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Skull and Bones Xbox Series X|S Review

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Fast Facts

Skull and Bones

Developer: Ubisoft Singapore
Publisher: Ubisoft
Website: https://store.ubisoft.com/uk/skull-and-bones-premium-edition
Genre(s): Action, Adventure
Platform: Xbox X|S (version reviewed), PlayStation 5, PC
Age Rating:PEGI 18
Release Date: 22/2/24
Price: £69.99

A code was provided for review purposes


Under the hood, Skull and Bones is quite an interesting game. Initially developed as an expansion to Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, the pirate-inspired action-adventure soon became a standalone game titled Black Flag Infinite. As the game grew in scope and technology advanced, the envisioned MMO that was Black Flag Infinite slowly became the Skull and Bones titles that we see today. 

While its setting, structure, and majority of gameplay have evolved beyond that seen in Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, why does playing Skull and Bones evoke strong memories of Ubisoft’s 2013 assassin adventure? 

The seas can be viewed in first person, but you don’t see much

Tales of the deep

Taking place within an area of the Indian Ocean centred near South Africa, Skull and Bones sets its narrative as a typical “rags to riches” affair. From first creating your wannabe pirate warlord, you’re soon thrust into Davy Jones’ locker as your decked-out galleon is lost to the deep. Now needing to start pirate life again, you’ll soon fall under the command of local warlord John Sherock, who’ll send you off pillaging settlements and ransacking supply lines. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and you’ll need your wits to stay afloat! 

Considering that Ubisoft spent years developing Skull and Bones, its story is almost forgettable. Aside from running errands for the local pirate warlord, I had zero clue as to what my character was fighting for. Throw in plenty of forgettable characters, and any semblance of the narrative I did have was swiftly thrown out of the porthole. 

Behold, my stuff!

While its narrative is pretty lacklustre, it’s more than made up for with Skull and Bones’s nautical gameplay. For the vast majority of your journey, you’ll be out on the high seas, and it’s here where the game’s strengths lie. The key to success here is studying the game’s fairly robust economy to take advantage of trade routes to then maximise your gold profits. Nothing is off limits in Skull and Bones, and whether your cargo is earned the honest way – or more nefarious – there are plenty of vendors who’ll ask no questions. Being a trade expert then gives you the ability to buy blueprints which will give you access to new weapons and better ships to kit yourself out with.

“Quickly let’s head back to sea, there’s nothing to do on land!”

Cannon …

The nautical shenanigans of Skull and Bones never grow tired. Across my current game time I never got bored of sinking enemy ships and ransacking unsuspecting outposts. It’s a true battle of cat and mouse as you’ll track your prey and pounce upon them when the time is right. Open fire on a vessel when their own friendly units are close by, and you’ll soon be battling from multiple sides. There’s also a rudimentary bounty meter which acts much like Grand Theft Auto’s wanted system. The higher disdain a faction has for you, the tougher ships they’ll send out to take you on. 

Combat is pretty easy and is as simple as aiming the camera to the fire the weapons within that target arc. Most vessels can equip up to four sets of canons (and mortars), which range from dealing exotic damage to simply destroying the enemy. There’s plenty of variation to what armaments you can equip, and come the game’s later stages, it offers plenty of build variety if you happen to team with other players. Your ship can be customized further with different armor, which further adds to your own damage resistance.

… and Ball!

Damage plays out on screen as you and your opponent’s vessels react to the severity of the assault they’ve taken. Aside from the big standard health bar, which displays your hit points, there are also cosmetic changes, such as a damaged hull and torn sails. While taking significant damage doesn’t offer much in the way of debuffs, it’s a nice indication of near-death. This is especially useful when tackling multiple enemies simultaneously. To aid you further, you also have the ability to apply repair kits (which come with a cooldown) and feed your crew, which gives additional benefits such as stamina boosts. 

For those who long to be the next Captain Jack Sparrow, there are no mythical beasts such as the mighty Kraken or long-dead ghosts to do battle with. But with the inclusion of seasonal content, who knows what might happen? 

Captain! Look!”

Land Ahoy!

The nautical side of Skull and Bones is clearly the bread and butter of the experience. Sadly, the same can’t be said for its landlubbers. Being on land offers a completely different experience, which lacks so much you I wonder why it’s in the game. To begin with, the map is humongous. In true Ubisoft style, the open world is jam-packed with islands, settlements, various outposts, and hundreds of icons. The downside to this is that you’re either stuck on your boat or confined to one of the game’s settlements. You’re never truly able to sail off into the blue yonder. Quite often, you’ll be forced to sell goods while routed to the spot or interact with a settlement while figuratively shouting at each other.

When you do eventually make landfall the Towns feel empty and flat. NPCs are devoid of life, doing nothing more then paddleing their wears or send you on the next fetch quest. Likewise, hunting for buried treasure soon becomes a game of “spot the dig notification.” If you’re expecting any kind of melee combat, you’ll be sorely disappointed. It comes as quite a surprise as Ubisoft is known for its world-building. After all, you just need to play any decent FarCry title, or even The Division 2, to see how creating a “lived-in world” feels. Yet with Skull and Bones, it is incredibly basic. 

But you have heard of me?

Your progression through the world is measured by your pirate’s infamy. This hidden meter acts as a typical RPG levelling system. Improving your rank will reward you with better blueprints and new vessels. Everything you do rewards you with an amount of experience that goes towards this rank. Completing quests is your quickest way to reaching the end game, while plundering the seas slower option. There’s a lot of grinding involved in reaching the endgame. I wouldn’t say it’s as in-depth as some other role-playing games. However, for those who really want to tailor their builds to maximise every stat point, these options are available.

“Greetings friend. Now hand over those coconuts I asked for and take this cannon!”

Skull and Bones also aim to allure players with its co-op gameplay. This comes in the way of PvE content that focuses on helping each other out in free roam or plundering various outposts. As far as I’m aware, there’s zero player vs. player content. Even shooting at another player doesn’t do any damage. While I’m thankful for this, it does dampen the experience. Games such as Sea of Thieves thrive by giving its player base the full pirate experience.


With Skull and Bones being a live service game, its future could be very bright. Ubisoft has the foundations laid for a game that could rival other pirate games, albeit with a focus on PvE. Yet, for now, it’s an extremely basic experience that’s tacked on to a very forgettable story. However, even with these criticisms, Skull and Bones does show a glimmer of hope. Its in-game economy is both easy to understand and feels robust. While its sea combat is the real jewel in the rough. The game’s first season currently underway, I’m eager to see how Ubisoft develops its pirate sandbox in the coming months. But for now, I’d probably wait till this one’s in a sale. 

Rapid Reviews Rating

3.5 out of 5


Skull and Bones is available now and can be purchased via the Xbox Store by clicking here.

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