Ghost of Tsushima is Sucker Punch’s brand new IP that puts players in the shoes, or rather sandals, of Jin Sakai of the Sakai Clan. Jin is one of the greatest Samurai warriors that Tsushima has ever had. He strikes with speed and precision, leaving many dead soldiers in his wake. He joins his uncle, Lord Shimura the leader of the Samurais in this land, in the war against the invading Mongol army on Komoda beach… and loses… almost dying in the process. Now players are tasked with rebuilding Jin to his former glory and learning new skills to prepare him to face off against Khotun Khan, cousin of Kublai Khan who is the grandson of Genghis Khan. Early on it becomes clear that a Samurai’s path is never easy. Jin will have to make certain heavy moral decisions regarding his conduct in battle. Things that are unbecoming of a traditional Samurai become Jin’s weapons, killing enemies from the shadows, becoming known as, well a Ghost. He does whatever it takes to win back the land of Tsushima, and destroy every Mongol that has invaded. The strong points of this narrative is the relationships that Jin has with other people in the game. He develops strong friendships with many people from many backgrounds, and these relationships are tested by this seemingly never ending war. Players will meet old friends from Jin’s past and help them with various issues that they may face. One quest, even requiring Jin to track down an old pupil of his former teacher. Each main and side quest has been well thought out and always gives players fascinating and unique stories either through individual quests or a succession of quests.
Whilst using the very familiar combat formula of light and heavy attacks, as well as dodge, block, parry and counter attack, the developers absolutely nailed the feel and flow of each swordfight, and they did so without even using a lock on mechanic! Being able to land a nice combo to stagger an enemy in front and then immediately parry (or dodge) an incoming strike from elsewhere, feels absolutely brilliant. Sucker Punch also ensured that a quick succession of attacks from various enemies could occur at any time, meaning that the player really needs to be focused in combat, and this just heightened the intensity. There is no noticeable enemy “queuing”, which is when some enemies waiting behind a few main attackers that are engaged in combat with the player and then entering combat with the player once one of their fellow soldiers have died. This is a much more interesting approach to group combat as it means that the player does not get a sense of reprieve once starting a battle with a large group of opponents. The key to winning battles is patience, learning enemy attack patterns and then striking at the opportune time. Different types of enemies have their own attack patterns, which they can often mix up to attempt to put the player on the back foot. Jin is equipped with an array of weapons including his trusty Katana, short bow, Kunai (Which are throwing knives) as well as various throw able bombs. The kunai and bombs can really save the player when they are in a bind in battle, and I found myself resorting to using these tools to prevent myself for falling to the Mongol sword, as well as to escape the area if necessary.
The land of Tsushima is tremendous. Players can scale large mountainous areas, which often make good vantage points against the opposition soldiers, as well as explore lively forests filled with beasts, both tame and vicious. One of the most eye-catching features of the environment is all the different types of flowers. Some areas feature what seem to be a sea of red or blue flowers and riding across these open planes is an absolute delight to the eye. There are many villages and camps to discover, often containing side quests in them as well as various merchants. There are also many Mongol controlled areas, which can be liberated by putting every adversary in that area to the sword. This open world does not include any form of radar or HUD map. A map can be accessed on the pause menu to mark out an area to which to travel, then the wind is used to guide you to the destination of your choice. Swiping up on the touch pad is the way to activate the wind, and it comes in a large visible gust in the direction which is marked on the map. This took me a few moments to get used to, but is now such a welcomed mechanic as this means that there is not a large compass or map taking up a portion of the screen.
The character models in this title looks absolutely phenomenal, however it is noticeable that the most effort was put into the characters’ faces and expressions, whereas, the rest of the body seem to be a lot simpler in design. On a fascinating note, most of the cast of main characters in this title actually had their likenesses used for the characters that they voiced. This has definitely been a benefit to the game, as the characters facial expressions are often very realistic looking, with emotions being conveyed well in visual presentation alone, along with a few occasional goofy expression mixed in. Some of the armour that players can find in this game looks absolutely outstanding. The different types of Samurai armour in particular all look very unique, featuring their own clan symbols and helmet styles. As armour gets upgraded, the design of it changes, but if you are not happy with the new design, that’s okay, because the older designs can always be toggled from the menu without losing the stat boosts that the upgraded armour provides. It is also worth mentioning that there are also different shades for each set of armour, meaning that you can indeed battle in gold plated Samurai armour! The detail that has gone into the production of the world is also incredible. Seeing blades of grass wave in the wind is in itself a spectacle. Each blade of grass seems to act independently of every other as they sway back and forth. This attention to detail can be seen in various other areas of the world as well, one example of this is wood boards that are laid across various buildings. Upon close inspection, it is possible to even see the wood grain! All of these features together create a very immersive experience for the player.
And talking about immersion, that soundtrack is awesome. Written by the brilliant composers Shigeru Umebayashi and Ilan Eskeri, this muisic is an absolutely beautiful blend of Neoclassical and Japanese folk music. Featuring a classical orchestra, mostly strings, as well as a few traditional Japanese instruments including the Shakuhachi, Biwa and Koto, makes this soundtrack often feel relaxing, but can also put the player on edge so quickly when enemies approach. This soundtrack is also unobtrusive, often times I did not even realise what was playing in the background, and this is not a bad thing, because it means it is not detracting from what is happening on screen and it still managed to evoke various emotions, despite being very subtle.
Ghost of Tsushima has a fantastic story that is likely to keep you interested and amazed, and it throws a few twists and turns in for good measure. If you like satisfying sword combat or are interested in Samurai culture, then this is the game for you, and if you are not looking for those things, I would still recommend that you give this game a go, you will thank me for it.
Reviewed by Samuel Incze
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