Review: Ghost of Tsushima

Ghost of Tsushima logo

For Playstation fans that didn’t manage to secure a PS5 by now, it might not be until 2021 that we get another opportunity to pick up a next-gen console. If you’re like me and you’re going to be stuck with the PS4 for a few more months, then consider playing through Ghost of Tsushima. This game was one of the very few blessings of 2020. It’s an open-world adventure game that revolves around extensive stealth and combat gameplay.  It features an incredibly well-told story, gorgeous graphics, a complex combat system, rewarding progression, and so much more. The game goes back to the basics of the genre, while simultaneously pushing it to new heights that the genre has never seen.  The game feels like real passion was put into its development. It’s a must-play for PS4 owners.

Samurai on horseback
The bushido honor code of samurai is explored in depth through the story.

The Ghost

One of the most powerful elements of the game is its story. Set in 13th century Japan, you play as Jin Sakai.  You are a samurai on a mission to drive back the Mongolian invasion of his home island of Tsushima. You must hunt down the villainous Khotan Khan and restore peace to your home. But at what cost? The main story explores Jin’s incredible journey towards becoming the hero of his island. As the world changes around him, so does he. As he meets new people, his perspectives change. The game does an excellent job at motivating you to continue playing because you sympathize with him. You feel the same pressures and motivations that force this character to adapt and change so radically. Jin is one of the most well-written dynamic protagonists that I’ve ever seen in a video game. The game even weaves new skills and weapons into the game as Jin goes through character development. This is exactly how a game nails its story and keeps the audience enthralled. Many of the random side quests can be somewhat dull, but even some of these have an interesting plot to them. Still, the main story is a superb example of how a game can pair a developing character with a progression system.

Jin Sakai with fire behind him
Jin Sakai is a complicated man with a tragic past.

From Katana to Kunai

Ghost of Tsushima has tons of different ways for you to go about killing your enemies. But it all boils down to two approaches, direct combat or stealth. As you progress, you can build your character in such a way that prioritizes one or the other. For example, you can work on spending your materials on a heavy suit of armor and spending your experience points on new sword attacks. This would be a good way to go if you want to charge in and fight your opponents head on. If you want to take more of a stealthy approach, you can invest in a powerful bow and upgrade your stealth weapons. Then, you can try to silently pick off your opponents one by one. It’s really the player’s choice on how they want to handle most of their combat. But boss fights are where the real challenge comes in. Jin will find himself in plenty of duels against skilled enemies. Having finished the entire game on the hardest difficulty, this is where the game can get terribly frustrating. Some bosses are lightning fast and can kill you instantly. To beat them, you need to sustain perfect dodges and parries for an extended period of time. If you’re not looking for a serious challenge, then definitely avoid the hardest difficulty. But nothing feels sweeter than finally taking down a boss after a long fight.

Jin drawing his sword against a Mongol
As you get stronger, so do the Mongols. They’ll come at you with everything from fire and blades to poison and beasts.

The Blade of the Samurai

Most of the combat in the game revolves around Jin’s katana. As you progress through the game, you unlock different stances for holding the sword. Each stance’s attacks are different and each one specializes in fighting against a different type of enemy. Combat focuses on light attacks, heavy attacks, parrying, and dodging. But the game also features bows, blowguns, bombs, kunai knives, smoke grenades, and more. The island of Tsushima is split into three geographic sections and the enemies get tougher as you go further north. Just when you think you’ve mastered the combat and strengthened your character enough, you move onto a new level of difficulty. The game also features interesting side quests where you investigate a legend such as a “cursed” bow or an “immortal” samurai with a huge payoff of a special new item or special new skill. Thanks to the loads of player options and the diverse range of enemies, combat never gets old.

Jin on horseback in front of a shrine
The game features various points of interest in the form of mini-games or puzzles. You can write haiku, visit shrines, bathe in hot springs, and more.

The Beauty of Japan

When you aren’t liberating Japan from the Mongols, the island of Tsushima can be quite beautiful. As you progress through the game, the island’s geography will change as well. There’s a diverse range of environments that the player finds themself in. The games features multiple different forests that have their own type of tree, all of which are visually stunning. Tsushima has flower fields, mountains, and lakes. All of them are breathtaking. Even the swamps, tundras, and burned wastelands look incredible. Clearly, incredible attention to detail was put into making this game look beautiful. There isn’t even a minimap on the screen. You swipe the controller’s touchpad and wind will blow in the direction of your objective. Plus, the game is packed with customization options for your character. Unlike Assassin’s Creed, which much of the gameplay seems to be inspired by, this game is micro-transaction free. Other than one suit of armor available in the deluxe edition, every single item in the game can be acquired through the one-time purchase of the standard edition. It was refreshing to experience a well-crafted game in this genre without a currency system backed by real money. Ghost of Tsushima gives you a wide range of customization options for your character without constantly dangling micro-transactions in front of you.

Jin Sakai looking at the horizon
The war with the Mongols takes a toll on the island… and on Jin.

The Conclusion

Ghost of Tsushima is an open-world adventure game that goes back to the basics while simultaneously adding so much new content. The rich progression system, unlockable customization options, beautiful scenery, and thrilling story motivates you to keep on playing. Sucker Punch hit this game out of the park, ending the PS4’s exclusive list on a high note. Although many of the side quests are rather dull, the core gameplay is so invigorating that I found myself enjoying them just because it was an opportunity to show off the skills that I was picking up through my adventures. I’m truly excited to see what Sucker Punch has planned for the PS5.

Final Score: 9.1/10

#GhostOfTsushima #PS4 #PS5 #SuckerPunch #Sony

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