If a youthful obsession for the Japanese samurai cinema and an audiobook version of Musashi has taught me anything, it is that if you want to be a great swordsman, having a bond with nature is essential. Skill with a weapon is not only driven by physical strength and technique, but also by the sharpness that comes from observing trees, mountains, and rivers. This is our Ghost Of Tsushima Review.
Ghost Of Tsushima Review: About
- Platform: PlayStation 4
- Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
- Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
- Genres: Stealth game
- Release Date: July 17, 2020
Ghost Of Tsushima Review: Official Trailer Video
Ghost Of Tsushima Review: Gameplay
Although I can only guess how inspiring the countryside of feudal Japan would have been, the picturesque island in Ghost of Tsushima, an open-world samurai epic from the 13th century, is one that often evokes something in me. As well as being a game of flashy sword fighting and Jin Sakai’s journey to become a proto-ninja, Ghost of Tsushima invites you to lose yourself deeply in its grasslands, forests, and mountains. And while the tasks you’re given are often not as brilliant as the color of the leaves, there’s undoubtedly something delightfully humiliating about riding your horse through these beautiful surroundings and absorbing it all.
Sometimes it almost feels as if the art direction is trying a little too hard to draw attention to itself. The Ghost of Tsushima certainly makes a concerted effort to take you even further into his radiant world with his deliberate lack of navigational information. There’s no way to see which means you’re going with a mini-map on the screen or a compass, and there are hardly any objective markings. Instead, the game is equipped with a device in the world called Guiding Wind, in which the abundance of organic particles of the game will subtly fall to the location of the target to be reached.
While you do have to enter a menu-based world map if you want to go somewhere particular, without a marker to indicate the location of your next target continually, you become less obsessed with taking the most direct route and feel more naturally inclined to follow winding roads around the mountains and along the riverbanks. Guiding Wind creates a current that gives you plenty of opportunities to ride your curious exploration. As an open-world device, it also manages to mask the feeling that you’re just being carried away by objective markings, even though that’s still exactly what you’re doing.
Unfortunately, that feeling still comes to the surface when Ghost of Tsushima’s quests take the reins. Stories fall back on rotten open-world search structures, where you do things like follow a searcher to a goal, maybe have a chat along the way, and it’s not allowed to deviate from the assigned path here. Sometimes you’ll be asked to investigate or investigate an environment, activities that can devolve into minutely hunting for interactive hotspots. In some early stories, the MacGuffin is chased so far after the MacGuffin that you wonder if anything is going to happen at all. If you’re not in a fight, many of these quests, especially sideways quests, can feel like a rut.
The vocal work is mostly let down by a noticeable lack of physical expression in the almost motionless character models, which means that you usually only look at a few talking heads. That’s not uncommon to see in titles like this, but it’s a crucially low point in a game that otherwise touches so many stylistic highlights. The cinematography, which pleasantly frames the characters in the beautiful landscape, does the heavy lifting to ensure that these regular moments are at least a little pleasing to the eye – although wide shots call more attention to the fact that two talking bodies stand perfectly still.
Mythic Tales are Ghost Of Tsushima’s most interesting quest, although they are few. These are explorations of the slightly more supernatural elements of the world, with their own special animated introductions. They try to evade the direct point-to-point structure of the other quests by asking you to do things like view a hand-drawn map and use your deductive exploration to find the physical location or perform an activity with a simple mechanical twist.
Those duels, and Ghost of Tsushima’s fight in general, is where the game successfully evokes samurai cinema. Jin’s katana remains your primary weapon throughout the game; it can attack enemies in a few quick cuts, but Jin can also die quickly after a few right blows of opposing knives. This means blocking, parrying, and dodging are the essential skills you’ll need to learn how to use and overcome well, and while there’s more room for maneuver than something like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, battles can still be over in seconds if you make blunders.
Unlike the quest of the game cut scenes, Jin’s suite of animations, along with the gore and foley associated with the fight, do a lot to feel the act of sinking a katana into flesh meaningful. It’s like the way Jin returns to his posture after a murder, and the graceful movements associated with a thriving parish give everything a perceptible flow. Changing position just before dodging a hit and reacting with an advantageous technique feels good. Taking a step back and watching a video of a good fight that you may have just recorded can be like witnessing a well-choreographed action scene. In addition to exploring the world, the battle is where Ghost of Tsushima’s most transcendent moments lie.
If you’re fighting in an open, grassy field and the camera pulls back a little to capture the dozens of enemies approaching you, Ghost of Tsushima’s sword-fighting is sublime. But the conditions aren’t always perfect. The most significant camera problems often occur when fighting in confined spaces indoors, or in messy areas such as enemy encampments where there are tents, fences, crates, and other such environmental objects.
All too often, you’ll end up in a situation where a fixed object will block your view of Jin, your enemies, or, more importantly, your enemy’s weapons. All enemy attacks have a visible count, and in the case of stronger, unlockable attacks, they have unique red glimpses moments before they occur. But like Ogami Itto’s Suio-ryu Wave Slicer in the Lone Wolf and Club series, if you can’t see what your enemy is doing with their weapon, there’s very little you can do to prevent your imminent death – and that can be incredibly frustrating.
You will also kill people without them seeing what you are doing. When Mongol invaders appear on the shores of Tsushima, Jin and his honorable samurai group find that their new enemies don’t abide by their overly formal rules of warfare. Jin soon learns to accept that he will have to use more deceptive and vicious tactics to combat the overwhelming occupation of the island, which means he will have to get used to hiding in the shadows, stabbing people in the back, and using a variety of tools to give himself an unfair advantage-war tactic that was allegedly unheard of in 13th-century Japan.
Ghost of Tsushima’s story hits hard in the third and final act of the game and ends spectacularly. It left me with the same intense emotions I felt at the end of all my favorite samurai film epics and left me eager to watch them all again. The game touches a lot of fantastic cinematic highlights, and those eventually lift it above the cramps of its familiar open-world quest design and all the innate weaknesses that come with it-but those imperfections and annoying edges are still there.
Ghost of Tsushima review is at its best when you ride your horse and enter the beautiful world on your terms, armed with a sword and a screenshot button, so the environmental features and your curiosity can guide you.
Ghost of Tsushima's story hits hard in the third and final act of the game and ends spectacularly. It left me with the same intense emotions I felt at the end of all my favorite samurai film epics and left me eager to watch them all again.