Ghost of Tsushima is the latest PS4 exclusive by Sony revolving around Mongolian invasion of Japan in the 12th century.
Fast fluid combat
Excellent traversal systems
Tons of great exploration
Story could be better
A few bugs
Score – 9/10
Considering Japan’s enormous influence on the video games industry an outside observer would assume that games based in medieval Japan were commonplace, especially given how well suited it is to a video game setting. But while references to samurai, and the mythology surrounding them, does turn up in many games there are close to zero that offer any kind of non-fantastical take on the era. And oddly the first big budget attempt is by a Western developer.
Although Sony are, obviously, Japanese, Ghost Of Tsushima is the work of Sly Racoon and Infamous developer Sucker Punch, who are based in Washington. Their fascination with the setting, and especially Japanese-made samurai movies, is very clear but it’s interesting how obvious it is that a Western studio is behind the game. Not because of any gross lack of authenticity but simply because the gameplay is so very similar to other established, Western-made, open world games.
Ghost Of Tsushima doesn’t stink, as it happens. Sucker Punch’s new, wide-ranging love letter to samurai movies is a perfectly enjoyable riff on the Far Cry/Grand Theft Auto/“map game” genre, with an enjoyable story and some pleasantly chunky combat. And yet it still sometimes feels like there’s a trick being pulled here, a subconscious seduction that operates entirely in those moments when the game’s world designers suddenly flex, and the player’s jaw drops at the sight of another lush meadow of crimson flowers, lit with a perfect approximation of just-before-a-rain-shower sun. Or a cloud-wreathed mountain, looming far off in the distance. Or a golden forest, shot through with sunset light as the wind lifts and spins the amber leaves.
It can’t be denied: Ghost Of Tsushima is one of the most beautiful video games ever made. It’s other things, too—not all of them good. But its beauty is irresistible, ostentatious, almost rude. It’s a preening peacock of a title, one that knows exactly how hot you think it is. And yet, that awareness doesn’t stop the jaws from dropping anyway, the next time it decides to take a twirl.
I couldn’t spend all my time traveling or taking photos, and the gameplay and combat did not let me down.
Nailing parries, figuring out how to best an opponent in a duel, and pulling off combos all feel immensely rewarding. Most of the combat, especially early on, is of the sword-to-sword variety. Time a block right, and you’ll be able to parry an attack. As you progress in the game and take down Mongol leaders, you’ll unlock new stances that help you battle different enemy types. You will, however, see all types of enemies right from the start, so the beginning of the game is a bit more challenging than you might expect.
There are two main gauges to keep track of, your health meter, and your resolve. You gain resolve through parries and by defeating enemies, and it unlocks special attacks and weapons. Parrying is important, and you’ll likely rely on it more than in other games. Still, you can also roll or run away from an enemy, or get closer to strike the final blow.
The more I play Ghost of Tsushima, the more it reminds me of Days Gone. That’s not a bad thing — I thought Days Gone was severely underrated — but some core issues hold it back from being truly amazing. As it stands, I enjoy it immensely despite its faults, and that certainly counts for something. I wouldn’t have put dozens of hours into it otherwise, and I’ll likely put many more.