We have to admit something before this review gets going. Ever since Sucker Punch Productions first showcased a teaser for Ghost of Tsushima back in 2017, we’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of this title.
It ticks all our boxes. Set in feudal era Japan, playing as a rogue samurai warrior, and cutting down enemy Mongol warriors on the backdrop of a beautiful environment.
Have we let our own hype get away with us before this review even began? Perhaps, but Ghost of Tsushima lived up to most of our expectations, and also surprised us in a few more ways.
Here’s what the last two weeks of playing this title has revealed, and why it is well worth playing for fans of anything to do with samurai, or those on the lookout for a great all-around open-world RPG.
While we’ve truly enjoyed this game, we don’t want to simply eulogise. There are parts of Ghost of Tsushima that are not wholly unique despite its setting, characters and storyline. This title, like many others of the genre follows much of the tropes.
Our protagonist, Jin Sakai, is out for revenge following the opening few scenes of the game. Here it quickly becomes apparent that he and the other samurai on the island of Tsushima woefully underestimated their Mongol invaders, and their leader Khotun Khan.
It’s a very familiar mechanic we’ve seen in other games, involving a tutorialisation process to introduce players to what’s on offer. It reminds us of each new DLC in Destiny 2 actually, as well as the more recent Far Cry games. In fact, the latter element seems to play inspiration for how missions and progress in the game is achieved, with allies and territory being crucial.
If you’re looking for a fresh spin on RPGs from the structure of the game, then this is not gonna fit the bill.
What will win you over fairly early on is the way in which Ghost of Tsushima is presented. The environments that the teams at Sucker Punch have created look stunning, and every so often you can get distracted by what’s around you while galloping from location to location on your horse.
Added to this are also little nuanced elements to showcase that some extra thought has been given to the game. Every now and then when Jin rides through a field of long gross, he will lean over slightly to run his hands through it.
There are also other gameplay elements like using the DualShock 4 controller touchpad to unsheathe your katana or perform bows to NPCs. The same touchpad is used for a navigation mechanic, but we’ll touch on that a bit later.
As far as visual presentations go, we’d argue that Ghost of Tsushima is as good as God of War, another PS4-exclusive. The cut scenes are also solid, but perhaps not as dramatic, or well voice acted though. That said, the visuals are definitely among the better we’ve seen in a PS4 game to date.
The contrasting environments you travel through in-game are impressive, as is the attention to detail for the buildings scattered throughout the island.
One aspect we also found quite interesting is the black and white cinema style to the game you can toggle between when wanted. It’s akin to the atmospheric samurai films of old, and certainly a nod to that genre by Sucker Punch. They also help to add some gravitas when you’re standing off against enemies or doing one-on-one duels with a boss.
Way of the warrior
Shifting to the gameplay, and fighting in particular, Sucker Punch has divided into two categories – samurai and ghost.
The former focuses on different types of stances, which are unlocked by killing a certain number of enemy leaders, along with deflecting and attack techniques, which are also points based and linked to how much your character’s legend grows.
The ghost elements are focused on stealth tactics and using innovative weapons in order to fight the Mongols. These are also earned via in-game points, as well as growing your legend through heroic acts, taking on missions and beating down as many Mongols as possible.
As for the fighting system itself, it appears to evolve the stronger your character gets. We’re not simply talking about unlocking skills, but the more you do and earn, the higher the chance of increasing the size of your health bar. This element really impacts how you go into confrontations.
Early on you’re quite defensive, blocking and dodging most of the time while you wait for openings. Three strikes from a strong enemy and you’re pretty much done for. Once you earn a larger health bar though, you slowly find your fighting style to be more aggressive.
Where we would have shied away from fighting a group of three of four targets, or an enemy camp leader, later on in the game we were quite happy to stroll into an enemy camp, hacking and slashing our way to completing a mission.
As such, the more we played Ghost of Tsushima, the more we liked it. We also liked the fact that even deep into the game, new elements of the fighting or weapons were revealed.
The more confident you get, however, the less likely you are to use the stealth mechanic, which is a part of the ghost aspect of gameplay. As such the better you get, the less dependant you are on those skills in-game, unless a mission’s objectives call for it, which is the case when hostages are involved.
Sticking with the stealth mechanic, like many other games that try to work this in, it proves a little miss and miss with Ghost of Tsushima. The usual predictable enemy pathways are present here, and it eventually becomes a case of trying to figure out patterns, rather than truly being stealthy.
It’s a solid effort in this title, but by no means feels innovative or game changing.
A few glitches
Like we said, although we enjoyed every hour of playing this game, it is by no means without fault.
We noticed a few glitches, which may simply be a symptom of the game prior to an official launch, but things we did take note of included the odd mechanics when following an ally or NPC. In particular their stride while walking to a new location and requiring us to follow was erratic at times.
Another oddity is where NPCs, which every now and then appeared on-screen where they logically should not have, or got caught in some sort of loop.
Ladders also appear to difficult for our hero, Jin, to master, and often require three attempts in order to get him to climb up or down one.
These are not deal breaking elements, with even superb AAA RPG titles like Red Dead Redemption 2 suffering from the same things.
Regardless it is something that we noticed, and had to mention.
Ghost of Tsushima was everything we were hoping for in samurai-focused RPG title. It looks superb, the fighting gameplay is satisfying, and every now and then Sucker Punch threw in something interesting, like being able to craft haiku poems.
The main campaign is long enough to keep things interesting, and thereafter there are plenty of side missions to keep you occupied.
You’ll likely get between 30 to 50 hours of gameplay out of this title, depending on how good you are, and the biggest compliment we can pay this game is the deeper we got into it, the more we wanted to explore and play.
FULL DISCLOSURE: A REVIEW CODE FOR GHOST OF TSUSHIMA WAS PROVIDED TO US BY GAMEFINITY ON BEHLAF OF PLAYSTATION.