Ghost of Tsushima is an action-adventure stealth game produced by Sucker Punch Productions, with the core setting of “Idealistic Ancient Japan”.
The game is set in Japan, 1274 A.D. ,based on the historical event “Mongol invasions of Japan, Genkō” where the Mongol Empire and Goryeo invaded Japan. Players will play as Jin Sakai, a samurai from the Tsushima island, to confront the 30 thousand invading Mongolian and Goryeo army.
The eastern conquest of the Mongol Empire has left itself a scorching trail. The ruthless and cunning general Khotun Khan, leading its fleet towards the Japanese lands, and between them the Tsushima island serves as its frontier. Following the first wave of attack, war has spread out across the island. As one of the remnants of the Sakai samurai, Jin has stood up to fight against the opposition with his life on the line, in hopes of retaking their homeland. He had to forsake his ways of a samurai, shifting into a Ghost and fight by fair means or foul for the liberation of Tsushima.
In the game, the players can freely explore Tsushima island and enjoy a scenic world created by a developer team made of samurai movie fans, who took the effort to visit Tsushima Island during development to present to the players the fusion of historical Samurai movies and breathtaking scenery.
Speaking of Samurai, people will think of their dauntless, honorable way of fighting. And in the game, we will experience alongside the main protagonist Jin Sakai, from his upbringing regarding his way of battle which heavily focuses on glory and honour, to when the Mongol Empire invaded his motherland with oppressing numbers, forcing him to eventually forsake his honour, and defeat the Mongolians unscrupulously.
【Gameplay and controls】 At the beginning, the controls are hard to grasp, especially after unlocking more stances and items, almost every button on the controller is fully utilized. Even the navigation and bad-ass sheathing move requires the touch-pad to control. But after investing some time and effort into learning the controls, the controls became easier to execute and getting used to shifting different stances to counter various types of enemies.
The navigation system is one of the well-made designs in the game. After selecting a mission or setting a way-point, by sliding upwards on the touch-pad, the wind will lead the players to their destination. This simple and artistic design had cleaned up the cluttering UI(big mini-maps) that most open-world games had, but at the same time fulfilling its purpose of leading the way for the players. Besides, discovering wild animals during exploration and following them leads to many different unlockables in the game, for example, the fox will lead the players to a fox temple that will unlock multiple equip slots for safety charms after praying for a certain number of times. And the birds also lead the player to hidden locations. The smoke signals from afar signifies that there are places that need Jin’s help far away in the horizon.
Quickmove/ teleportation exists in the game if you’re in a hurry to reach faraway villages or areas, or when you’re just too lazy to walk the path. Horses are also automatically teleport-ed, so there will be less of a redundancy on travelling long distances on foot.
The materials in the game can be categorized according to their purposes as following: Resources: Money Flowers: Costume dye Beast skins:Increase inventory space Wood/Metal:Upgrade armors and weapons
These materials can be obtained by clearing missions. eliminating the Mongol territory or looting on Tsushima Island. Without purposely grinding, My gear wasn’t maxed out when I cleared the game, but was enough to defeat the late game enemies, it feels like grinding will trivialize the late game battles.
The game missions are split into 3 categories, the Main quests, Mythic tales and Side quests. There are also a lot of random generated battles and incidents while travelling through the island. Exploring the Island is also a big part of the game.
<Main Quest——Jin’s Journey> The quests mainly consist of narratives that present the story structure as a whole, from Samurai, to Ghost, the cause and effect of the whole process. Clearing the main quest yields a significant amount of rewards, and at the same time unlocking more Legendary and Side quests.
<Legendary Quest——Mythic Tales> Mythic tales are narrated by different NPCs with bits and bites of myths or lores on Tsushima Island, and is up to the player to debunk the myth. The quest rewards mainly consist of unlocking new moves or obtaining new equipment. It is recommended for players to take their time clearing them, as the new moves and equipment can greatly enhance the gameplay experience, allowing the player to enjoy various combat styles.
<Side Quest——Tales of Tsushima>
Side quests serve mainly as the complement to the backstory of other NPCs, or the minor incidents all across Tsushima Island. Sometimes by just engaging with an old lady cleaning the streets in the city, it reveals more about the happenings around the island. It is recommended to engage in NPC conversation whenever available, as it will contribute into the bigger picture, and also sometimes obtain some equipment enhancement materials. If you’re rushing through the game, it is better to focus on the side quests of the NPC that you’re fond of, as there will be a whole chain of missions tied to a NPC, and it allows you to know that certain NPC better.
【Combat System】 Similar to most action games, the attacks are varied into Heavy Attacks(focuses on breaking enemy defense gauge) and Light Attacks (focuses on dealing damage onto the enemy after defense break). Besides, the Mongolians also use various types of weapons, such as swords, spears, shields, large blunt weapons. By spending technique points, Jin is able to unlock 4 different stances to counter various enemies.
Hit feedback in melee combat is fairly satisfying, the weight of the slashes can be felt, the parrying and sword deflecting sound effects add in to the adrenaline and tension of the combat. The game focuses on either the Samurai style or the Ghost style, players can focus on enhancing gears that are related to the stances that they prefer. I went for the honourable Samurai style to take my enemies head on, and only resort to using a smokescreen when the enemies overwhelm me in numbers.
Stealth is also a major style in the game, but the AI felt too insensitive to be a challenge, I avoided using stealth and only used it when I felt lazy to take on the enemies. The AI are sometimes too focused or absorbed in what they are doing, for example, logging, to a state where they won’t even notice you when you bow or swing your sword right behind them. On the other hand, the Samurai style proves to be more of a challenge and the different types of stances and tools make it so much more interesting to play compared to stealthing. The only sense of reward that comes with stealthing is when you are able to pull off a streak of assassinations, as the finisher animation itself felt awkward and stiff.
Another interesting aspect of the combat is the ability to taunt or challenge the enemy with a loud call, I personally liked this aspect quite a lot. The dueling phase allows you to instantly finish off up to 3 enemies when perfectly parried with a certain skill maxed out, and is able to further increase the amount with the right equipment. On a successful finisher, the camera turns into slow motion,the dual-shock vibrates,and the momentary halt in visuals gives off a strong vibe of samurai movies.
The relatively challenging aspect of combat is the 1v1 duel between the samurais. Because of its focus on realism, you will fall in just a few strokes, thus it requires a high level of concentration to see through the enemies moves and parry it off the right timing into a counter. If certain skills are invested, during the perfect block or dodge, the system rewards the player by slowing down time to allow the unleash of a series of furious blows onto the enemies. And also in 1v1 duels, Jin is not allowed to use Ghost tools, and must face the enemy head on. Besides boss battles, there are also 1v1 duels to troupe leaders during the exploration of Tsushima Island.
There isn’t any penalty on death, so the player can try out various ways to break through the situation. The Resolves system also allows instant health regeneration or combat skills, so it is quite a smooth sail to play through the game in Normal difficulty, except some fails in 1v1 duels.
One of the great aspects of the game is that gearing is not necessary for progression into deeper parts of the game, there isn’t level oppression like how it was in Assassin Creed:Odyssey. You can basically take on any challenge if your controls are good enough. The game provides quite some challenge if you decide to not grind any gears as the late game enemies have higher health and defense, but it’s not a hard cap like most MMO or level based RPG games, which is a part of the game that I enjoy the most.
Every important NPC in the game is the main drive of the story progression. Every personality, plot, and direction look quite interesting in my opinion. If you like the samurai setting, or don't feel bored at history based plot, the game plot is basically satisfying to read through. But because the main structure of the plot is shown in the trailer and the beginning, from Samurai to Ghost, the turning point of the game plot is not that significant, but there are still some blood-boiling scenes and plots in the game, to prevent spoilers, it is better to experience the plot yourselves. The game pacing felt slow at first, but after understanding that the plot is split into three major chapters, I realized that the slow starting is needed as part of the build up for the emotions and atmospheres. Planning before taking missions can prevent some redundant horse riding, and exploring the island itself will reward the player with quite some lore and plot content.
Though it is already announced by the producers that the story has only one ending, the ending still consists of several choices for the players to decide and make a stand for their beliefs.
【Characters and Graphics】
The cut-scenes CG and visuals are undeniably the top notch of PS4 performance, there isn’t any difference between the graphics as shown in the trailers and the actual gameplay. Especially the scenery, while riding and traveling through Tsushima, it made me have the impulse to stop and take pictures in photo mode. The snow, autumn leaves, rainstorm, and daybreak changes its form as time passes. Time proceeds even after the character’s death, and the weather changes are still clearly visible. Also kudos to Sucker Punch Productions for taking real shots of the Japanese scenery on the spot, and have perfectly rendered some of the most realistic sceneries, such as the hot springs, waterfalls, and bamboo forests.
Personally I am kind of disappointed at the character’s facial expressions as it is relatively less refined and felt weaker than other games of the same tier. On very heated scenes, the character’s facial expression couldn’t follow up to its current emotion and it felt kind of off. The Japanese voice over is also off sync with the character’s lips so it felt weird to play the game in Japanese voice over, but that means there is still space for improvement, given more emphasis on this segment, the game can become an even greater game.
Some of the cutscenes, for example cloth changing, the game uses black screen as transition, which kind of kills off the flow of the game. Basically most of the cutscenes that aren’t possibly presented with actions are transitioned with a blackscreen.
The Akira Kurosawa film black and white mode is present in few of the quests, it gave off a completely different vibe, and the production team is trying to reenact the vibe that it had with the movies back in the times, which felt very great and it is available as a photo mode filter as well.
As of other minor NPCs and shops, it is only possible to interact with them in a single angle, but this is seen in many other games as well, but it does kill off the flow of the game, and I personally think that this shouldn’t be existent in the next generation of video games.
The game had both boons and banes,but its shortcomings does not affect the gameplay experience as much. But if you do not enjoy watching long cutscenes or samurai based plotlines, the game probably isn’t as favourable to play for you. On the other hand, if you’re tired of the abundance of western settings and is urging to experience some Japanese culture background game, or is looking for a Japanese style Assassin Creed game, this is the game for you.
The main walkthrough is around 25 to 30 hours,and with all the sub quests cleared, around 50 hours and above. It is because that personally I am quite fond of Japanese culture and scenery, thus I didn’t feel bored during my playthrough. If I’m commenting on the game on a completely neutral ground, the game had great samurai combat and hit feedback, and breathtaking scenery, but everything else was somewhat mediocre.
But if compared to the past experience that I have had with similar games like Assassin Creed Odyssey, this is surprisingly good for that there is only one model rendering bug that I’ve encountered throughout my whole media testing phase, which is solved by restarting the console, everything else was smooth without a strutter. The game is recommended for players that are interested in witnessing the transformation of our honourable Samurai, forsaking everything into the path of the Ghost, and some cool samurai action, and there is also some very badass skills that we didn’t mention in the review, left for you to explore and experience!
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