Skull and Bones Preview : A Deep Dive After Playing the Beta

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Skull and Bones: A Turbulent Journey to its Release

Skull and Bones has had a bit of a bumpy journey in the gaming world lately. Ever since its big announcement back in 2017, this pirate-themed game from Ubisoft has been delayed multiple times, which has stirred up quite a bit of criticism and doubt among gamers and critics alike.

Thanks to our friends over at  Testmoijeuxvideo.fr, I got access to the latest closed beta of Skull And Bones. After sailing through 6 hours of gameplay, I’ve got an initial assessment before its official release on February 16, 2024.

So, will Skull and Bones finally deliver after the long wait, or will it sink like Queen Anne’s Revenge? No need to keep you hanging.

After spending time with it, I genuinely enjoyed the game and eagerly await its full release. However, it’s not flawless, and it’s unlikely to snag the GOTY for 2024.

Time for a closer inspection.

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Tales from the High Seas: Crafting Your Pirate Saga

skull and bones

Skull and Bones breaks away from the typical solo campaigns we’re used to, like those in Assassin’s Creed. Instead of a fixed storyline, it offers some key characters but leaves plenty of room for you to shape your own adventure.

Ubisoft’s latest game is all about embracing the pirate’s life. Your aim? To climb up the ranks and become the ultimate pirate. That means raking in riches, building up an impressive fleet, and earning respect among your fellow pirates. But here’s the kicker—this isn’t a lone wolf journey. The standout feature of Skull and Bones is its multiplayer PvP mode, where the real pirate showdowns happen.


Behold the Horizon: Sights and Sounds of the Seven Seas

skull and bones graphism

When it comes to visuals, Skull and Bones truly stands out. The game offers a feast for the eyes—from vibrant islands to the expansive Indian Ocean, it’s a visual spectacle. The water rendering is simply breathtaking, showcasing the immense effort Ubisoft Singapore put into it. Moreover, the dynamic weather adds an incredible ambiance. Imagine being amidst a storm with striking lightning and waves that even Jack Sparrow would find intimidating.

Now, exploring the islands’ interiors might have its ups and downs. The ‘big’ town, Saint Anne, in this beta is exceptionally crafted. While some smaller towns might not be as impressive, they still maintain a realistic touch. After all, not all islands back in the day boasted bustling towns.

The character designs are commendable. Whether it’s your character or the NPCs, the attention to detail is palpable. Ubisoft has truly excelled in the graphics department, significantly enhancing the overall Skull and Bones experience. 

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And let’s talk about the soundtrack—it’s top-tier. Those pirate tunes scattered throughout add a layer that really amps up the whole experience.

Hoisting the Sails: First Impressions in Uncharted Waters

skull and bones release date


The game kicks off with a quick introduction where your ship meets its demise at the hands of the British fleet. From there, you jump into the crucial phase of shaping your pirate character.  Your initial ship isn’t exactly a grand vessel but more of a small barque, setting the tone for your beginnings.

After a brief tutorial familiarizing you with the basics, the adventure kicks off right away. Your journey begins towards Saint Anne, ground zero for your pirate journey. I’ll keep things light on spoilers here as this phase sets the stage for your escapades.

As the game progresses, you navigate through Saint Anne to construct your first substantial ship. Here’s where the crafting system takes center stage, a significant aspect of the game. In fact, you can’t really buy ships or weapons directly, at least not from what I was able to see in the beta. You have to collect plans from merchants or loot them. And then have all that crafted by the appropriate NPC. 

Crafting means you’re spending quite some time scouring for materials in the waves. This might turn out to be a bit of a grind. But fingers crossed, maybe Ubisoft’s thrown in some rare items to make it more thrilling.

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Regarding quests, I spent my 6-hour beta time mostly on the main story. But truth be told, the quests felt a bit rinse-and-repeat—fetch this, sink that, attack here. Let’s hope Ubisoft’s holding out on the good stuff for the full game. We’re talking more depth, more complexity in those quests beyond the basic tasks. Cheers to raising your infamy level with each quest—hopefully, it’s got more kick than what I’ve seen so far.

A Pirate, yes, but with a reputation to maintain 

Skull and Bones has a touch of RPG in it. They’ve got the XP system, but here, it’s all about your infamy. Basically, it’s your reputation as a pirate that matters most.

The higher your infamy, the more doors swing open for you. It’s the key to accessing better resources and cooler opportunities. You rack up that infamy by taking on contracts from vendors, cozying up to local factions, and hanging out with the big shots of piracy. It’s all about boosting your street cred in the pirate realm.

The Thrill of Naval Skirmishes

skull and bones combat


The core of the game is hands down the ship battles. While I didn’t dive into PvP, the PvE side offers plenty of chances for pirates to trade cannonballs.

The system’s pretty straightforward—you aim for the weak spots on the enemy ship to deal more damage. It’s simple, but it works like a charm.

Even with this simplicity, the combat’s top-notch. You’ve got choices—charge in and hope to take less damage, or be strategic by analyzing the enemy ship’s weapons and defenses in advance.

How? Easy. Just use your spyglass to scope out their setup. Some ships lack cannons at the back, making it prime time to attack from there and deal damage without taking any in return. But they’re not going to sit still for that. They’ll try to turn and shoot back, so it’s all about your approach at the wheel.

When battles kick off, the camera switches to a first-person view from the ship’s helm. This heightens the immersion, plus you get a sight and a gauge showing when your cannons are ready to reload.

To Board or Not to Board


Once you’ve dealt enough damage to your foes, you can board their ship. This isn’t like Assassin’s Creed Black Flag or Odyssey-style assaults—it’s more of a cinematic scene. Boarding fetches you a bit more loot compared to just sinking the ship.

At first glance, I felt a bit let down. I was hoping for some epic pirate sword fights. But thinking it through, I get where the developers were coming from. Skull and Bones is all about PvP action, and integrating sword fighting could’ve been tricky in my opinion. Stick with me.

Imagine boarding an enemy ship in a PvP zone. A swarm of pirates could just seize your ship or wait for you to return to the helm and sink you. So, unless you had safe areas to board, it would have created a big imbalance in the game.

Considering all this, it’s clearer why the developers stuck to ship-to-ship combat. Even on land, you can’t whip out a sword to duel other pirates. The only way to throw down is swapping gunpowder at sea.

It’s a bit of a disappointment, but I reckon it makes sense in the grand scheme of things.

The Fellowship of the Sea

skull and bones boarding


I couldn’t test out the PvP during the beta, so I’ll keep it short on that and save it for when Skull and Bones officially drops. On the flip side, the co-op feature was part of the game. While sailing solo in the Indian Ocean is doable, bringing in backup to take down an enemy fleet or attack a fort adds a nice layer of strategy and fun.

Hopefully, Ubisoft smooths out some wrinkles before the game’s release. For instance, there’s this issue where your comrade has to watch the quest’s cinematic footage to join you, leading to some serious waiting times.

During battles, you can ask for help, and some players pitch in. It’s a relief, especially when you’re facing off against 4-5 ships that gang up on you during certain fleet attacks. Co-op becomes a lifeline for survival in those moments.

Unfurling the Map: Discovering the Vast Pirate Realm

In this beta, the map is limited to Saint Anne and its neighboring area. Based on the game’s intro and other announcements, there are plenty of other maps waiting in the wings. They promise hours of exploration, spanning from the African coast to the breathtaking East Indies and Madagascar’s paradisiacal landscapes.

A Look Below the Deck


I gave this Skull and Bones beta a go on Xbox Series X, opting for the quality mode. Overall, I didn’t face any major issues—it’s smooth, boasts a great field of view, and I didn’t notice any framerate drops. However, the seas weren’t bustling with ships, so it remains to be seen how things pan out with more ships on the map.

For a beta version, it’s pretty polished, and it feels like we’re edging close to the final product. The main issue I encountered was the black loading screen without any animation when leaving the ship. It felt quite empty and lacked any visual interest. It would’ve been far more beneficial if the engaging cinematics used during crafting were implemented here, adding some excitement to the disembarkation process. That was a bit of a letdown.

Besides this minor drawback, transitioning while at sea is seamless—no loading times while navigating the map.

Final Port of Call: Weighing Anchor on ‘Skull and Bones’ Expectations

Skull and Bones has been highly anticipated since its initial announcement in 2017. But, as I’ve previously mentioned, the game has faced multiple delays, leaving the gaming community a bit on edge.

There was a certain expectation among gamers that Skull and Bones would be something akin to Assassin’s Creed Black Flag 2. But let me tell you, it’s clearly not another Assassin’s Creed title, and as I see it, it’s not trying to be one.

Personally, my impression after playing this beta is overwhelmingly positive, and I’m eagerly looking forward to diving back into the Indian Ocean when it officially releases. I understand it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, especially due to the limited land activities or the absence of ship boarding.

Nonetheless, I have confidence in Ubisoft’s ability to make this game successful and keep it engaging over time by adding sufficient events. If the PvP system delivers as promised, then Skull and Bones could turn out to be one of the pleasant surprises of 2024.

In any case, keep an eye out for the FinalBoss ship sailing the Indian Ocean from February 2024.

Skull and Bones

Game name: Skull and Bones

Release Date: 16 February 2024

Available on: Ps5, Xbox Series, PC

Pre Order Skull And Bones on Instant Gaming
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2 COMMENTS

  1. I’m confused. You wrote that there isn’t a “fixed storyline,” and that you spent most of your time in the beta “mostly on the main story.” From what you saw in the beta and know about the game, is there actually a story/plot? Or is S&B merely about doing individual missions so you can improve your ship and become the baddest pirate in the (virtual) Indian Ocean? According to an article I read on another site back in September, Ubisoft wanted players to basically create their own fun with this game.

    If it doesn’t have a story/plot, that’s really disappointing for a game that started development as AC IV: Black Flag DLC in 2013, and Ubisoft said was a 3rd perdon open world tactical action game when they revealed it at E3 in 2017. If there’s no story/plot, I wish they’d saved their company around $120 million (allegedly the development cost since it became a standalone game) and just released it as Black Flag DLC like they originally planned.

    • Hi Chris,
      Thanks for your comment.
      There isn’t actually a storyline, in the usual sense that you have a series of main quests and then the game ends when you’ve completed them.
      It’s more of a thread, or there’s a storyline in the background, but from what we know at the moment, it doesn’t end with a classic ending.
      I think ubi will be adding more quests as we go along.
      For me it’s a game I’m really looking forward to, I really loved the beta.

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