I've been playing this game regularly since launch, and the Skeleton mobs have always been a little lacklustre IMO. They were alright as a little distraction to begin with and the introduction of Gunpowder Skellies helped mix things up.
I still think they can be good in the context of a Skull Fort, grouping them up and sword lunging over them is still fun and landing a perfect shot on a Gunpowder Skelly is still very satisfying.
But I really feel like the rest of the game is rapidly leaving them behind and they could do with something of an overhaul.
This feeling may partly be as a result of generally being more interested in fighting other players, as well as the Skellies on Athena voyages being sword and bullet sponges, but I honestly find Skellies nothing but a chore and a time waster.
Their AI is quite primitive compared to other stuff Rare has got working since launch; when fighting them I feel like I can see their basic AI ticking away behind their cold dead eye sockets, they don't feel "alive" at all.
"Oh yay, more left clicking to do!" I find myself sarcastically saying quite regularly these days; there's no skill to taking them on other than sword lunging the odd one who refuses to do anything but block.
I also find they spawn way too often on islands, ruining what could be a peaceful moment, especially when you hear that telltale "sssssssss" of a Gunpowder Skelly.
When fishing enters the game I really hope their random spawning gets toned down so it's more common to enjoy the tranquil sounds of the sea and kick back with this activity.
Having clocked hours and hours fighting these guys you start to notice their flaws and little AI tricks which tend to infuriate too, for example their ability to move backwards faster than you can move forwards while reloading, their ability to consume the benefits of a banana before you can blink, those pesky shots that don't connect on a distant Gunpowder Skelly that really should have connected, and of course their aim bot precision; you could back-flip over these guys at light speed and they would still do a 360 no-scope and shoot you...
So how to fix them you ask?
Well during a recent session my crew and I discussed this and I think we came up with a few ideas that could breath life into these literal walking husks.
A more basic overhaul would be to simply give them less health; no Skelly should have any more health than a player does, so two shots from the flintlock, two cutlass combos, two sword lunges, any of these would take down a Skelly, I'd like to think of them like battle droids from the Star Wars Prequels, cannon fodder, cutting through them like butter, with that you could increase their spawn numbers on voyages, making it super satisfying to kill a whole group of them.
Having said that, and as I mentioned before their random spawns on islands should be decreased dramatically, to allow for more of those peaceful moments (especially with fishing in mind).
A more complex and interesting idea for an overhaul would be to decrease their spawn numbers on voyages but make them more interesting to fight by having the ability to cut off their limbs, think Dead Space, but family friendly.
You'd aim the cutlass or gun at a specific limb, and a successful sword combo or an on point bullet would take that limb clean off.
Shooting off their head for example would leave their body running after the head to reattach it. Slicing off legs would leave them hopping or dragging themselves after you, and you could disarm their weapon arm by taking it off.
I think perhaps you could only ever cut one arm off else it would leave them without an attack and unable to pick up one arm to reattach the other.
Maybe a perfect point blank blunder shot to the torso would completely blow them apart, leaving all their body parts scurrying back together to reassemble itself; you could achieve the same result you slicing each limb off one by one.
To finally kill them you would have to take the head off and then destroy it by getting another successful cutlass combo or shot on the skull now desperately hopping around to reattach itself to it's body, using it's jaw for momentum like we saw in the Cursed Sails trailer.
Skeleton Captains could be made more interesting too, keep the extra health and/or make their limbs harder to chop off but give them interesting abilities and powers that make them distinctive other than a fancy hat and a name plate.
You could give them the ability to fire curses at the players like ones offered by Cursed Cannon Balls, they could give you other status effects like turning you into Gold, Grass or Shadow, giving you the properties of those skellies for a short time (Gold you cant move fast but also take reduced damage, Grass you take more damage but water heals you, and Shadow you can't connect with anything unless a fellow crew mate lights you up with a lantern).
Or maybe something really cool like they could summon a Skelly Sloop to attack your ship or a localised storm with the frequent lighting strikes we saw in Festival of the Damned.
So in conclusion I don't hate Skellies through and through, but like a lot of this game at launch it was missing a lot of stuff, but I could see the potential, which is why I've stuck with it. I hope Skellies are addressed in one way or the other in a post Anniversary update soon, and I'd love to see some of these ideas implemented to give them some more life and make them more interesting to deal with.
I know Rare said in a fairly recent stream that one of their next big updates will focus on land based enemies, and I hope along with that Skellies get some love and a bit of an overhaul.
At the very least please make their gun shots actual projectiles rather than the aim bot heat seeking "projectiles" they have now.
I'd love to hear any thoughts or other ideas you guys may have on this...