The PS4 is entering the twilight years of its time, and Ghost of Tsushima was positioned to be the finale of the long list of very high-caliber and incredibly designed PlayStation exclusives; although it certainly holds up, it barely shakes the boat. Created by Sucker Punch Productions, Ghost of Tsushima is a Samurai-influenced version of the Mongol invasion of Japan; it incorporates a very familiar open-world structure that plays well with its fluid action and usable stealth mechanics. Although Ghost of Tsushima reaches Sony’s exclusive level of polish and craftsmanship, it lacks the polish and innovation to really compare it to its peers.
Become the spirit
Ghost Of Tsushima follows the journey of Jin Sakai, a high-ranking and protected nobleman who serves as a samurai on the island of Tsushima during the first Mongol invasion of Japan. Jin finds himself doubting his honor, education, and beliefs as he begins to adapt devious tactics to the military might of the Mongol Empire. In doing so, Jin becomes the Ghost, an almost mythical figure from the island of Tsushima who scares all witnesses, friends and enemies. Ghost tactics include assassinations, the use of devious tools and other devious and indirect actions.
Before the launch of the game, I was honestly a little lukewarm about the premise of the honorable warrior’s story, but I’m pleasantly surprised that the plot has evolved from this initial premise to make a much more engaging story. What bothered me most about the honor premise wasn’t the historical and cultural inaccuracy, but it’s a predictable arc. However, Ghost of Tsushima, established in the first act, shows that he can really push this conflict further. Challenging the teachings of Honor has always remained at the heart of history, but also shows the grayness of the definition of Honor, especially when Honor is imposed exclusively by those who occupy privileged and prosperous positions. Honor is reinforced throughout the story because it is not a simple “good and rigid vs. bad but necessary” structure, but rather the honor that the samurai class in Ghost of Tsushima preaches is a superficial farce that is actively contested by almost all the named characters in this story of about 30 hours.
The beautiful and beautiful island of Tsushima
The atmosphere of this game is certainly one of the most incredible achievements of this wonderful open world. When the music swells and the wind blows, I often caught myself by what was on my screen. What I really enjoyed the most was how Sucker Punch also realized how important it was for you to absorb and find those moments and that you designed the game around that experience. The user interface is incredibly smooth while maintaining the right amount of information necessary to interact with the player in an open world. Waypoints and markers have been significantly reduced and replaced by diegetic and immersive directions. The smoke on the horizon, the wind direction or even the creatures are all your guides on this island and is probably one of the brightest solutions I have ever experienced to the classic problem of “looking too much at the waypoint” in open world games. Tsushima’s design is highlighted in the way they decided to let you interact with it, the beautiful lush fields and compound mountains can really be enjoyed without interruption.
Ghost of Tsushima is undoubtedly an engineering marvel; its dense foliage reacts dynamically to the bright wind, and the lighting bouncing between the leaves in incredibly dense forests gives the island of Tsushima a feeling that it breathes. The lack of variety in the creatures and creatures of the world is easy to do with the amount of world that feels handmade. Almost every part of the island feels as if it has been sculpted to create unique and artistic landscapes that reflect the cultural and filmy roots of this island.
The diegetic navigation system was really the most innovative addition to the open world genre, that being said, it has its share of flaws. Golden birds that can lead you to points of interest are often very frustrating to see/follow because they would fly over the camera’s field of view and often collide with the geometry of the world, fly into a wall, get stuck. After a short time, the navigation system becomes too predictable, the sense of discovery and curiosity is quickly lost when the guides always lead to the same places, and the rewards are rarely exciting, However, I really enjoyed the progression and the accessories found in the game, it hardly held this initial sense of exploration for long because the guides prevented me from making real discoveries on my own.
The lighting, although beautiful, had its problems. It seemed almost impossible to get a proper brightness setting between its low-key dramatic contrast and normal contrast modes and the darkness seemed too dark and the lights seemed too bright for most of the game. For a game that focuses on appreciating the natural beauty of Tsushima, it forces you to spend an unfortunate amount of time in the menus.
Apart from the visuals, however, there really isn’t much to interact with on Tsushima Island, the type of activities being a shortlist of action experience, cutscenes and small interactions such as cutting bamboo or drawing haikus. world NPCs are practically limited to landscapes, a problem I had with Horizon Zero Dawn; they offer little interaction besides adding bodies to a scene and hearing tiny clumps of dialogue in the air. In the end, Tsushima is a beautiful island with clever tricks and incredible loading times, but which offers little beyond its beauty.
Accurate and deadly
The action of Ghost Of Tsushima is mainly divided between its sword gameplay and its ghost gameplay. Sword action is perhaps the highlight of the game for me, it is very fluid and very responsive; a single mistake can end up costing you your life, even in the most common experience. However, the gameplay of the sword is at its peak when you are either outnumbered or in the filmy duels that you will experience during your journey. As the game progresses, as Jin acquires more skills and becomes stronger, some enemies become somewhat insignificant, but are outnumbered and still feel like a real threat. Counters feel well won, parries are fluid and dodging is much less of a safe option because enemies can actually strike you in groups; every action seems to have to be well calculated and precise, and the flow of the action never really feels interrupted. My first part was on hard, and it took me close to the end of Act 1 before the action really clicked. Before that, it was clear how deadly the enemy really is, and this remains true until the end of the game. Sword moves have to be precise and plans have to be made, but it never felt unfair, really one of the best hand-to-hand action experiences in a while. However, this only applies if you do not have the arsenal of ghost weapons. Ghost weapons like kunai, sticky bomb and smoke bombs only win action for you. They are satisfying and make thematic sense because these weapons are supposed to be your advantage against the Mongols, but they don’t require the same precision or decision-making as sword action, which makes them anti-climate and rude. There are some really good strategic moments to use these weapons that feel really good, like gathering most of the enemy forces for the perfect sticky bomb or using the smoke bomb to escape smartly, but opportunity rarely calls for opportunity.
Ghost’s gameplay, for the most part, is fully functional and satisfying; it feels satisfying and everything seems right about the AI. If it works, then there’s really nothing special about it, but it doesn’t always work. The AI seems ill-prepared to deal with any situation that does not immediately hide or action. They don’t really know how to action you when you’re standing on a small platform, or on a ladder, and you can break their line of sight by walking through a door, and you can finish them repeatedly when they come in, one by one. Personally, I didn’t see this happen much during my game, but it definitely ruined the moment when it happened.