Skull and Bones Review – Bring Me That Horizon

Skull and Bones Review

Skull and Bones has finally set sail after a lengthy development cycle spanning eleven years. The good news is its ability to engross me as I treaded its treacherous waters, which was a pleasant surprise. Boasting fun, engaging naval combat, and a swath of customization options, Skull and Bones sank its hooks into me within the first few hours. It undoubtedly has issues – some that are baffling given the aforementioned decade-plus of time in the oven. But Skull and Bones manages to nail down a solid gameplay loop despite its glaring omissions.

When first launching Skull and Bones, you may be fooled into thinking you’re in for a fleshed-out narrative that takes you through various highs and lows. Unfortunately, it quickly becomes apparent this isn’t the case. A weak, uninteresting plotline centered around the golden age of piracy never amounts to more than pirate hijinks. You begin as a lowly, mistreated nobody who must work through the ranks of the pirate hierarchy to become king of the seas. Though, at no point was I ever invested in my character’s arc.

A Pirate’s Life For Me

Piling atop the poorly constructed narrative is a cast of characters that rarely become more than a body to fill space. Skull and Bones lacks the necessary development in its characters ever to make one genuinely care for them. Instead, I was often left with a nagging feeling that my crew’s outcome was utterly meaningless. It doesn’t help either that many of the voice actors have difficulty maintaining their dialects, routinely weaving in and out of their accents and breaking immersion. It remains one of Skull and Bones’ biggest misses in that I found my team comedically unbearable instead of being able to develop a connection with them.

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Chances are, however, that most people interested in Skull and Bones are coming along for chaotic, entertaining naval combat. This is where Skull and Bones delivers. Coordinating an attack, lining up shots, and sinking enemy ships is immensely satisfying. And isn’t that what it’s all about? Battles break down to a back-and-forth tug-of-war that tasks the player with carefully maneuvering their ship, managing speed, and honing in on enemy weak points. When everything I planned came together in a perfectly executed assault, Skull and Bones shone like a sunset over the horizon.

All That Glitters is Gold

Speaking of sunsets, Skull and Bones – for the most part – looks fantastic. No matter the time of day, the atmosphere stemming from the environmental detail is another major win for Ubisoft’s latest. However, it suffers from a massive lack of detail found in character models. While locales left a smile on my face, NPCs are tough to look at. This stark difference became more grating as my time with Skull and Bones carried on, leaving me questioning how Ubisoft thought character models that were acceptable a generation ago would suffice.

Aiding Skull and Bones’ solid combat system is its excellent use of audio. Wood splintering, blasting cannons, waves crashing, and the roar of my crew all culminated in an outstanding auditory experience that added layers of life to the experience. Some of Skull and Bones’ best moments wouldn’t have come close to being as effective without its tremendous audio production. It’s too bad that character dialogue doesn’t live up to this quality level.

Of course, plundering also takes center stage in Skull and Bones. Not only is it rewarding to knock off a formidable fleet of enemy ships, but retrieving their loot and using it to better my own vessel worked wonderfully. It isn’t that Skull and Bones reinvent the wheel with its upgrade system; it’s simply that it provides a large number of upgrades that are exciting to work towards. Ships are customizable from bow to stern, from port to starboard. New weapons, sails, hulls, crew outfits, and more offered an enticing way to personalize my experience. It was addictive to discover how upgrades would benefit my journey, rarely leaving me feeling like my efforts weren’t worthwhile.

But What’s to Come?

Bear in mind that I’m not yet convinced of the longevity of Skull and Bones. I had fun with it during my review period, but after so many hours living the pirate lifestyle, I have little reason to dive back into its waters. Once I had my fill, I was less interested in returning for more. What’s here is good, but I can’t confidently say that it’s enough. A game based on pirates that doesn’t contain a second of swashbuckling should be a crime. Given Skull and Bones ‘ limited scope, it’ll be interesting to see if Ubisoft can maintain a player base.

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Skull and Bones does what it set out to do quite well. Combat is fun, the upgrade system is rewarding, the environment is engaging, and the sound design is phenomenal. But everything that it doesn’t do sticks out like a sore thumb. A next-to-non-existent narrative, repetitive one-trick missions, and a lack of anything pirate-related other than sailing a ship hurts. To its credit, I enjoyed my first twenty or so hours more than I thought I would. But it’ll take a significant, focused effort from Ubisoft to maintain interest over the years to come.

***A PS5 code was provided for this review***

The Good

  • Great environments/atmosphere
  • Wonderful sound design
  • Fun combat



The Bad

  • Weak narrative
  • Repetitive mission structure
  • Lack of things to do
  • Awful character models