Ubisoft is gearing up for its first AAA release of 2024 with Skull and Bones. The pirate-themed co-op open-world action RPG is coming to consoles and PC over a decade after it was originally conceived as an expansion for Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.
After six delays across six years, Skull and Bones is finally on the release schedule for mid-February. For those curious about Ubisoft’s pirate adventure, we’ve got everything you need to know about Skull and Bones below.
Skull and Bones Release Date
Skull and Bones will be released on February 16. Those who purchase the Premium Edition or subscribe to Ubisoft+ can play three days early (February 13).
Skull and Bones Platforms and Price
Skull and Bones will be released for PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC. It costs $70 USD on consoles and $60 on PC.
Skull and Bones Special Editions
In addition to the standard version of Skull and Bones, Ubisoft is offering a Premium Edition for $90. The Premium Edition, as detailed by Ubisoft, includes the following:
- Skull and Bones base game
- Three days early access
- Premium bonus pack: Bloody Bones Captain outfit & Ashen Corsair Ship Set with 11 different ship vanity items
- Two extra missions: The Ashen Corsair and Bloody Bones Legacy
- 84-page digital art book
- Digital soundtrack
- Smuggler pass token (unlocks a battle pass)
Skull & Bones Slideshow
Skull and Bones Gameplay
Skull and Bones is an action RPG that can be played solo or with up to two others. Its primary gameplay system is naval combat, though you’ll spend time on land as well collecting contracts and preparing for your next seafaring adventure.
Naval combat appears to be a much more robust version of that found in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Assassin’s Creed Rogue. In Skull and Bones, ships can be customized in great detail to match your aesthetic and practical desires. There will be 10 ships at launch, each with different perks that strengthen specific aspects of your ship, from offense and defense to navigation and smuggling. Within each of those ships, you’ll be able to customize your weaponry, armor, and furniture — all of which affect a ship’s stats. Weaponry includes cannons, ballistae, mortars, rocket launchers, and torpedoes. On the cosmetic side, you’ll be able to customize the color of your ship’s hull; the color, pattern, and emblem of your ship’s sails; and your ship’s figurehead. You can also choose from a variety of pets to keep you company at sea — cats and lemurs are two animals Ubisoft has named.
Smaller, yet notable open-sea gameplay mechanics include a spyglass, which allows you to identify a ship’s rank and loadout from a distance, and flares, which you can shoot into the sky to rally nearby players to your aid. Naval combat is largely PvE, though PvP battles can be initiated by picking up legendary treasure maps.
In addition to doing battle with other pirate ships, you’ll encounter settlements, production sites, outposts, and forts. Settlements can be pillaged or utilized as trade hubs. Production sites are a specific type of settlement where materials and goods can be bought and sold. Outposts are neutral areas where you can repair your ship, buy supplies, pick up contracts, and/or fast-travel. Forts are large settlements of civilized life where pirates aren’t welcome. These areas are heavily defended, meaning the encounters will be among the game’s most difficult. Locations are tiered from 1 to 15; the higher the number, the better the resources (and the greater the resistance).
These different settlements are run by different factions, all of which will track your behavior throughout the open world. Angering a faction can make them hostile, potentially closing off trade opportunities and leading to more combat encounters.
Progression is framed through Skull and Bones’ infamy system. The more you make a name for yourself at sea, the more opportunities you’ll have to improve your ship, accept contracts, and obtain valuable treasure. Once you reach Tier 6 of the infamy rank, the game opens up in a major way, introducing you to a secret smuggling ring called The Helm and granting you the ability to create your own pirate lair and begin your own smuggling operation.
Not everything in Skull and Bones happens at sea. On foot, from a third-person perspective, you’ll be able to explore pirate dens such as Sainte Anne. These are safe zones filled with vendors such as shipwrights and blacksmiths, as well as characters who can turn you on to new contracts or tall tales, which can lead to encounters with supernatural enemies.
While it’s understandable to be skeptical about Skull and Bones given its troubled development, we came away from December’s closed beta impressed. IGN’s Travis Northup said Skull and Bones’ robust ship customization made it “feel like a true naval RPG.”
Skull and Bones Story
Skull and Bones is not a story-driven game even though it exists on the Assassin’s Creed timeline. There’s no proper campaign, no overarching plot to follow. It’s instead a live-service game in which you begin as a shipwrecked captain who embarks on a “rags to riches” journey in hopes of making a name for themselves in the brutal world of piracy. From here out, your gameplay experiences are “the story.”
However, there are narrative elements. Skull and Bones game director Ryan Barnard told IGN there are “pivotal characters” in the world that “will have bits of story and background that you will be able to [learn through] jobs or the contracts.”
Skull and Bones: Savage Storm #1 Preview Gallery
Those looking for more story content can check out Dark Horse’s three-issue comic series, Skull and Bones: Savage Storm. Here’s the official synopsis:
A merchant vessel on the high seas is besieged by a vicious crew of pirates, but the fighting is interrupted by a devastating typhoon. When the storm crashes in, it leaves predator and prey stranded on an island somewhere in the Indian Ocean. Discover the mysteries and danger that will betide them all. A gritty story set in the merciless world of Ubisoft’s upcoming pirate game.
Ubisoft also began a tie-in podcast series in 2024 called Gangsters of the Sea (published in the Ubisoft Echoes of History podcast feed). Narrated by Michelle Rodriguez (Fast and Furious), the series explores “the sordid history of the Indian Ocean’s most terrible pirates.”
Skull and Bones Development
Skull and Bones has undergone one of the most tumultuous development cycles in modern gaming. What began in 2013 as an expansion for Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag evolved into an MMO spinoff which ultimately became the standalone game Skull and Bones.
It was revealed at E3 2017 with a Fall 2018 release window, though it would miss that window — and many others — due to six delays, ultimately landing on February 16, 2024. In addition to changes in direction, Ubisoft attributes the delays to making too many games at once.
Skull and Bones is the first original game in which Ubisoft Singapore served as lead developer. The studio previously assisted on the development of every mainline Assassin’s Creed game since AC II. Ubisoft Singapore was assisted by the publisher’s studios in Belgrade, Berlin, Chengdu, Kiev, Montreal, Mumbai, Paris, the Philippines, Pune, and Shanghai.
The project has churned through three creative directors, most recently losing Elisabeth Pellen in September.
It was developed using the Ubisoft Anvil engine, which has previously been used to create Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed and Tom Clancy games (with the exception of The Division and XDefiant).
Skull and Bones TV Show
In 2019, Ubisoft announced a live-action Skull and Bones TV series. Set during the Golden Age of Piracy, the Skull and Bones show is described as 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.”
The project is a collaboration between Ubisoft and Atlas Entertainment, which previously helped produce DC’s Wonder Woman and Suicide Squad, as well as SyFy’s 12 Monkeys.
There’s been no update on the series in the five years since its announcement.
Jordan covers games, shows, and movies as a freelance writer for IGN.