Developer: Sucker Punch Console played: PS5
Sucker Punch are the makers of another great series known as Infamous, a game about choice and power, where you control Cole, and you play out his story and make decisions for better or worse. When I first heard that Sucker Punch had taken such a leap in a different direction, I have to admit that I was sceptical. However, I was far wrong and Ghost of Tsushima has cemented itself as one of my favourite games of all time. If anything this game has shown that Sucker Punch is one of Playstation’s strongest developers. From gameplay to visuals to embracing the history and lore surrounding Japan, Ghost of Tsushima is the gold standard in video games.
The gameplay in Ghost is made up of three parts: sword play, ghost (sneaking around) and traversal. The sword play is brilliant, it is sleek and functions well within the setting. It follows the format made popular by Demon Souls, where you attack and defend, using tactics to get the better of your opponents. There are different enemy types forcing you to take different stances in order to defeat them, with some harder generals giving you some issues. Combat is a perfect balance of rewarding when you slice your foe in too but also difficult as enemies can be quite punishing when they land hits on you. Later on in the game you do get access to a kick move that essentially down most enemies in one blow, leaving them easy prey on the floor. I cleared many camps in the post-game by donkey kicking every individual I encountered. There is also a stand off system when you first encounter enemies which allows you to one-hit sweep multiple targets with a little good timing, this made reducing enemy numbers a little swifter.
The Ghost sections of the game are nice and spread out, being slower in pace it made sure you got back to action quickly. The game provides multiple options when sneaking around, allowing you freedom in how you tackled the situation. You also get a wide range of tools to help when sneaking around or assassinating. I won’t lie, I mainly back stabbed or shot people in the head with my trusty bow and arrow, rather than relying on any ingenious tactics. I didn’t feel the need to use the wind chime to distract people away or firecrackers to make noise. The most satisfying method of assassination, was to fly out of the sky and shove your sword straight into your unsuspecting victim.
The final area of gameplay was the traversal – since this is an open world game, traversing around the map is a core part of the game. The developers generally put objectives close together meaning you it doesn’t take long to reach your destination or you could use one of the many fast travel spots in order to get around. You have a horse throughout who moves like the wind and can leap from tall places and only scuff his knees when they fall to the ground, leaving you to take no damage. The minor flaw when using the horse is the mounted combat…. it isn’t great. You can only sweep you side to side and it does little damage, most times I would just get shot straight from my horse, looking like a dick in the process. You gain a grappling hook later on which is hugely useful, although some of the animations are a little ropey….. sometimes Jin was locked in an animation as he threw the hook, not changing until the hook caught and I settle against the wall.
I will some up this section in one word – STUNNING! The world that Sucker Punch has created is easily one of the most beautiful and spectacular within any game on the market. Tsushima itself is a varied land – with bamboo forest, snowy mountains, villages and towns populating the world and fields of colourful flowers. Sucker Punch have done a great job adding variety to the landscape, and putting the time to make traversing the game, one of pure bliss. Jin himself looks amazing, every detail on our hero has been carefully considered and the detail down to the pattern on his sword has been polished well. This is not to say the game is perfect, some of the textures on the grass are messy at times and you can occasionally phase through a random stick of bamboo but to build such a large map, you will always have some flaws. But it’s these flaws that make you appreciate everything else more.
Now the story in Ghost of Tsushima isn’t going to set the world on fire and at times it can be a little predictable but what it does brilliantly is to embrace the history and lore of Japan. Sucker Punch have gone to huge efforts to research and learn before creating their game. The themes of honour and reputation is at the heart of this story, playing on the concept of samurais within feudal Japan. It was really interesting to consider both the benefits and flaws of being a samurai and Sucker Punch did an excellent job weaving this into the story. The games story is a little long, I thought it was going to end once sooner than it did, but in the end I didn’t mind since the conclusion was so satisfying when I reached it.
There are lots of side quests throughout the game – the two main side quests take the form of tales and mythical tales. The normal tales lead you to help out the people of Tsushima, most not taking longer than 10 minutes to complete and you gain small reward and experience for them. There were a couple that I really enjoyed or made me laugh – such as the women who claims her food was stolen by bandits, but to later find out she had lied and she was just hungry. The mythical missions take a different tact, making you complete unique challenges in order to receive a rare skill or piece of armour. I enjoyed both sets of tales and never found any to be particular troublesome or a chore. Otherwise there is a massive selection of mini tasks – such as following foxes to their shrines, or writing a haiku in the scenic spot or even taking a dip in an onsen (natural hot tub), where you even get to see a cheeky bit of ass! All these reward you with health, resolve or adding charms (add character benefits) to yourself. You don’t have to complete these in order to progress but they are enjoyable little distractions.
I thought I would just mention an couple of things that I really liked about this title at the end of my review. The first is the use of wind in order to guide you to your destinations. I have never seen mechanic within a game before, but it is a subtle way of removing clunky arrows or dots to follow on the floor. Instead a gust of wind will blow in the direction you need to travel in, fitting perfectly with the setting and removing unnecessary visuals. The wind only points you in the correct direction, so if you need to go up, down or around an obstacle, you would have to figure that part out for yourself, providing the player with some autonomy at the same time.
The progression system within the game was simple – giving you plenty of choices at the start and making most of them feel impactful to how you decide to play the game. You could either spend them in your combat skills or to boost your abilities as the ghost. The only path which I didn’t have a need for were the movement related tree – the normal dodging skill was more than enough to get by throughout the game.
The final thing I would like to mention is the setting at the start of the game – you are asked if you would like the voice acting to be in English or Japanese (with subtitles of course) and whether you would like the colour scheme to resemble that of old black and white film. I personally choose to play it with the Japanese voice acting because it made the whole experience feel more real.
Overall, I would give Ghost of Tsushima a 5/5 – I can’t wait to see what Sucker Punch make next and if you haven’t had a chance yet to experience this game, then I would highly recommend that you do!