As a huge Assassin’s Creed 4 fan, it is an understatement to say I was excited when Skull and Bones was first announced in 2017. Another game with a pirate setting from the same publisher behind Assassin’s Creed 4 was more than enough of a reason for me to try the game.
My excitement for this pirate adventure diminished over time, with the game getting delayed several times to the point where I had the suspicions that it would eventually be canceled.
For a $70 release that Ubisoft says is an AAAA game, Skull and Bones plays more or less like a mobile game. The game is closer to 2014’s mobile game, Assassin’s Creed: Pirates, than Assassin’s Creed 4.
If there’s a single good thing that came out of my time with the open beta, it would be the fact that I instantly went back and replayed Assassin’s Creed 4 for the fourth time.
Why it matters: Despite a decade of development, Skull and Bones appears to lack an identity, feeling inferior compared to the game that inspired this multiplayer spin-off from Ubisoft.
What Went Wrong With Skull And Bones?
While Skull and Bones is still in its open beta and might be better by the full launch on 16th February, the game is lacking at its core. This multiplayer title has zero innovation, and it almost seems like Ubisoft was desperately trying to encapsulate the success of Black Flag.
For starters, the game has no campaign. While a campaign was in the works for the multiplayer spin-off, Ubisoft did away with this element, saying it was not vital for the experience.
Skull and Bones was initially marketed as a game with a narrative-driven campaign and an online mode reminiscent of Destiny with seasonal content and a 5v5 multiplayer mode.
Skull and Bones is best described as a bland open-world game in the vast Caribbean ocean of 625 square kilometers with a survival sandbox model and PVE/PVP systems that aren’t appealing.
It also shows its age in terms of design. The game’s open world is not seamless, with even the simple act of docking a ship needing a small transitional loading screen. Meanwhile, boarding enemy ships is impossible, eliminating a crucial part of the pirate fantasy.
Skull and Bones also carries Ubisoft’s facial animation problem seen in recent games. All of these elements came together to disappoint me in a way I did not see coming. Therefore, it made me seasick without even sailing on a ship.
I won’t say the game is all bad; it has a few strengths. The sea shanties are a good throwback, and the naval combat is still satisfying. I hope that future content will improve the game so I can see myself enjoying it.
Black Flag Is Still Better
With a chance to replay Assassin’s Creed 4 again after several years, I was shocked at how good and ahead of the time this title was. Even visually, the game holds up surprisingly well, given that it was created for the Xbox 360 and PS3 as the base hardware.
Assassin’s Creed 4 isn’t the best pirate game ever, but one of the best open-world games, at least to me. Offering a perfect blend of stealth, action, narrative, naval combat, and pirates, Assassin’s Creed 4 barely falls short in any department.
I would even argue that the facial animations and voice acting are better than recent Ubisoft games like Assassin’s Creed Mirage. In contrast, Skull and Bones feel limited and congested.
The game features limited environments, and the only time the player is on foot is on the docks. Looting and naval combat feel incomplete without the typical sword fighting and boarding.
Had Ubisoft included these features in the multiplayer adventure, my impressions may have been the complete opposite. Perhaps Ubisoft didn’t want an exact copy of Assassin’s Creed 4, but the studio still failed to create a compelling game.
I would rather play Sea of Thieves over Skull and Bones for now. It’s disappointing to see how almost every part of Ubisoft’s game is inferior compared to the former, possibly making it one of the biggest disappointments of the year.
For now, all Skull and Bones has done is make me more excited for the rumored Assassin’s Creed 4 remake. This project has seemingly begun development and can benefit from certain parts of Skull and Bones.
Rumors suggest that Ubisoft Singapore, the developers behind the multiplayer pirate game, will be in charge of the Assassin’s Creed 4 remake. While the team’s work has not impressed me much, lessons learned from Skull and Bones might make the remake better in the long run.
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