Skull & Bones: Rapid Fire Beta Impressions

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last… Like… Eleven years, you probably already know that Ubisoft has a pirate game on the way.

Skull & Bones was announced over a decade ago and has been in development hell ever since, with multiple builds of the game being thrown out, numerous team members and studio leaders being changed out, and pretty much every other production issue you could imagine. The game is built on the latest iteration of Ubisoft’s Anvil engine – which has been used by the studio since way back in 2007 for the original Assassin’s Creed.

As previously reported by plenty of other outlets, there have THIRTY trailers for Skull & Bones over the last decade plus, and now Ubisoft has given us another beta period to give players one last look at their high seas adventure before it hits shelves later this month.

So… Having said all that… Is it any good?

The last of THIRTY trailers released for Skull & Bones over the past 11 years.

The Short Answer Is “Aye”

Skull & Bones is not at all what I thought it’d be. Upon first glance, you’d think we’re just getting a much higher stakes, higher fidelity, and more involved live-service version of Sea of Thieves – with swashbuckling on land and sea and plenty of open oceans to roam. The truth is, that’s not really what Skull & Bones is. But what it is, is still pretty damn fun.

Here’s some rapid fire thoughts on what I like so far about Skull & Bones:

  • The customization is great from the moment you boot up the game, and you don’t have to wait forever to get your ship to look the way you want. Once you get a few missions under your belt, you can pretty much be sure your ship is going to stand out from the rest.
  • The game really is gorgeous, and begs to be played on a big screen. I played for a bit on my PC monitor, but didn’t really get sucked into the game until I played it on my living room TV in all its full HDR glory on Xbox Series X.
  • The world around you is very lively, with NPCs usually having unique dialogue almost everywhere you go. Every quest that I’ve found, no matter how far, has fully voiced dialogue that is pretty solid.
  • The game’s combat – though it is entirely ship based – is fun. Also, randomly crossing into the fire of an ongoing Plunder activity or saving a friendly ship (even ones helmed by other players) is super exciting.
Having said that, l do have some thoughts.

The Poop Deck

Skull & Bones is definitely not without its flaws, but I know a few of these are “features, not bugs”, but still somehow don’t really make sense to me. There’s a few things with the game that I feel seasick just thinking about, and here they are:

  • Some of the sound bytes and effects are very repetitive, and its tough to actually discern what your crew is yelling about or what certain pings mean, because they happen all the time.
  • It is extremely weird that there’s no hand-to-hand combat at all, especially since this is built from the same engine that Assassin’s Creed was.
  • It’s also probably a GOOD thing that there’s no on-foot combat because the movement itself while you’re on foot feels pretty bad. It has the same movement feel as GTA, Red Dead Redemption, and some of the earlier Assassin’s Creed games where you have this weird “lean” when your character runs. I hate it and I always will
  • Your character is also always sprinting by default for some reason, and the sandbox hub environments like Saint-Anne are simply not big enough to sprint through and really enjoy. They’ve gotta implement a toggle or something because the movement feels sloppy.
  • The treasure hunting on foot also isn’t very satisfying, since you just kinda walk up to the general area and then lights start shooting out of the ground signifying where the treasure is.
  • Alright yeah so pretty much any of the on-foot stuff is pretty boring.

And that’s pretty much all. I do like the idea that Skull & Bones will carry over your beta progress to the full game, and I do at this point in time plan on buying it. I think it’s a good time so far, and I think it’ll be exponentially more fun with friends. There’s a few whiffs of decent narrative that come entirely through the game’s first Kingpin – John Scurlock – but I’m really hoping we get even more story content to drive the player forward.

We’ll find out next week on February 16th if Skull & Bones is really worth it’s weight in gold when it releases on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S.

Papa Dom

Co-founder, lead blogger, graphic designer, and manager of WGG's writing team - Dom has been writing about video games for over ten years. Dom's work has been featured on some of the world's biggest gaming news outlets - including Dexerto, GameInformer, and IGN.

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