Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Tango Gameworks
Release Date: 03/22/2022
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I love Japanese horror as it has such exciting mythology and creatures that are great for video games. Ghostwire does a great job making an entire game focused on Japanese folklore and mythology while also mixing it with the modern world of Tokyo. Ghostwire has great visuals and art direction – well as fantastic monster designs – but it falls flat in more ways than I wish it did.
You play as a man named Akito who finds himself awake in the Tokyo streets apparently dead and being possessed by a spirit named KK who is trying to stop a demon named Hannya. And that’s about as far as it gets. Sure, there’s a side plot of Akito wanting to bring his dead sister Mari back to life and Haanya wants her to seemingly become queen of the underworld? I don’t know or care. The story is so underbaked and doesn’t really go anywhere and that’s no thanks to the story only lasting about 6 hours or so. It’s incredibly short compared to the rest of the repetitive and mostly boring filler throughout the game.
Let’s just start out with the combat, because Ghostwire is pretty exciting during the first two chapters of the game and then that quickly fizzles out. You get three elemental attacks that are thrown out with your hands. A speedy green wind gust which is your main weapon, a more powerful fire piercing attack, and a wider range water attack. Think of it as a shotgun. You can charge these up and do more damage, and then there’s a super ability that lets you do extra damage. You can manage your health with food items and you acquire “ammo” by destroying enemies or ghost-like objects scattered all over the place. One of the gimmicks of the combat is destroying the cores with a cool animation of Akito using his hands to pull their soul out with a wire (thus the title of the game!) and the animation looks cool, but it’s fleeting at best. This becomes incredibly repetitive early on as you’re just spamming attacks and using each weapon depending on whether you have a tougher enemy or not.
That leads to enemies. They are super cool-looking. They reflect Japanese mythology and folklore such as the Students of Pain and Misery which are headless school children who were either bullied or had some other issue in real life. These are fast-moving enemies. There are Rain Walkers who look like Slenderman who are salary men or women in real life. They block with umbrellas and are slower moving. These enemies all look cool, but in the end, there are only half a dozen kids with different variants of those. They aren’t all that challenging in the end as you just spam all your weapons until you run out of ammo essentially. Despite all these cool visuals and monster designs there just aren’t that many.
That leads to the open-world filler which many games unnecessarily think they need to do these days. Ghostwire would have been a really great 8-10 single-player linear adventure so more focus could be had on the story and enemies and deeper combat. While Tokyo seems big it all looks the same. The same empty streets with nothing on them outside of groups of enemies you can walk into. There are various tasks here such as cleansing trees, finding Jito statues to max out your ammo, and cleansing Tori gates to clear the deadly fog that opens up more of the world. You can find coins and food spread throughout and can give animals food for money too. There are various collectibles you can find and outfits to deck out Akito, but once you finish the story you never see his body again so I feel this is pointless. Most of your cash will be used to buy more paper dolls to capture spirits, but again, this is another large task that felt like it wasn’t worth doing. There are hundreds of spirits throughout the area and most side quests give you more spirits to capture.
You can cash in spirits at payphones to empty your paper dolls and get some XP. This leads to the most useless ability tree that takes pretty much getting 100% completion to unlock, but once the story is finished there aren’t any tough bosses or anything anymore so why would you continue to unlock more stuff? You could argue it’s for a new game plus, but that’s also pointless as the story isn’t worth revisiting as it’s so shallow and underdeveloped. You’re left with this huge empty boring world with stuff to do that leads to basically nothing outside of 100% completion. Games like God of War make you want to find everything thanks to challenges you can complete that still require further upgrades beyond what the story can give you and Ghostwire just completely fails here.
There’s also a vertical element to Ghostwire in which you can grapple up to demons that are flying and jump around rooftops, but platforming in this game is quite annoying. You can glide around a bit, but it requires upgrades to glide longer. But, with all that said, Ghostwire is a shallow game that tries to be bigger than it needs to be. It’s another victim of trying to cram a pointless open world when there’s so much great mythology and art to make a solid single-player experience and it’s just squandered.
I do have to mention that you need to complete at least a couple dozen side quests to upgrade enough to make the game not super difficult. Getting more health, max ammo, and some abilities really help, but things like sneaking and your bow are totally useless outside of specific story scenes. It’s clear that this was meant to be a single-player linear adventure and was crammed and stretched out into an open-world game that no one asked for. It looks cool enough and plays well enough to warrant maybe 15 hours inside this world (I clocked in 12 and I explored quite a bit and nearly unlocked all Tori gates and got nearly half the spirits lying around). Maybe at a discount, this would be fun, but in the end, you aren’t missing out on anything. Tango Gameworks has done better work in the past.