It’s fitting Sucker Punch Productions gets to write the conclusion for the PlayStation 4.
I’m lucky enough to be able to reflect back on the start of the PlayStation 4’s life-cycle; And at the start, inFAMOUS Second Son was the PlayStation 4’s darling title. So much so, this continued through to the arrival of the Pro, where Second Son showcased just what the Pro meant for gamers. This was followed by the excellent inFAMOUS First Light, and then…
much like their new title, Ghost Of Tsushima, Sucker Punch vanished.
Of course we knew they were going to be working on something new, but still it was very…ghosty. Anyway, they returned and have now honored us with the aforementioned Ghost Of Tsushima; An open world action-adventure game flinging us back to Feudal Japan, where we land in a fictional retelling of the first Mongol invasion of Japan.
You are Jin Sakai.
Riding into battle with your uncle, Lord Shimura, Tsushima falls under your protection as Samurai. Honor binds you to your creed, and the Mongols aren’t playing the same game; So you can safely assume what happens here. A cinematic throwdown leads you toward an unfair battle, where the hands of Izanami will grab at our hero, as swords clash around dead bodies and just…so many explosions.
Awakening on a beach-side cliff, Jin will soon meet the best character in the game, Yuna, and start to consider a new way to win an unfair war. Stealthily making their way through the adjoining beach-side village, Jin starts to ask the question: What is the value of honor, when the price is your people?
As you slowly begin to construct a new self, you’ll ride out into the plains of Izuhara and into the most dynamic title screen I’ve ever come across. Yes, it took me seeing it, to realise it had never come up in the first place.
Tsushima is your oyster.
Accessing the map for the first time via Options, yes Options, you will say “Oh wow, that’s a decent map”. And it is! Covered by a “fog of war”, you can choose to do whatever you like. The team “believed choices made by the player were important to gameplay”, and honestly I get it. With no direct waypoints, what you’ll see on the map are simply markers for where you can go. Want to continue the main story? Big gold marker. Side quests? Go for those nice silver ones. Question marks? Hey, do your thing and go for a look; It’s your choice.
The question marks hide a plethora of activities, which help Jin grow into his new inner-self. From hot springs, to haiku and more, Shirley Bassey said they have the range as each provides a fun, new interaction which, honestly, I have adored each time. There was no better moment than traversing the map and discovering one of these wonderful things, and taking a moment to reflect.
Oh, and the map is also way larger than you think, lol.
From Izuhara, to Toyotama and further to Kamiagata, where you start is not where you’ll finish. While overwhelming, it quickly becomes less of a burden as the Fast Travel option is pretty much available on every point of interest you’ll find. On the Pro, this load time was remarkably fast, and the weather system would dynamically change with you as you arrive. So the marker which was 1.6KM away, may simply require you to tap your ruby slippers together. Oh, and you have a horse too, just in case.
Sucker Punch’s own inFAMOUS franchise “serves as inspiration for Jin’s traversal techniques” and you really feel it when confronted by a cliff face. Very obvious ledges become your focus, as you bounce around in an animated, but ghosty, way toward the top. This method of movement also comes with its own environmental puzzle, which means yes! There’s even more to do on the map than you thought. They’re also some of the most fun, captivating parts of the game as many times I spent a lot of time simply circling them, trying to figure out which way was forward.
“BUT MY COMBAT”.
Yes, it is a game telling a version of the first Mongol invasion of Japan. Khotun Khan has landed, and demands servitude from Tsushima. Their army swarms the land, and the people slowly yield to them. With Jin taking up arms, it must come with the weapons to do so. Still honoring the way of the Samurai, carrying both katana and tanto, you will also take up new ways to terrify your enemies. These are bound as L2; Which bring up your ranged weapons; And R2, which are your ghost weapons. Yes, ghost does become a thing. Ranged weapons load as down-sight mechanics, while ghost weapons are quickly offloaded in battle with R1.
Your katana certainly isn’t lacking though. With L1 bound as block and parry, it also comes with stances attached to your friend, the R2 button. Don’t worry, time slows down as you choose which stance to use, and these can make or break encounters you have. Having consulted historical sword-fighting expert, David Ishimaru, to help create a historically-based foundation for the game, it certainly has a crunch to it. And as you expand your skills and techniques locked behind tales and levels, those tricky first fights will look boring in comparison to later Duels you have. Yes, you’ll have Duels AND group battles! I definitely felt like Gonpachiro Kamaboko a lot while playing this game, especially once more THINGS became available. There’s also the excellent Stand-Off mechanic which I won’t dive into, as I think it’s something special you should experience for yourself.
Resources found and picked up with, yes you guessed it, R2, are your means to improve armor and weapons found throughout the game. These not only change how Jin looks, but also come with their own buffs which can change the tides of war. You may also randomly earn or find more cosmetics across Tsushima; Sometimes lead to them by a gentle songbird, or gifted to you after certain tales in the game.
Are you a ghost though?
Stealth sections will show up; It was inevitable really. Not as painful as other games, it has also been one where I’ve found I could be more…sly. Maybe this is thanks to the team’s work on Sly Cooper, but there were definitely situations I’d never experienced elsewhere. Patience is your friend the majority of the time, but as the Ghost, death will assuredly follow.
You could say The Last Of Us Part II signed off linear games on the PlayStation 4.
With this in mind, Ghost Of Tsushima follows suit for open world games. Beautifully animated, it is a ridiculously gorgeous world to wander. The kamikaze aspect of the game, or Divine Wind, provides a world that feels as though it is always moving. This also provides you with a way to navigate yourself through the island of Tsushima, with a swipe up on the touchpad summoning the kamikaze to show you the way. Leaves fill the air, and eventually fall to the ground, where they will coat the lands under Jin’s feet. These also become excellently used in the duel mechanic, further enhancing the team’s clear inspiration from Akira Kurosawa.
The under-utilised touchpad also has a few other features on it. Should you want to unsheathe or sheathe your katana, simply swipe right. This also comes with a few unique animations depending on the state of your weapon. Swiping down allows you to bow to the many NPC’s in villages, but also to your foes in death should you think honor is applicable to them. It also helps to try it at certain locations in the game. And finally, swiping left allows Jin to play his shakuhachi. This comes with a lovely little mechanic which I hope you find in-game.
A soaring soundtrack scored by Ilan Eshkeri and Shigeru Umebayashi, the audio further fills out the title. Having played the game in Japanese dialogue, there is so much on display to showcase Sucker Punch’s admiration of the country. Thankfully avoiding toying with actual historical figures, their tale is one with choice but inescapable ending. And these choices can end up resulting in slightly different experiences between players.
Ghost Of Tsushima is open world action-adventure at its finest.
With a tonne of activities to do, different ways to fight and defend, and a pretty massive run-time for the main story alone, it is Sucker Punch absolutely gunning for it. As I think about the game more and more, I become excited to go back and continue to experience the world. Freed from the shackles of finishing the overall plot, I can’t wait to dart around and fulfill the task of truly freeing Tsushima from its fictional bondage.
And to WANT to go back to a game, and take it to its true ending, is what the best experiences are made up of.
Gloriously beautiful, and showered with a tonne of love from the team, Ghost Of Tsushima is a stunning run through an age many may not know of.
Fun mechanics, tonnes of activities and a walk-in wardrobe of cosmetics means the player isn't left wanting of things to do.
While some clipping, funky movement and repetitive gameplay can start to stifle, the sheer fun and beauty of the world is captivating to explore.
An amazing cast deliver a stirring performance, where choices have both meaning and none; Ghost Of Tsushima is a fitting way for Sucker Punch to say sayonara to the PlayStation 4.
XENOJAY.COM was supplied with a media copy of the game for review by Sony, and it was played on the Playstation 4 Pro console.