Developer: Sucker Punch
Release Date: 07/17/2020
Available Exclusively On
Another open-world game. Yawn. A Sucker Punch open-world game. Okay, I’ll at least listen. An open-world game set in Feudal Japan against the Mongols. Okay, I’ll pay attention now. An open-world game that fixes so many quality of life issues that other games have not changed like Far Cry, Assassin’s Creed, Watch Dogs, Crackdown, Saint’s Row, and even GTA? Okay, fine, I’ll try it out.
This was my attitude going into Ghost of Tsushima. As the game opened up and introduced all the mechanics to me I quickly got sucked in and was comparing the game to every recent open-world game released in the last decade, and how can you not? There are so many things you just expect from this type of game and when it doesn’t happen, or it’s done better, you actually notice. Let’s start with the combat. The game is easy to learn but hard to master and requires skill and timing. Button mashing or parry spamming won’t work here. There are light and heavy attacks, dodge, parry, and block. Yes, three different ways to keep yourself from getting hit and that’s where most of the challenge comes in. You also get four fighting styles that must be changed on the fly based on enemy types and there’s also archery?!
Archery is a blast and also requires skill as you have to account for arrow drops over distance. Light arrows can be knocked faster but don’t do as much damage and heavy arrows take longer but you get less of them. You also get fire arrows and explosive arrows. These are key to the fight system and especially stealth combat. The game starts out hard and gets easier as you acquire new abilities and upgrade your weapons and armor via looting for materials throughout the game.
There’s so much to this game yet it makes so much sense and doesn’t feel like fatty filler content. This includes combat. While you can wale on enemies and beat them up, there is also stealth in the game. Combat is incredibly fun, fluid, and intuitive and the controller just melts in your hands. It feels natural like it should and not shoehorned in. Jin’s animations are amazing and life-like and the game is satisfying to play. Each hit felt good and then when you unleash a special move to swoop in and slice an arm of it feels good from the first time to the 500th. That’s how you make good combat. Jin also has resolve which he can use to heal himself or use for special moves. It’s a balancing act and you don’t get everything handed to you which actually makes this game challenging. Resolve is a precious resource and it doesn’t just auto-generate after the battle. You must kill enemies to regen or go to one of the various onsen baths. Combat is incredibly balanced, and stealth is just as satisfying.
Jin can sneak around using a sense to let him see through walls, but this isn’t really cheating as stealth combat is all about lining up the perfect shots. As you level up and acquire skills you can stealth assassinate up to three enemies, shoot them with a light or heavy bow, use chimes to distract guards, smoke bombs, firecrackers, etc. There’s a lot at your disposal and both frontal and stealth combat were not cut short for one or the other. The game favors frontal combat by allowing you to “challenge” enemies when you approach a camp or group. This goes into stand-off mode where you must release triangle before an enemy strikes allowing you to gain some resolve. The other option is to sneak around and kill everyone without being seen. There’s no penalty really for either one which is so nice.
Another combat element is one-on-one boss fights and these are hard duels. These require you to choose the correct stance. There are four stances for spears, swords, shields, and heavies. You can’t use any extra firepower here. This is down to pure skills and you need to either decide to block, parry, or dodge and you get a split second to choose. Red flashes are dodged, and blue can be parried or blocked, but you must learn to time all of these to wind these duels. This is where your skills of fighting hundreds of Mongols will come into play. Switching stances on the fly and learning how to parry and dodge and block are key to winning any battle.
When you explore the game on foot or Jin’s horse you are mostly on flat land and this helps drive the game away from so much climbing seen in open-world games. You can climb certain cliffs and towers, but that’s it and it’s refreshing. When you explore the majority of it is spent finding things like Hiku poems for attire, bamboo strikes which is a button-pressing mini-game, onsen baths for health, and duals for resolve. There are side missions along with your main ones. I found it was a blast to explore as I spent most of the game doing that. I enjoyed exploring Tsushima and finding all the cool attire I could wear. Hats, headbands, sheaths, and some armor is unlocked in side quests. I also found crickets for new songs that you can play on a flute to change the weather, Mongol artifacts for reading, banners to unlock horse armor, and so much more. This game is packed with content, but it never felt overwhelming. It was so addictive to constantly run around finding a new area and this is thanks to the wind gameplay mechanic. Swiping up on the touchpad makes the wind blow in the direction of side quests or pins on the map. You can also use the wind guide to bring you to every single side item in the game which is fun.
The game also has a great story that shouldn’t be dismissed. The Japanese voice acting is incredible (turn off the horrible English dubs) and there’s tons of emotion and character in this game. Jin is a wonderful protagonist who is trying to win the love of his Uncle (also a Samurai) while battling between doing the right thing for the country or keeping his honor. The characters are great and Jin makes many friends along the way I got attached to. While the entire story is only through cut scenes in main and side missions, there’s still quite a bit and there’s plenty to love in this regard.
The visuals are also quite striking. There’s a gorgeous art style here that blends nicely with a realistic look. Plenty of grays and browns contrasted on bright vivid fields of flowers and gorgeous vistas. This is about as good as it gets on PS4 Pro with a nice framerate to boot. I just loved exploring Tsushima and its varied locales and each one was strikingly different. That’s another thing that I compared with this game, the actual world is fun and different to explore and doesn’t all look the same and blend together. Bamboo forests, dead burned down forests, beautiful fields of various flowers, swamps, icy mountains. There’s about every possible terrain you can imagine in this game.
With all that said, Ghost of Tsushima is a brilliant game and a once-in-a-generation type of game. I finished the game to about 97% completion with about 60 hours clocked and I loved every second of it. It was the only game I played for 3 weeks straight.