It’s safe to say that after seven years, the PlayStation first party teams have become household names. The almost mythical production values of games such as Guerilla’s Horizon: Zero Dawn, Santa Monica’s God of War, Insomniac’s Spider-Man, or Naughty Dog’s Last of Us 2 are more or less the absolute pinnacle of fidelity, narrative based, single player experiences. Each launch is a massive undertaking of unfettered hype, million plus metrics on social media, and record breaking sales. All good things must come to an end though, and as we enter into a new paradigm of PlayStation 5 and the hype of next generation, PlayStation studios have one more trick up their sleeves.
Sucker Punch Productions, a PlayStation First Party team based in Seattle, Washington, have been quietly working on a new IP. The studio known for putting a mark on the industry with Sly Cooper and the beloved InFamous franchise- are about to step out of their comfort zone and do something quite special: release the swan song of the PlayStation 4 – Ghost of Tsushima.
So without further ado, Remote Play is absolutely honored to present our review for Ghost of Tsushima.
Ghost of Tsushima is a semi-historical depiction of the Mongol Invasion of Japan. Set during the late 1200s, the story follows Jin Sakai, a student of the Samurai code. Taught by his uncle (Lord Shimura), Jin is taken under his wing after this father’s passing. Jin is taught to fight in the way of the Samurai – with honor, dignity, and respect. This reserved and respectful code of battle, however, comes to a bluster when the Invasion begins.
Khotun Khan (the Mongol leader) invades the island of Tsushima. He tames the villagers, pillage the Island’s resources, and establishes a stronghold on Tsushima Island. This sets up a conflict at Komoda Beach, where 80 Samurai are sent to fight (one of whom is Jin). The result is unfortunate, tragic, and a powerful piece of game cinema. Jin and his troops are left battered, beaten, and left for dead.
Moments later, Lord Shimura is captured and Khotun Khan takes over Lord Shimura’s castle. This creates an existential crisis for Jin: how does he fight an army with no ethics of battle? Thus is born – the Ghost.
From this point forward, I feel it’s best to stop talking more about the narrative. Ghost’s is a heartwarming story of reassessing one’s code while also finding the ambition and hope to keep pushing forward. In other words: No spoilers.
Ghost of Tsushima’s open world game design opens up after the first few hours. Jin will be tasked to go from way point to point using the wind, following foxes, and finding points of interest on the map. While none of this sounds innovative or anything you haven’t done before, what set’s Ghost part is one word: Polish.
Every nook, cranny, and crevice in Ghost of Tsushima is polished to an absolute shine. Side quests are much more than two dimensional fetch quests where XP goes up. They are long, sometimes incredibly rewarding, treks that can take you down a narrative rabbit hole with a much richer experience in the end.
The polish is further extended to the refinement in mechanics. Sword Play is deliberate, stance based, and rewarding. It takes heavy inspiration from Assasin’s Creed (particularly Origins / Oddysey) and the Arkham games. Counter-attacks and attacks are all based around the enemy you are fighting and timing to get the final blow. Fights don’t last longer than just a few slashes, so no, you aren’t going to be spending 30 minutes wearing a giant enemy crab’s health down.
Another aspect is the timing of parries. Parrying engages a slow motion mode giving a nod to Remedy’s Max Payne (and will make you feel like an absolute bad ass). The stance and moves you unlock come in handy. You can approach any battle in the style that suits you. You can go in slicing and dicing, or you can approach your enemies with stealth.
Another layer is stances. Certain stances are required to fight certain enemy types. Each has their own rhythm, positives and negatives, and skill tree. In other words, don’t get too comfortable with one particular style of play; the game will reward you for being flexible in your approach.
Mini-games are littered across the islamd. Bamboo Challenges has you sliing six bamboo sticks with rhythm based button prompts. This is something you could easily find in a Yakuza game. By the way, earlier I talked about how side quests in this game aren’t just two dimensional fetch quests. This is where it would be a great time to talk about my favorite part of the game: Tales of Tsushima.
Tales of Tsushima are narrative based side missions that effectively give depth to your AI companions. The stories might start off as something tiny or cursory, but they end up becoming heart felt, touching, and almost Witcher esque in terms of complexity. In other words, they could be just as engaging and rewarding as the main quest. The Mystic tales are separate missions that are linked to legendary warriors. These missions are beneficial as you’ll be rewarded with weapons, armour and special move sets.
Finally, you can also approach a battle in a traditional standoff. In this mode you are required to pay close attention to your foe and time your button prompts accordingly.
Ghost Of Tsushima has the best fast travel system I’ve seen in an open world game. Once you’ve discovered a location and explored the map, it’s easy to fast travel from the map menu. Load times while fast travelling is the fastest I’ve seen on a game this size. I was shocked on how fast the game loads. At times, it would only take up to 3 second to load the location you’re travelling to.
Ghost of Tsushima’s visuals are at their most powerful when you take a moment to slow down. The wildlife, the vegetation, and the ambiance absolutely amplify and transifx you into a world of lush hues and saturated back drops. Ghost of Tsushima is a Kurosawa film in playable pixels. There is less an emphasis on things like ultra high resolution textures or class defining animations, but instead Ghost manages to draw you in with its art. Vistas are far and broad. Colours are used in masterful ways. Flora is inspiring. It is without a doubt: beautiful. I have to confess, through my 40 plus hours of gameplay, 10 of those might have been in photo mode.
If there’s one thing I absolutely adore about Ghost of Tsushima: the game isn’t afraid to wear it’s heart on it’s sleeve. It’s unabashed the love, the detail, and the painstaking attention to the world goes into every square foot of the game space. Sucker Punch went above and beyond to make a virtual realization of Tsushima Island; and as someone who one day dreams of visiting Japan, this doubles down on my enthusiasm. Ghost of Tsushima is a Zen like experience of familiar tropes, gameplay loops, and an amalgamation of the best of modern day open world hits.
A copy of the game was obtained independently to review.
Developer: Sucker Punch Productions / Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release date: 17/07/2020
Platforms: PlayStaion 4
Version Reviewed: PS4 Pro
“Ghost of Tsushima is a Zen like experience of familiar tropes, gameplay loops, and an amalgamation of the best of modern day open world hits”