I readily admit…I didn’t care at all for Ghost of Tsushima when it was first announced. I felt that Sekiro (which was also announced at the same time) looked much more interesting.
Over the last few months though, my opinion began to slowly change as more info and videos about the game came out. I still didn’t think too much of the game mind you…but my opinion of it was slowly getting better.
Now that it’s finally out…what do I think of the game? Is it worth spending the cash for?
Read on and find out!
What is Ghost of Tsushima?
Ghost of Tsushima is a third person, single player open world action game. Developed by Sucker Punch (makers of Infamous) and published by SIE, it’s a Playstation 4 exclusive. On a PS4 Pro, the game has two different modes; one that favors resolution or one that favors framerate. I’m playing on the resolution one.
The game puts you in the shoes of Jin Sakai, leader of the Sakai clan that serves the jito (land steward) of Tsushima Island. Right at the start of the game, Mongols invade the island, as a precursor to an invasion on the Japanese mainland. Jin, along with a ton of other samurai, ride out to meet the invaders.
Without spoiling too much, the samurai were massacred with only Jin surviving. That of course, inevitably leads to a story of revenge, betrayal and sacrifice…even at at the cost of one’s honor.
There’s a pretty decent story underneath all the killing so no worries about the plot. It’s not complex by far, but is pretty intriguing…especially the parts between Jin Sakai and his uncle. Jin (who at first seems rather boring) turns out to be pretty likable by the time you’re done with the game. While I think his motivations for turning into the Ghost could be better fleshed out, there’s really not much issue I have with the story.
Then again, no matter how good the plot is, it’s not the main reason to play the game.
The main reason’s the visuals. One word can describe it perfectly; breathtaking.
Views to die for.
The wide open vistas of Tsushima Island are simply phenomenal.
Riding your horse (you can pick a color and name) as the wind blows and the grass sway is an experience like no other. It’s like watching old samurai flicks (I’m instantly reminded of Akira Kurosawa’s Ran for some reason)…except much more interactive.
Every checklist from those films are fully ticked off in Ghost of Tsushima; bamboo forests, billowing grasses in open fields, cherry blossom petals drifting lazily through the air, ancient Shinto gates, mystical shrines and tranquil graveyards. There’s even snow and marshlands in the game, just to cover all the bases.
The game is the first game where I actively pause the game to take screenshots. Not to use in the review (though you’ll see some of them here) but just because the game is that damn good looking. Every single shot you’ll see in this review’s taken from the game…If you think they look impressive, wait till you see the game in action!
Tsushima Island is a huge open world to explore, with villages, shrines and other landmarks for you to encounter. While you’re riding around, you’ll also encounter dynamic events like Mongols transporting prisoners or on patrols. It’s up to you on whether you engage but you’re always rewarded for taking the time to do these events.
One of those rewards is experience, which levels your reputation up. You get skill points as well, which you can assign to multiple skill trees, which gives you new abilities and moves.
Sadly, once you unlock everything and hit the max level, you stop gaining experience. I’d have preferred something to keep you going, like the Legacy system in Diablo, which gives boosts to your stats even after you’ve hit the level cap.
I actually finished the game (with my level maxed out) with a handful of quests still not done so I didn’t get any XP from them for my trouble…which sucks.
Apart from that, there are also a ton of different quests (both tied to the main story and side missions) that you can take on. There are also a boatload of collectibles to find, which means you’ll have a LOT of exploring to do. Thankfully, the collectibles can be tracked via the in-game GPS (the wind) so you don’t have to blindly run around.
The wind plays a huge part in Ghost of Tsushima. It’s not only for effect, but also functions as an in-game GPS. The usage of wind as a guiding tool is probably one of the best ideas in the game. It’s never hard to see where you’re going but it’s never obtrusive since there’s no ugly marker in-game. Even if the wind isn’t blowing, you can always call upon it with a swipe of the touch pad.
You can also do something really awesome with the touch pad too…but that’s something you’ll need to find out when you play the game. I’ll give a hint: Ocarina of Time players will be familiar with it.
Cinematic, yet interactive.
The samurai cinema inspirations filter down to the game play as well. Combat is exquisitely brutal yet requires finesse. Timing and skill trumps careless offensives any day of the week in the game. Parrying and countering takes precedent over recklessly slashing, so you’ll definitely want to learn the timing to pull them off.
You’ll want to do it too, as parrying an attack and killing an enemy with a counter strike is one of the best experiences you can get in the game. It’s a sweeeeeeeeeeeeeet rush!
You’ll need to constantly be aware of your enemies’ weapons too. Swords, spears, shields and brutes (huge enemies) have different weaknesses, so you’ll have to adapt on the fly (as enemies will swarm you all at once) and switch stances as you fight, giving the combat a strategic twist on top of everything else.
One of the best features in the game is the ability to call out and challenge enemies to a fight. You’ll then face off one on one against in a quick draw contest. Here, timing is everything; you’ll need to release the Triangle button right as the enemy attacks to kill them in a glorious showcase of Battoujutsu.
If you’ve watched Rurouni Kenshin (Samurai X), Zatoichi or any other anime with katana wielders, you’ll know what to expect here. Done right, it’s a glorious sequence of one hit kill sword slashes.
Done wrong and you’re whittled down to just a sliver of your health, starting the fight at a disadvantage. You can heal in-game as long as you have enough resolve (a special meter that fills up as you fight and take damage).
I love the mechanic but I have to admit, it’s damn hard pulling it off in the latter parts of the game due to the speed of the enemies. During the last half of the game, I found myself eschewing this mechanic entirely, choosing to focus on stealth completely and combat when (or if) I’m caught.
Unlike Sekiro, stealth is a completely valid method of getting through the game too. In fact, for better or worse, Ghost of Tsushima is Assassin’s Creed Japan.
The stealth is similar, with a focus on assassination.
The moves are similar; you can roll to shrug off damage from high jumps, you have darts that can make enemies attack each other, gadgets to confuse your enemies (smoke bombs) or outright kill them (sticky bombs), you have a grappling hook for traversal and you can even stealth kill multiple enemies at once when you learn the appropriate skills.
Only the climbing is different…ok not really. The climbing is akin to that in classic Assassin’s Creed games (prior to Origins) where you can only climb certain sections.
All these are complemented by the charm system. Charms give you special benefits when equipped, ranging from health from kills, to getting more in-game items. They’re incredibly useful and finding the perfect ones to complement your fighting style is part of the fun!
Unfortunately, you can’t change your weapons but there’s a crafting and upgrading system in the game that allows you to improve your gear as you progress. I love that the armors you upgrade get more intricate as you upgrade them.
Due to all the similarities, Assassin’s Creed fans will feel right at home in Ghost of Tsushima…not that it’s a bad thing at all. No worries though, there are a ton of unique things present in the game that’s never been done anywhere else and is uniquely Japanese.
How does composing haikus’ sound?
They’re one of my favourite parts of the game in fact. It’s a chance to reflect on the game’s stellar visuals, while also contemplating on themes (each haiku has a different theme) that relate to the game. On top of that, the incredible music that plays during these moment is undoubtedly the best in the game.
In fact, audio is one of the strongest parts of Ghost of Tsushima. The sound of the wind blowing, leaves rustling and even distant thunder…it complements the game perfectly. You’re definitely going to want a good sound system (or at least headphones) when you play the game, because regular TV speakers will not do justice to the audio. Not even close.
Voice acting is also pretty good. Everything’s voiced in English (or Japanese). The English voice acting is decent enough, though the facial animations aren’t that realistic…especially when compared to Netherrealm games like Mortal Kombat 11 or Injustice 2.
Lip syncing’s also an issue, especially if you opt for the Japanese voices. The characters’ lips don’t really match what’s being said, since I think Sucker Punch didn’t redo the animations to match the Japanese language. Understandable since it’s a ton of work…but an issue nonetheless. That’s one of the reason why I have my Jin wear a mouth cover. That way I can’t see his lips when he’s speaking.
The Bottom Line.
Ghost of Tsushima is undoubtedly one of the best games on any platform. It’s certainly one of the best games on the PS4 and stands right up there with games like God of War and The Last of Us Part II.
Minor issues aside, there’s little in the game that isn’t well done. From the visuals to the combat to the story, everything just screams quality.
As a PS4 owner, you need Ghost of Tsushima in your library.
One of the best games on the PS4.
- The visuals.
- The combat.
- Huge open world.
- The music.
- Lip syncing issues.
- Level cap.