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It’s actually going to come out.
After nearly a decade, the albatross with an eye patch around Ubisoft’s neck is scheduled to release in early 2024. Even writing that feels like tempting fate for what has become of the gaming’s industries most consistently delayed games. But at the end of it, Skull & Bones will release; the question is, is there any way it it can be more than the running joke it currently is?
On paper, Skull and Bones made a lot of sense when it was first announced. In the wake of the massively popular ship combat in Assassin’s Creed Black Flag, a game centred around that felt like an easy win for Ubisoft, or at the very least it felt like a fairly sleepy release in what was a middling period for the French publisher.
Who would have guessed that since the game was announced, the series that it spawned from would undergo a full RPG reboot, each of which would include ship combat alongside the main game, and the multiplayer-obsessed gaming landscape of the mid-2010s would be completely replaced by the live service dominance of the 2020s?
Skull and Bones feels like it’s been chasing something that no one is actually interested in anymore. Is it a case of the game being close to completion over and over, but then having to pivot again to meet market demands? The game, which we’ll remind you sees you take control of a pirate ship in order to destroy other ships and acquire loot, has a single-player campaign as well as a multiplayer portion where players fight over “Disputed Water”.
But what does that single-player campaign consist of? Who do you play as in Skull & Bones? Is the ship the main character, or are we a specific pirate? The problem is, even if you go back to the core idea of Skull & Bones, it has always been missing the thing that made being a pirate in Assassin’s Creed Black Flag so good. And that’s the part just after you’ve rammed your ship headlong into the side of The Black Pearl.
The moment that the ship combat stopped, you swung from one ship over to the other and started slashing your way through the enemy pirates. The battles with ship captains while both ships were burning in the middle of the sea. It felt genuinely epic. It’s the best recreation of the pirate fantasy that’s ever been in a game, and Skull and Bones seems to completely strip that out.
What does Ubisoft want from Skull & Bones? Is it happy with a small cult success akin to something like For Honour? A game that was released to mixed reviews but managed to be popular enough for Ubisoft to release new content for it for years. Or, is it looking for something with more legs? At this point, we wouldn’t blame the French giants for simply wanting the game to release in a state slightly better than a bin fire.
It would be one of gaming’s greatest miracles if Ubisoft somehow pulls Skull & Bones off. The sheer amount of time, money, and effort put into this game likely means that it’ll never actually regain what it cost the publisher to develop.
But if it can somehow find a dedicated base to keep the multiplayer side of things going, then it won’t be forever entrenched in the Duke Nukem Forever Museum of games that took forever to release then sank into the deep. The reasons why Skull & Bones wasn’t cancelled, and the game’s development, in general, will one day make an incredible book, but for now, it remains a massive curiosity.
There are few games in 2024 that we’re more interested in playing, but we suspect that’s not for the reasons Ubisoft might have hoped. The rest of Ubisoft’s 2024 looks bright with Star Wars Outlaws on the horizon, and its 2023 ended strongly with Avatar Frontiers of Pandora, so the publishing giant has plenty to be cheery about, and frankly, we’d love nothing more than Skull & Bones to shock the world.
Well, we’d perhaps love one thing more, for it to be delayed a few more times so it can break some kind of world record.
Read more 2024 game previews:
- Stalker 2
- Alone in the Dark
- Hellblade 2
- Star Wars: Outlaws
- Black Myth: Wukong
- Princess Peach Showtime!
- Hades 2
- Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth
- Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown
- Destiny 2: The Final Shape
- Flight Simulator 2024
- No Rest for the Wicked
- Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth
- Tekken 8
- Rise of the Ronin