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Skull and Bones - Video Review

We share some thoughts on our time with Ubisoft's multiplayer pirate action title.

Audio transcription

"Skull & Bones has actually surprised us. We really didn't have high hopes for this game, but that's because of a troubled history. A decade of development and a complete reboot for that matter doesn't do much to inspire confidence, but this game that Ubisoft has created is surprisingly coherent. It's a broad and sprawling multiplayer pirating action experience, one where you can live out your dreams of becoming an infamous swashbuckler, and in many ways it does this well. However, Skull & Bones is also a game with a metaphorical title because this is not what we should expect from a full-priced game. This is a game that is fundamentally just a skeleton without the flesh that brings something to life."

"The beta perhaps slipped a blindfold over many people's eyes. Sure, this beta revealed several cracks in Skull & Bones' hull armour, but it also presented a huge amount of content to chew through, no doubt leaving many with the assumption that the full game will be much, much more. But that's not the case. What you see and experience in the opening few hours of Skull & Bones is what you get for the rest of the experience. You have to learn to swallow endless repetitive contracts all in an effort of acquiring resources to make your ship better, and in the name of earning infamy, which essentially raises your standing across the Indian Ocean. On top of this, the minimal amount of narrative depth that was presented in the beta becomes even more of a problem as the game progresses, ultimately reaching a point where we don't think you can even say that Skull & Bones has a story. It's that poorly implemented and ineffective at presenting story information and compelling characters that you should know from the get-go that you won't find anything of value in that regard here."

"Let's move on.
Let's move to a more positive point for a moment, the ship gameplay. It isn't realistic, but neither is it so arcade in fashion that it's more like a spaceship combat title.
It fits in this sort of weird limbo where ships are fundamentally sluggish and heavy to control, but at the same time, you can throw your ship about and fire cannonballs without nearly any limit. This comes together for a system that is just real enough to develop immersive qualities, but free enough to feel fun to spend hours out on the open waves and locked in strategic combat."

"The battleship gameplay.
The battleship gameplay.
The battleship gameplay.
The battleship gameplay.
The battleship gameplay."

"The battleship gameplay.
The battleship gameplay.
The battleship gameplay.
The battleship gameplay.
The battleship gameplay."

"The battleship gameplay.
The battleship gameplay.
The battleship gameplay.
The battleship gameplay.
The battleship gameplay."

"The battleship gameplay.
The battleship gameplay.
The battleship gameplay.
The battleship gameplay.
The battleship gameplay."

"The battleship gameplay.
The battleship gameplay.
The battleship gameplay.
The battleship gameplay.
The battleship gameplay."

"The battleship gameplay.
The battleship gameplay.
The battleship gameplay.
The battleship gameplay.
The battleship gameplay."

"The battleship gameplay.
The battleship gameplay.
This could all be explained better if Skull & Bones had a functioning and useful tutorial system, but it doesn't. In fact the game is so poor at explaining itself that at no point does it tell you that wind actually affects how your ship moves or likewise how to better harness the wind to more effectively move around the world. Talking about the world, Ubisoft is back to its old tricks in Skull & Bones. As we've seen before in Assassin's Creed, Far Cry and various other franchises, here we get a world that is big but boring. You have the freedom to explore it as you see fit, but truthfully there's not a lot worth visiting. That is unless you find mining ore deposits, cutting down trees, harvesting fruit, interacting with villagers, raiding shipwrecks or docking at a port interesting in any manner. The docks however, the only part of the game on foot, are the worst parts of Skull & Bones. When your boot's on the ground you're let loose in a hub location that is effectively just the same vendors in different locations."

"Multiplayer Elements Adding to this is the multiplayer elements. Skull & Bones is fundamentally playable solo, but better resources and the most challenging of activities, which reward the best loot, require allies to overcome. This could be fighting massive sea monsters, plundering threatening forts, sinking infamous pirate lords, taking on global events and even treasure map hunts that include PvP elements. Whenever you take these on you will need friends or otherwise they are pretty much impossible to complete unless you've spent hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours building and designing a much higher level ship. They are some of the most fun activities, but they're ruthless and we wouldn't be surprised if most players avoid them altogether, especially since the game does a horrible job at explaining pretty much any of its multiplayer elements. It's not just the clearly poorly implemented systems that are problems, Skull & Bones constantly hits you with notifications and warnings that it never explains, and that pop up relentlessly and cover half the HUD and screen in the process. There are a slate of bugs and weird issues that plague the experience, but Skull & Bones is one of them. Skull & Bones is one of the game's most popular games, including incorrectly tracked quests, textures popping in, dialogue options never appearing and quests not completing either, many of which require exiting to the game's main menu to overcome. And this is without mentioning hard crashes. But even these problems are minor in comparison to the largest fault that faces Skull & Bones. It features far too little content to be classed as a 70 pound game. Considering there are a lot of microtransaction opportunities too, the sheer limited array of content is shocking. Half of the map, isn't available, and when you sail into the clouded over area, the game forces you to turn back."

"There are only around 7 to 8 ships to actually build, and the weapons are pretty much the same, just with slightly different visual aesthetics and statistics assigned to them. The savvy consumer will no doubt see this game as something that should be valued at half of its current retail price at most. If you have any desire or curiosity to buy Skull & Bones, we'd suggest either waiting for it to drop in price, or for it to be added to a more accessible subscription service other than Ubisoft Plus, or for more content to be added as part of its live design. Or even better yet, just jump back on Sea of Thieves. Rare's pirating adventure is far more complete right now, with more engaging gameplay, storylines and exploration, and that game was announced after Skull & Bones originally was, and still launched almost 6 years ago. Without a doubt, Rare is still the undisputed most infamous pirate on the digital waters."

"Thanks for watching, and we'll see you next time."

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