Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Game Review: 'Skull and Bones'

A swashbuckling adventure a decade in the making, "Skull and Bones" has finally set sail after tantalizing pirate-obsessed gamers with peeks at gameplay for the past several years. 

Once you choose your character skin, you embark on the choppy waters solo or team up with as many as two allies as you vie to outgun and plunder the competition. 

The concept evolved as a spinoff of the Ubisoft seafaring gem "Assassin's Creed: Black Flag," and the finished game reflects its origins well. The controls are sharp and precise, with an arcade-style ability to start or stop your ship nearly at will. Commands that lift or cut your sails act as a veritable throttle and break, allowing you to navigate with almost absurd dexterity. What the game loses in sailing accuracy it more than makes up for in the satisfaction of precision movement.

Risk and reward comes into play, with higher-intensity contracts offering larger payoffs. On the whole, the game figures to become a more realistic replacement for the likes of "Sea of Thieves," which first forged similar waters in 2018.

The four Ubisoft dev teams that worked on the game managed to craft a tight, invigorating loop of looting, upgrading and questing. You face constant bombardment from not only environmental obstacles, including storms, sea life and maritime obstacles, but other players who are looking to either beat you to plunder an outpost or take you down and sack you for all you're worth.

You work to grow your reputation by committing nefarious deeds at sea. The loot you grab allows you to build up ships and increase your arsenal.

A few initial connection issues aside, the game is off to a roaring start. And while time will tell the true tale of whether the game succeeds or fails at reaching its promised shores, it's hard to imagine a more impressive launch for a game with such grand aspirations.

While some may wince at the persistent internet connection, the irritation is a small price to pay for the grand, ambitious vision finally coming to light. "Skull and Bones" waves its Jolly Roger proudly, and it's all you can do to salute it and take the helm as you attack the wild, unfriendly seas.

Publisher provided review code.

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