More than five years after its initial reveal, Skull and Bones is slowly getting here. The open-world pirate game has been beset by production issues that threatened to sink its development, but at last, it’ll make it to port.
After a long silence, Ubisoft updated the Skull and Bones website in March this year, teasing that new information would be coming soon. But it wasn’t until a pirate presentation that we finally learned not just that the game would be setting sail this year, but we also got a deep dive into the open-world pirate ’em ups many systems.
We saw how Skull and Bones’ progression system, character and ship customization, and crafting will work, as well as a look at combat and special weapons. Ubisoft also talked about the different ship types in the game and how you will make a name for yourself in the pirate world. We learned about PvP, PvE, bounties, world events, and special missions.
Ubisoft even went so far as to talk about the game’s post-launch roadmap, talking about what extra content is going to be added to this seven seas simulator. As the Skull and Bones playtest kicks off on PC, you might be hoping to learn more. So, read on for everything we know about Skull and Bones so far, including its release date.
Skull and Bones: cut to the chase
- What is it? Ubisoft’s upcoming pirate adventure
- What can I play it on? PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC
- When can I play it? March 3, 2023
Skull & Bones: release date and platforms
When Skull and Bones was announced it was only confirmed to release on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Though, back then, it was due for release in 2018. After many delays, and the launch of the new generation of consoles, Skull and Bones has now dropped PS4 and Xbox One. It’ll still be on PC but instead, it’s coming to the PS5, Xbox Series X, and Xbox Series S, too.
There have been reports of Skull and Bones’ development troubles, which we’ll go into more below, but we started getting hints that Ubisoft was getting ready to announce a new released ate when, back in March, the game’s website received a redesign.
Another hint dropped during an earnings call in February 2022 (via VGC (opens in new tab)), Ubisoft stated that it is aiming to release Skull and Bones during its next fiscal year, meaning the developer was aiming to release the game by April 2023. Thanks to an Ubisoft Forward, we learned that Skull and Bones planned to launch on November 8, 2022, a day before God of War Ragnarok.
However, we’ve now seen another Skull and Bones release date delay. Instead, that’s been pushed back to March 9, 2023, just before the end of this financial year. To ease matters, an open beta has been announced and while there’s no confirmed date for this, Ubisoft says it’ll follow “in the near future.”
Skull & Bones will also be Ubisoft’s first game to sell under a $70 / £70 price tag for new-gen consoles, something it previously hadn’t committed to. Speaking in a recent interview (via Axios), Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot stated: “Some of the games will come at the same price as the competition. The big AAA games will come at $70.”
For anyone interested in trying it out, you can always sign up for the Skull & Bones live beta test. We previously saw closed playtests between September 16 to September 19 for PC players, so it’s nice to see this being opened up. If you’re curious to know more, we’ve got the full details in our linked guide.
Skull & Bones: trailers
Ubisoft has released a handful of trailers for Skull and Bones so far but given the game’s overhaul during development and its new vision, the latest gameplay trailer shows quite a different direction for Skull and Bones.
The latest trailer for Skull and Bones reveals that Ubsioft has turned the pirate PvP title into more of a survival game. You’ll scour the seven seas for ships to destroy, hoover up their loot, and use that to craft new hulls and gear to buff out your vessel. You can see a lot of the new systems at work in the video below:
E3 2018 brought us a gameplay trailer for Skull & Bones, showing off how things will work in the game’s cutthroat hunting grounds. It’s unclear how much of this gameplay we’ll actually see in the finished product. Check it out below:
Cinematic and gameplay walkthrough trailers
Skull and Bones received two trailers during its E3 2017 debut, one which was cinematic and another which showcased the game’s multiplayer and PvP gameplay. Again, it’s hard to say how much of that footage will be represented in whatever the final game is. Check them out below:
Skull & Bones: Gameplay
At long last, not only do we have a Skull and Bones release date but Ubisoft has also revealed exactly how the game will play. It’s quite substantially different from what was originally announced so we’ve broken it down into sections below.
When Skull and Bones was first revealed it was more akin to Rainbow Six Siege than it appears now. The game was a small team PvP game where each player took on the role of ship, kitted it out with specialised guns and armor, and then the two teams would blast each other to splinters with their cannons and muskets.
That’s all changed, or at least it’s no longer the focus. Now, Skull and Bones is a survival game first. You start life as a shipwrecked pirate. You have to scout out resources to build a tiny, practically defenceless sailing vessel, and from those humble beginnings you will raise yourself up to become a pirate lord.
Using your ship you will sail around an open world, scouting out lumber, precious metals, and all the other resources you could need to craft equipment. You’ll face AI enemies, such as other ships, but also wild animals, like hippos and sharks. And you’ll harvest more resources and booty from them, using it to trade for money at pirate dens and other outposts, or use it in your crafting.
The best way to earn money, equipment, and blueprints is to take on contracts. These jobs will see you hunting down bounties, assaulting towns, or seeking out long lost treasure. The contracts you have access to are determined by your ‘infamy’ and completing contracts will also help your raise your infamy level.
The entire game can be played solo, or you can choose to buddy up with a friend in co-op, and also open up your game to PvP invasions.
While Skull and Bones started life as a PvP game, it’s since evolved into a survival game that can be played entirely solo. It’s quite a drastic change from the original vision for Ubisoft’s open world pirate game. However, Skull and Bones multiplayer still exists in a changed form.
While the whole game can be played alone, you can open it up to other players, both friends and foes. When taking on a contract mission and set out into the world to earn that phat loot, you can invite another player into your party, joining up to take on the mission together. While it will make the game a little easier and you will need to split some of the earnings, because you’ll often find yourself taking on more enemies and earning more loot than your hold can, er, hold, sharing it with a friend doesn’t mean you’ll end up with less.
You can also open up your game to enemy players, turning the seven seas into a PvP arena. While you can’t be attacked in the safe waters around a pirate den, as soon as you slip out of its boundaries you can be targeted by other players. Of course, on the way out to a mission you may not attract much attention but when you’re on the way back to port, your hold full of booty, enemy players will see you as a high value target on the amp and may come to hunt you down.
In this way, PvP and co-op do still have a part in Skull and Bones but it is in a much reduced form.
While you can buy gear and ships with the booty you pick up, Skull and Bones lets you craft equipment to fit out your schooner.
As you roam the seven seas of Skull and Bones, you’ll discover blueprints. These may be rewards for completing contracts or hidden away at the bottom of treasure chests. They will be essential for the game’s crafting. With blueprints and resources you find in the world, either from scavenging shipwrecks, harvesting natural resources, or hunting animals in the sea, you can build entirely new ships, create new weapons and armor, and upgrade all of the fittings on your ship.
Some of the most powerful hulls and equipment will need to be crafted. So if you want to become the most fearsome pirate on the seven seas you’ll have to invest your time in crafting and blueprints.
There will be multiple ship types in Skull and Bones, each with significant strengths and weaknesses. The three kinds Ubisoft confirmed in the Ubisoft Forward were Cargo Ships, Navigation Ships, and Firepower Ships. There may be more types we’ve yet to see, but as well as these categories, we know there are multiple hulls of each type, so there will be lots of opportunities to find the perfect ship for your playstyle.
Larger and slower than the cover ship types, cargo ships have large holds that let you carry much more loot than any other ship type. While they may not be as good in a fight as the firepower ships, nor as fast as the navigation ships, if you take a cargo ship into battle you won’t need to leave any loot behind.
While you won’t have much in the way of armor or hardpoints where you can install lines of cannons, the navigation ships are the fastest and most maneuverable type of vessel. Not only are they good for scouting ahead, in a battle a good captain will be able to weave between their enemies and stay ahead of their guns. Their other weakness is a small hold, so this ship type is best used when you have a friend to help pick up the loot after a battle.
If you want to bring the fight to a battle then this is going to be the ship type for you. It may not be fast as fast or as maneuverable as a navigation ship, it may not have the armor or the hold of a cargo ship, but the firepower ship can load up the most guns, and dominate the battlefield.
While you may start Skull and Bones as the victim of a shipwreck, left with no worldly possessions beside the shirt on your back, you won’t stay there for long. As is common for Ubisoft’s open-world games, as you explore the world, complete missions, take on enemies, and craft new gear, you will gain experience and level up.
Though, rather than call it experience, in Skull and Bones your experience is called infamy. After all, after booty and rum, the thing pirates like most is fame. As your infamy level increases you will gain access to new contracts, and as you complete contracts you will be rewarded with big lumps of infamy. It’s a virtuous circle.
Ubisoft wasn’t clear, but presumably your infamy will have other benefits, too, such as letting you access more powerful gear and ship hulls.
Skull and Bones: news and rumors
Previously we had quite a substantial news and rumors hub in this guide but a lot of it has been made redundant by the news revealed in the Ubisoft Forward. However, there are still some elements that are in date, such as the Skull & Bones TV show. We’ll keep this updated as more news appears on the horizon.
Skull & Bones is ‘not a narrative-driven game’
If you’re hoping for a great story in Skull & Bones, you may want to temper those expectations. Speaking in a recent interview with True Achievements (opens in new tab), game director Ryan Barnard told us:
“Skull and Bones is not a narrative-driven game. We have narrative pieces — in the game, you’ll meet important NPCs called Kingpins which have their own stories that you’ll learn as you develop rapport with them by taking on contracts with them. There is an underlying story to the game with which we build the entire world lore, but that’s not the main focus. We want players to create their own stories and be able to choose the type of pirate they want to be.”
Instead, Barnard calls the progression system, Infamy, to be the driving force in this campaign. Given that this is a live-service experience, this isn’t that surprising that story isn’t the centre of attention, though it may prove disappointing for those after a fresh single-player pirate adventure.
Skull & Bones is being adapted for TV
Skull & Bones hasn’t been released yet but it’s been announced that it’s being adapted for TV. In a report by the Hollywood Reporter, it’s being said that Ubisoft is working with Atlas Entertainment on the project which will be “a female-driven drama set in the lawless frontier of the Indian Ocean at the end of the golden age of piracy in the 1700s”.
At the moment, that’s all there is to know—there’s no confirmed air date and no cast to speak of—but this will certainly be a project to keep a weather eye on.