Ubisoft have promised that their pirate-themed open world action-RPG, Skull and Bones, is finally, finally, heading our way in February.
For those of us who have been following the saga so far, we are more than a little cautious about getting excited until the game is actually downloading onto our Xbox, because this is a game that has had more than its fair share of delays.
Skull and Bones entered development all the way back in 2013, was revealed in 2017 and has had several cancelled release dates since then. Costing Ubisoft just a little bit more than Blackbeard’s entire fortune to develop (some $120 million?), we have quite high hopes that Skull and Bones on Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5 and PC is going to be worth the wait. From what we can see from the game trailers it certainly seems that Skull and Bones is at least going to look great.
If you can’t wait to try out your sea legs and head to the high seas in Skull and Bones, here are 5 Xbox and Game Pass games that have already been making waves. In fact, they are the games you should be playing while waiting for Skull and Bones.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
This installment of the mega-franchise sets the action on the high seas at the height of the golden age of piracy. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag debuted on Xbox 360 and Xbox One in October 2013, and is also now available on Series X|S.
It sees players setting sail as the morally dubious Edward Kenway on his ship Jackdaw, as they travel across a game map that spans large parts of the Caribbean sea; the expansive setting making for an evocative feeling of adventure and exploration.
The main story involves Kenway hunting down pirate lords who are in fact Templars, but there are tons of side missions where you’ll be getting yourself into all sorts of swashbuckling trouble taking part in ship battles, diving for treasure in ship wrecks and exploring gorgeous and unique islands.
Lighter in tone than its predecessors, the combat in Black Flag is less serious and bloodthirsty but the ship battles are where the game really shines. The movements of the ship feels very responsive and the commands are well laid out and make for exciting battles whenever you stray into enemy waters.
If Ubisoft managed to nail a pirating game ten years ago, then we can’t be wrong in feeling excited to see what they can do now in Skull and Bones.
Sea of Thieves
Coming from developers Rare, Sea of Thieves released in 2018 and immediately became a firm favourite of many salty sea-dogs.
Much more open-ended and lighthearted than Black Flag, it rewards teamwork as players work together, helping each other to achieve the status of Pirate Legend. You can take part in voyages set by the trading companies, engage in battles and play the Tall Tales, Sea of Thieves’ narrative-driven campaigns. Along the way you’ll get to fill the coffers with gold, the in-game currency, which you can use to buy, repair and customise ships, as well as buy new piratey outfits and weapon skins.
As well as having to defeat AI enemies, you’ll have to deal with other human players. Whether they will work with you, attack you, or work with you then attack you, depends on who you run into and how you communicate with them. But as we all know, teamwork makes the dream work, and if you do manage to work alongside others you’ll be rewarded with being able to carry out bigger heists and earn bigger treasure hauls.
The key to Sea of Thieves’ longevity is the constant addition of new game features and in-game events such as new Tall Tales, where you get to visit iconic locations and meet familiar faces from franchises such as Monkey Island and Pirates of the Caribbean.
Plunder Sea of Thieves 2023 Edition from the Xbox Store.
Similar to Sea of Thieves, Sea Horizon adopts a cel shaded visual style and it heavily features sea exploration, but that’s where the similarities end.
This game is a roguelike turn-based RPG that unfolds on a 3D bird’s eye view of a hex grid map depicting the shattered archipelago of Myrihyn. You can sail the high seas by ship, as well as making landfall to explore the numerous islands scattered across each map which are fraught with danger but also rich in rewards.
With three different ways to play, Sea Horizon is a game that has deceptively more hours of gameplay than expected. First up is adventure where you play solo as either the ranger, priest or wanderer, who each have different skill sets. You follow your objectives until you reach the boss battle whilst discovering more about the character you’re playing as.
There’s another mode which features dungeons to explore as a group and exploration mode that provides you with a much larger environment to, well, explore, and provides a less linear option.
If you’re looking for a bit of strategy-based challenge and adventure with a nautical theme, then Sea Horizon is available on the Xbox store.
King of Seas
King of Seas is a pirate action RPG published by Team17 that sees you play as a male or female version of the main protagonist who is abducted by pirates after your father, who happens to be the king, is assassinated.
You sail around an incredibly large map fighting ships, treasure hunting, or completing jobs for the merchants at various ports. The main story sees you completing missions to work out who killed your father so you can bring them to justice.
The ship combat is a shining aspect of the game which utilises not only cannon shots and nautical strategy but also speed and spectacle, thanks to a set of more than twenty skills to choose from and three branches of talents. Another worthy feature is the ship upgrade system. You get to choose from five distinct ship types, each with its own set of pros and cons, such as enhanced manoeuvrability, increased storage space, or powerful cannons.
Plus, the sails, deck, crew, cannons and more can be upgraded using loot you’ve plundered on your travels, providing a truly customisable experience.
If King of Seas floats your boat it’s available on the Xbox Store.
Return to Monkey Island
We couldn’t compile a list of piratey games without including a game from the OG series – Monkey Island. The aspiring pirate Guybrush Threepwood stars in the latest installment of the highly popular series of adventure games in Return to Monkey Island. It sees the return of Threepwood as well as other favourite characters including Elaine Marley, zombie pirate LeChuck and top salesman Stan S. Stanman.
The game sees Threepwood arrive on Melee Island on a quest to finally find the secret of Monkey Island but unfortunately finds out that LeChuck and the formally disbanded Pirate Leaders have the same idea – but they have something Threepwood doesn’t have – a ship. Cue hilarious scrapes as Threepwood manages to make his way to the eponymous island and finally solves its mystery – no spoilers here.
The art style is contentious, the game style less pointy and clicky than we’re used to (and some would say this makes the game too simple) but Return to Monkey Island retains the charm and humour of its predecessors.
You can enrol as part of LeChuck’s crew by visiting the Xbox Store. The game is also available on Game Pass.
If you simply cannot wait to get started with Ubisoft’s Skull & Bones, then there’s plenty of pirate fun to be had on Xbox and Game Pass at present. Let us know in the comments below and on our socials if you intend to give any a try!
Expect to find Skull and Bones – finally – releasing on Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5 and PC come February 16th 2024. The Xbox Store has the Standard Edition available for £69.99. There’s also the Skull and Bones Premium Edition. That one is priced at £94.99 but does add a couple of extra Missions and a Smuggle Pass Token into the mix, as well as giving three days early access over the street release.