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Skull & Bones Review (PS5) – Not Quite the Pirate’s Life For Me

Skull & Bones Review (PS5) – Well, the time has finally come where Ubisoft’s pirate RPG is upon us. The long-awaited and much delayed, so-called ‘AAAA’ title Skull & Bones is in the hands of players and, to be honest, I’m quite struggling to understand what took them so long.

It’s a relatively fun game, enjoyable at times but I just have so many complaints I feel this may well soon be doomed to the briny deep.

Skull & Bones Review (PS5) – Not Quite The Pirate’s Life For Me

Where Be The Story, Matey?

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It begins with a relatively quick introduction to give you a taste of battle, followed by the basic character creator and a small starting area to familiarise yourself with what you will be doing in the big bad world.. and it’s not a lot. The gameplay loop is take missions and contracts, all of which are incredibly similar fetch quests. Set sail. Loot. Rinse. Repeat.

The story is extremely paper-thin. Become a pirate legend. That’s about it. It’s pretty much all anyone ever talks about. I guess this doesn’t surprise when Ubisoft opted to remove the campaign to follow the live service route. What they have given you is a few important NPCs to give you a goal and push what little story they have forward.

These NPCs usually have dialogue that has two choices, be an aggressor or a pacifist. It’s pretty much pointless giving you the option at all though. It doesn’t matter what you choose because nine times out of ten they disagree and make an excuse to redirect you to the already predetermined role.

At one point some goods went missing and I had a choice of catching the rat who stole them or just finding and returning the goods. I chose the latter and was scoffed at, being told the goods were long gone, I’d never find them and we’d just punish the rat. This is just one of the many examples I found where this situation happened.

The quests you are given, as I mentioned, are almost entirely extremely repetitive fetch quests and seldom else. There are PvP events and other various random encounters but they aren’t enough to keep it as interesting as it should be. Most POIs outside of plunder locations and outposts are just towers to pull up at and shoot down for loot.

Go Kick Some Pirate Booty

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Fair to say, the combat is fun and I tried to get myself involved in it as much as possible to break from the mundane quests. The co-op makes it way more interesting and enjoyable, especially in the bigger battles where there are some thrilling and epic moments to be had. Sadly there are oversights to how it plays out.

Boarding rival NPC boats to loot them is just a short cutscene and a loot menu. Whereas I would have much preferred boarding mechanics to board manually and loot on foot.

Going from the peak of an intense battle to a sudden, anti-climactic stop with the short cutscene and loot menu is a major disconnecting moment. The fact that there is no sword combat to continue that intensity high, and end it off on a much stronger note just feels like such a missed opportunity

How can a so-called pirate game be missing one of the biggest pieces to the puzzle? A feature included in Assassins Creed IV, the game this was born from a decade ago?

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Thankfully its standout feature is the customisation. It’s as deep as the ocean and most of my enjoyment came from spending time changing my ship cosmetically or going through deciding which of the many weapons I wanted aboard it. They all work towards a specific build you want.

You can build yourself for aggressive play, be more of a tank with defensive capabilities, or you can play support and bring heals and the like to your allies. just prepare to grind. A lot.

As a result, it just doesn’t quite know whether it wants to be a pirate RPG or a live service title, so it never excels in either. Consequently, it’s currently a pirate-themed looter shooter with a repetitive grind for the more powerful blueprints. With an even greater grind for the items to build them.

There are even ships missing from the finished game. Large ships aren’t even in it yet, only small and medium, which is annoying considering the variety of builds possible.

Fool’s Gold

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All things aside. The plundering, awesome customisation options and engaging Pirate warfare was enough to keep me coming back for a bit. How much longer I can with the repetitive fetch quests remains to be seen, however.

The black market unlocked later made the fetch quests a little more interesting but still ultimately an eventual bore. The endgame alleviates the repeating quests with some interesting new ones. However, it wasn’t anywhere near engaging enough to keep me entertained for more than a few hours. So I just went back to destroying ships with friends for loot.

If you’re looking for a swashbuckling narrative-driven epic this isn’t the pirate’s life for you. Do I think Skull & Bones is a good showcase of a game 8 or more years in the making? Absolutely not. However, if you enjoy plundering the seas, sinking rival scallywags and having genuinely entertaining naval battles that are much better if you bring your friends.

Then there is some fun to be had here. If you can justify its $70 price tag that is, which I sadly cannot.

Skull & Bones is now available on PS5.

Review code generously provided by publisher.



The Final Word

All of the fun customisation and combat in Skull & Bones is catastrophically let down by the mundane gameplay loop. What is a blessing and a curse for almost all games in this live service genre. Skull and Bones has the potential to be, but certainly isn’t yet, a great game.