Skull and Bones was first announced at E3 in 2017 with a gorgeous cinematic trailer detailing the dark and dramatic tale players can expect to endure. But since its initial announcement, Ubisoft’s upcoming pirate title has suffered a number of delays and reworks. But perhaps this spells for a strong release and positive reception from fans, especially in a category that hasn’t been so successful in the past.
Alongside the slew of fantasy games out there, the number of sci-fi franchises, and even series that create their own universes, pirates would seem like a sure-fire topic for the action-adventure category. But for some reason, pirate-centric games have a weak track record, save for Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, also a Ubisoft game, which serves as a martyr for other buccaneer titles, and maybe even Sea of Thieves, though that is specifically an online multiplayer. It’s been a while since Skull and Bones‘ original release window of fall 2018, but hopefully, this means it might actually be a successful pirate RPG since Black Flag.
Typically, pirate curses typically refer to things like Davy Jones’ heart locked away in a chest or, making him immortal, or turning into the undead underneath direct moonlight. But in the gaming community, it refers to the lack of profound pirate-centric games, especially in triple-A titles. Following the successful release of Black Flag, Raven’s Cry was a major failure, Blood & Gold: Caribbean was a hasty mess, and Atlas was disappointing, at best.
But sometimes it’s not that pirate-themed video games are poor but rather just more of the same, something the Skull and Bones should avoid being. Despite sea-stricken adventures, sword-ridden battles, and morally gray protagonists being an excellent setup for a story-heavy RPG, the genre is riddled with MMOs and other multiplayers such as Sea of Thieves, tasking players with manning ships and engaging in fights rather than following a developed character in their quests among the seven seas. This often results in redundant gameplay: naval battles and stealing treasure.
Last summer, word began circulating that Skull and Bones had been completely rebooted by Ubisoft Singapore, which was the studio behind much of the naval mechanics that players loved back in Black Flag. Players are treating Skull and Bones as something of a spiritual successor to Black Flag, being created largely by the same studio, by why then not simply go play Black Flag?
Not much is known about what exactly Skull and Bones will be, aside from neat naval battles, especially thanks to the rumors that the game has been heavily reworked since its original announcement. For example, players became somewhat skeptical after word that Skull and Bones would only take place on the ship, thereby not being a true open-world game. However, in September, Ubisoft Singapore released an update that the game had taken a different direction and would need much more time to develop. So it’s unclear if the ship-locked gameplay is still to be expected.
Ultimately, not much is currently known about what Skull and Bones aims to be, but it can’t be simply a cross between Sea of Thieves’ multiplayer and Black Flag‘s action-adventure. Assassin’s Creed-style missions is a common plug-and-play formula with Ubisoft titles, but many players are hoping for something different rather than falling into the same AC, Watch Dogs, and Far Cry mesh pot of gameplay.
If Ubisoft chooses to follow this same format, Skull and Bones likely could be just another mediocre pirate game falling into the curse. But if it chooses to do something bold and different, perhaps with a rich story or changing up gameplay mechanics, it could end up being as iconic as Black Flag.
Skull and Bones is currently in development for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.