It’s been a long time since gamers have been expecting some kind of open-world RPG experience set in feudal Japan. Ghost of Tsushima is exactly such an action-adventure game developed by the Sucker Punch Productions and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment. It is currently exclusive to Playstation 4 and features a story following samurai on a journey to protect the island of Tsushima during the first Mongolian invasion of Japan.
From the start of this review, we can definitely state that this is an experience everyone should enjoy. It is a shame that this is a console exclusive barred behind users who are fortunate enough to have a Playstation 4. As of now, this is a very valuable and worthy addition to the library of the console alongside such games as Bloodborne from FromSoftware. Although the game is far from perfect when it comes to stealth. Enemy AI could be better as well as some other minor complaints but the experience itself is not damaged by these issues. We can easily say that this game makes up for every downfall that it has tenfold with its outstanding setup, gameplay, and story.
Ghost of Tsushima is a fictional tale. It is set around 1274 when the first Mongolian invasion of Japan has started. The main character is Jin Sakai, played by The Man in the High Castle’s Daisuke Tsuji. The story takes off with a disastrous battle against the invaders that make a point that older, noble samurai ways may not be enough to fight off hostile forces. The main character development revolves around the inner struggle between Jin’s teachings and the need to save his homeland. While not the most relatable and charismatic character out there his opponent Khotun Khan makes up for the interesting antagonist. This villain is certainly one of the most well-developed characters in the history of gaming as throughout the game it becomes extremely obvious that the cunning nature of Khan puts him always one step ahead of the main character. The main quest is around 40 to 50 hours long and revolves around vengeance for everything Jin lost during this invasion.
One thing that is noticeable from the start is the superb English voice acting that this game has. However, once you switch to the Japanese version it becomes obvious that the game’s animations were made with the English language in mind. Although acting is still superb the characters just do not convey the same emotions and lip movements as the Japanese voice actors. In addition to all of this, the game has a small setting called Kurosawa Mode, which is a homage to Akira Kurosawa, a famous Japanese movie director, that puts a beautiful black-and-white grainy filter on top of the screen. While it is not recommended playing with this setting on as the coloration is important for some locations it is still a fun addition to the game. Speaking of locations, there is this one place called Gambling Den, which is quite hard to get into for a new player. It is a part of Lady Sanjo’s quest and requires the player to swing to the attic of the house. Weirdly enough, due to the popularity of the game, one of the, if not the best online casino real money platforms have picked up on this location and since there’s a multiplayer mode coming to the game now are having fun little promotions where players have to record a video of some kind of creative way to get into this gambling den and once approved they would get an additional bonus to start gambling away on their websites.
The game is extremely strong when it comes to soundtracks. The dynamic way that seamlessly shifts between calming shakuhachi flutes that are heavily utilized during stealth sections and strong taiko drums once the cover is broken and it’s time to shed blood just makes this game so much more enjoyable. Overall, the experience is vastly enhanced by such stuff that makes the whole action going on the screen that much more grand. For people who have not played this game and want to understand exactly what we mean here picture Dark Souls or Bloodborne. Even the most boring bosses are turned into strong emotional moments due to this grand music that is overlaying the whole action. The Living Failures in Bloodborne’s Old Hunter DLC, even though underwhelming easy bosses, the majestic orchestra playing with the second phase of the boss turning up the tune is just a fascinating experience.
Combat experience in Ghost of Tsushima is superb. It is a good mix of action like in the Batman Arkham series, with the addition of parries like in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and picturesque Kurosawa film tributes. It is very enjoyable and fun to jump around the battlefield dodging, parrying, blocking, and attacking almost seemingly at the same time. Once mastered enough, the game just gives the player a feeling that they are really dancing between these flurries of the blades and arrows feeling like an experienced samurai fighter.
On a surface level, the combat is easy to understand: there are light and heavy attacks for chip damage and for breaking through the enemy’s defenses as well as block and dodge buttons. This sounds familiar, right? What sets this apart from other action-oriented games is the addition of different stances. As Jin goes through quests he starts unlocking different types of stances that are useful for various opponents. All of them have different attacks, blocks, and mechanics during the fight. In the end, the player is going to find him or herself switching through these stances at the moment’s notice avoiding attacks and dealing with deadly blows to opponents. The player starts off with a Stone Stance but later they can learn things like Water Stance that gives an edge against shield users as it comes with much slower but heavier attacks. In total there are four different stances and the game encourages the player to swap through them at moment’s notice during the combat. In the end, the game offers a chaotic, fast, tactical fighting that puts the player on the edge of the seat.
The screen is not cluttered by random status effects and various meters. The Heads-Up Display (or HUD) is extremely minimalistic in nature and provides a good field of view on the on-goings of the battle. Apart from this, the camera is closely sticking to the player character that makes it possible to see really well all the exquisite moments during the fight. The game also provides good sound cues so that even if the player is unable to see the opponent they can easily manage to dodge the attack. This also enhances the experience giving you the feeling that you really are a “master swordsman” rather than just looking like one.
The stealth part of the gameplay is a big downfall for this game. As good as the whole combat is the stealth is as basic as it can get. Picture Skyrim, you can hit some enemy with an arrow that will be stuck in their forehead and after hiding for 2 seconds the AI would come out with the notorious “must have been the wind” phrase.
In Ghost of Tsushima, stealth is as basic as it can get. You can sneak around, take out opponents, and once you upgrade your skill the ability to take out multiple enemies at the same time will open. However, what does AI do once they spot you? Nothing to be fair. If you climb on top of a roof they just scream and shoot shurikens at you. The opponent AI just feels like has no clue what to do with these situations. Apart from this, if you hide for a second the AI will look around and just shrug like he just saw an ultra-realistic ghost (of Tsushima) kill his friend. The combat makes up for this but stealth could’ve been done far better.
In conclusion, the game is absolutely fantastic. Visually it looks stunning, the combat is extremely fulfilling, stealth is a bit eh but it’s all good and dandy with the rest of the gameplay. It is full of interesting side-quests and hidden locations. The list goes on and on.
In the end, the game is most definitely recommended by us for everyone who owns Playstation 4.