Skull and Bones: release date, gameplay reveal, and more

We finally know more about Skull and Bones, the Ubisoft pirate game that has been continuously delayed for nearly five years. Thanks to a July 7 reveal event, we have a release date, gameplay footage, multiplayer details, and more. 

This is the most significant sign of a pulse since 2020 for the Ubisoft title, which popped up in 2017 with the promise of players sailing the seven seas and indulging in some salty naval combat, before disappearing below the waves for half a decade. After its reveal, Ubisoft let press members go hands-on with it back in 2018, but after that things started shifting around quite a bit over at the studio. In a 2020 update, we heard the game had a new vision and was aiming for a 2022 release date. 

Now, however, the tides have turned, and we’ve got a ton of new information about the mysterious and highly anticipated Skull and Bones. We’ve seen gameplay, spoken to the game director, and had a hands-off preview, and we can confidently say we’ve got all the information you’re looking for about Skull and Bones. Read on for more. 

Skull and Bones release date

Before we had a release date, we had rumors. It was revealed during a Ubisoft financial update with investors that the game would be due out sometime in the next year or so. “Skull and Bones will now be released in 2022-23,” it said in its earnings report – but for a while, there was no more information regarding a more specific release window.

Then, a Skull and Bones release date was leaked by a Twitter account just a few days before the worldwide reveal event, and it turns out this leak, in particular, was correct. Skull and Bones is set to release on November 8, 2022. Yes, that is one day before the highly anticipated God of War Ragnarok, so it’ll be interesting to see how both games fare. 

Skull and Bones trailer 

The latest trailer dropped on the same day as the worldwide gameplay reveal, and it will pull you in from the moment it starts. Promising to let you “chart a new course”, the trailer follows an unnamed character as they decide to try out the pirate life, become marooned on an island, and build their own ship to sail safely out of there. It cuts to other pirates in various stages of cool, swashbuckling garb before showing off some epic naval combat. 

Skull and Bones Insider Program

Skull and Bones

(Image credit: Skull and Bones)

Back before we had a Skull and Bones release date or any idea what the gameplay looked like, we had the promise of the Insider Program, which was announced back in March 2022. After the July reveal event, we have a few more details on that what the program will entail.

We are kicking off our Insider Program, a unique opportunity for a selected few to test early versions of Skull and Bones & share feedback. Apply now if you think you have what it takes!March 9, 2022

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According to Ubisoft, the Insider Program is an “ongoing live testing initiative for which we’re inviting carefully selected players to play an early version of our game in real conditions before anyone else. Meaning for the very first time, members of our Insider Program get to play Skull and Bones and get a sneak peek at the work our development team has been doing behind the scenes.” According to the studio, the testing team will remain “relatively small” but if you’re interested you can sign up for the Skull and Bones Insider Program here (opens in new tab).

Skull and Bones 2021 update

Skull and Bones

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

We know that Skull and Bones will focus heavily on naval combat thanks to its roots lying in Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag. While working on our five key Skull and Bones questions answered, we spoke with game director Ryan Barnard, who gave us even more details beyond the July gameplay reveal. 

“The team developed their expertise in Naval Combat through their co-development work so we decided to capitalize on that to create a totally new world – the world of Skull and Bones,” Barnard says game director Ryan Barnard. “Since I joined, my focus has been about taking the creative vision to life.” His focus has been on adding  “depth to the naval combat,” the progression system, enemy factions, and crafting. 

Skull and Bones was initially billed as a game that would be made up of two main pillars: a single-player campaign where you play a fully customizable pirate and multiplayer 5v5 tactical naval combat. According to Barnard, the current iteration of Skull and Bones is not a “classic narrative-driven game” but a live game that Ubisoft is committed to working on far into the future. So, should you play it solo? “We want players to have advantages when they group up and pirate together. You can definitely play alone, but part of the risk in our world is that, if you are the lone wolf, you could potentially become prey for other players,” Barnard says. 

Solo play will include leveling up your ship, taking on pirate emissions, and battling on the high seas. It seems like ship customization will be very broad, so expect to see a variety of different vessels on the horizon.

Skull and Bones development issues

The co-director of the game, Antoine Henry, left Ubisoft after 15 years in January 2022, which many worried had to do with Skull and Bones’ development issues. In July 2021 a report from Kotaku (opens in new tab) offered insight into issues behind the scenes that have caused the development process to drag on so long.

The article, which included input from current and former developers on Skull and Bones, reveals constant changes to the game’s direction – like switching between naval combat and survival as the core concepts – and culture clashes on the development team. Three different sources put the cost of Skull and Bones at more than $120 million, and it’s not even finished yet.

In response, Ubisoft put out a statement updating Kotaku on the game’s progress and recent Alpha production milestone. 

“The Skull and Bones team are proud of the work they’ve accomplished on the project since their last update with production just passing Alpha, and are excited to share more details when the time is right. That being said, any unfounded speculation about the game or decisions being made only works to demoralize the team who are working very hard to develop an ambitious new franchise that lives up to the expectations of our players.

Over the past year, we’ve made significant changes to our policies and processes to create a safe and more inclusive workplace and empower our teams to create games that reflect the diversity of the world we live in.”

During the Ubisoft 2020-21 earnings call, chief financial officer Frédérick Duguet had this to say about the game. 

“We strongly believe in the team’s creative vision and they have been given an increasingly ambitious mandate for the game,”

“Production led by Singapore has been advancing well over the past 12 months and the promise is better than ever. The additional time will allow the team to fully deliver on its vision.”

Skull and Bones customization

Skull and Bones menu

There are loads of ways to customise your ship in Skull and Bones, and it seems that different set-ups will be useful for different scenarios. We see the ability to change sails, weapon set-ups, and figureheads in the demo, but expect there to be loads more options in the final game.

You’ll need to adapt because the conditions of the game will change according to the predictions of a fortune teller. Yes. You’re given an outlook for each session and will have to change your play accordingly – so, for example, high winds mean that there are more merchant ships to plunder, but greater competition for them. Not sure how that correlates, but it’s all in the demo. She’ll also advise on weather and trade routes too.

It’s worth noting that you can also hop off your ship and look around your own private island. Expect there to be plenty of distractions here too.

Why not jump into the best RPGs while you wait for Skull and Bones to drop?

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