- Total Score - 9.5/109.5/10
Ghost of Tsushima treats the era with respect. The solemn approach to an open world is Sucker Punch’s best game yet.
Developer – Sucker Punch
Publisher – Sony
Platforms – PS4
Ghost of Tsushima is the latest game from Sucker Punch. Pitched as an open world tribute to classic Kurosawa and Samurai cinema.
At the center of our story is Jin Sakai. Nephew to Lord Shimura, the leader of the samurai living and protecting the island of Tsushima.
The backdrop of the story is based off of historical events. The Mongol invasions that saw the Khan try his best the Samurai and take over Japan in 1274.
After spending a few years working on the Infamous series, this spiritual realism Ghost goes for doesn’t seem like it would lend itself to insane special effects or flashy visuals.
Instead, the world itself is given a lot of kinetic energy. Everything is in motion at all times. The leaves, grass, flowers and wind. It looks absolutely fantastic an is a nice upgrade in terms of gameplay an visuals over Second Son. It loses the 60fps but what it gains out weights the loss.
The change to the loading for instance, helps improve the flow of travel an combat immensely. Fights and fast travel are smooth an quick, with very small load times.
Walking around a virtual Japan has never felt more immersive. Taking in the sights at night is breathtaking. The sound of the wind, thunderstorms an the all of the lights an life are presented so well you can almost feel the breeze when you are exploring.
All of the characters, especially story-centric ones come to life with great facial capture. Detailed faces an some fantastic action choreography with references to older classics like Kurosawa’s classic films an recent classics like the 13 Samurai round out the visuals.
A lot of excess gets trimmed off the sides in many ways compared to the average open world game. If you are coming off Assassin’s Creed, or Red Dead Redemption 2 the world can feel sparse at times. A lot of open world fluff like races, mini games and odd jobs are notably absent, much to the games benefit.
The stripping down of fluff allows the combat systems to shine. Sucker Punch had a mantra of the blade being sharp, and through out the game death comes quick for you and your enemies.
Ghost of Tsushima is most certainly not a loot game. You won’t go around picking up legendary katanas and flaming throwing stars. Instead, you have one blade, with multiple fighting stances.
The game’s combat is much more about feel and mood, rather than depth and nuance. Each of the four stances is designed to counter a specific weapon style, and the move set is remarkably simple for a modern melee combat game.
This works in the games favor, as it’s focus on samurai gameplay and sword combat benefits from the narrow focus. Instead of juggles or multi hit combos, most fights can be ended with a few swings of the blade.
Rounding out the combat are sub weapons. Bows, kunai, explosive bombs and others like that.
They accentuate the story and gameplay decision to stick with the way of the Samurai, or the way of the Ghost. In 1274, proper Ninja as they’re known don’t yet exist, but the way of the ghost is basically a precursor to what they will become.
Stealth gameplay is the standard fair, with the average AI just functional enough to make sneaking around and picking off targets satisfying.
No matter which style of combat you prefer, neither really get too in depth on a flash or technical level. The simple, but beautiful and intense combat scenarios are fun, but near the end game it starts to wear a bit thin.
Interestingly enough, this didn’t take away too much for me. The narrative, the world around Jin, the combat system an the way he responds to every situation carries a certain weight due to the simplicity.
By far my favorite aspect of the game beyond just taking in the sights, is the level of care given to the world building.
Now every game is full of side quests and a large cast of characters. Rarely are those quests and characters as well told as they are in Ghosts of Tsushima.
The narrative of the Mongol invasion is certainly the main thrust of the plot, but in much of the island it serves as more of a backdrop. A primer for the world you’re about to experience. Stories are divided in three distinct categories. You have the core story missions, and two variety of sidequests.
The game certainly has a set of quests that are mostly about world building and mostly one off in nature.
The next step up are the Tales of Tsushima. These quests are easily my favorite aspect of this game.
When doing these multi step, large over arching quests, you will get to know much more about Jin’s allies, enemies and the world he lives in. The culture of the era, the way of life and more are extolled in some positive and negative ways in these quest lines, and each one leads to very interesting and sometimes dark conclusions.
It almost feels like the game becomes a Samurai Cop procedural show. Jin shows up, and deals with the episode of the week and stay tuned next week for the next episode. It’s a great take on sidequests, and I could honestly go for an entire game built around this short, vignette style of story telling.
I absolutely loved Ghost of Tsushima. So many games based on feudal Japan are over the top in one way or another, and to finally have a grounded, beautiful, mature take on this era is something I’ve wanted for a long time.
Thankfully Sucker Punch delivers, and in the process have crafted what’s easily their best game. Don’t miss out on Ghost of Tsushima.