colors of each location truly made them come alive and added to the immersive experience of the game.

While exploring the beautiful regions, I encountered numerous foes who put my pirating skills to the test. As I explored the open sea, ship battles started to intensify, and I found myself in a difficult situation. Despite having a well-equipped ship (decked out with higher-level hull, defensive weapons, and other resources), the enemy ships proved to be too much for me to handle.

Where the game truly shines, is in the online play. I found myself facing higher-level AI ships and participating in community events that offered high-level rewards. And random players online would jump in to assist. Almost like a real community of pirates looking out for one another on the ocean.

During one excursion with another player, we received a prompt that the dreaded Captain Joka Kubwa was in the area. It was time to take him down. I was both excited and nervous about what was to come. After all, we were up against a captain who was known to be ruthless and an expert in sea battles. But, I was determined to face him and emerge victorious.

We traveled across the open sea, and there he was on the starboard bow, along with his much larger vessel. The sight of his ship was both impressive and intimidating. We began our assault, firing our cannons and maneuvering our ship to avoid his attacks. As we were fighting, me and the other online player started to lose the battle.

Things got worse when the Captain let off a flare and called in four reinforcement ships to his aid. Just when we thought we were about to lose, several other online players came to our rescue. It was a thrilling moment to see so many players come together to face this challenge.

At this point, it became a five-on-five fight, and we started to turn the tide of the battle in our favor. We worked together, communicating and coordinating our attacks. It was a challenging and exhilarating experience, but with teamwork and perseverance, we finally defeated Captain Joka Kubwa and his crew. It was an unforgettable moment and the rewards we received were well worth the effort.

Skull and Bones is a game that excels in community engagement, and could save the game down the road. With its sprawling map, Skull and Bones offers players beautiful locations, exciting ship battles, and tons of free content, which creates a bright future for the game.

However, the game’s quest lines can leave players feeling lost, which ultimately holds it back. The story is repetitive and lacks a cohesive narrative, leaving players feeling like they are missing out on the meat of the story. It’s like ordering a bacon cheeseburger only to find out that the meat is missing.

Skull and Bones had the potential to be one of the better games produced by Ubisoft in some time, but it needs more meat to the story, cinematic presentation, and an Assassin’s Creed-style of storytelling. I hope that the game’s community events, DLC, and online players will keep the ship afloat and that Ubisoft will continue to improve the game’s narrative to create a more immersive experience for players.

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Caleb Gayle
Owner @2ndOpinionPro | Content Creator at @Cinelinx | Married @Dara_Potato | @Poplco Ambassador | Partnered @DubbyEnergy | #GameIndustry Vet 16+
skull-and-bones-review-cinelinxSkull and Bones has all the ingredients to be a great game but it falls short due to its soulless story mode. While the game's naval combat mechanics are top-notch and provide an immersive experience, the lack of a compelling narrative leaves players feeling unengaged and unmotivated. The game's open-world concept and lush visuals offer a picturesque backdrop for players to explore, but without a captivating story to guide them, it feels like something is missing. In conclusion, while Skull and Bones has the potential to be a standout title, it ultimately falls short without a more meaningful story to accompany its impressive gameplay.