Tsushima awaits: consider visiting

New IPs are easy to dismiss, but this one is worth your time

Every month there’s a new game coming out, be it indie or AAA, and choosing what to play is an important decision. Usually we tend to gravitate towards a genre we are familiar with or a game that hits a lot of checkboxes on our preferences, but there are times where we must pick a game over another even if both seemed interesting. Ghost of Tsushima, for me, didn’t make the cut.

It’s not uncommon for me to ride the hype train on games that pique my interest but for Ghost of Tsushima it was a little different. It had my attention, but I thought going a safer route and waiting for reviews was the best option. I was happy to see that the game was a success and a lot of people liked it. The game was officially in my back catalog.

The opportunity to buy it came a little less than a month after the game’s release. My initial impression was pretty good as the opening is strong and captivating. When the game opens up soon after and lets you explore a big portion of the island as you please, I knew that was it. The strong narrative hook combined with a beautiful landscape was just the beginning, Ghost of Tsushima had me and I was surprised it only took an hour.

Sucker Punch, the studio behind Ghost of Tsushima, is owned by Sony and have a great track record when it comes to the games they made previously. The company is responsible for the InFAMOUS series and most of the Sly Cooper games. It’s important to point out that there’s always a huge risk in making a new IP, so Ghost of Tsushima was a big step for the company and it’s also different from past works.

Before talking about aspects of the game in particular, it’s important to emphasize that there won’t be any spoilers besides character names or aspects of the open world exploration.

The game’s narrative is strong from start to end. It may seem like a difficult thing to achieve but here players are captivated by the main character, Jin Sakai. He has a compelling past and a great arc throughout the story, it makes you feel connected to him and understand the hard decisions he makes. With enough turns and surprises, Ghost of Tsushima presents a great journey.

Jin Sakai and his trusted companion. (In game photo by the author)

Being able to believe a story is important and for all the missions the game ask you to complete I don’t remember thinking “Okay, Okay, that went a little too far”. The narrative feels grounded, it’s not completely predictable but it has a flow. Building a world is not an easy task, and it’s worth mentioning that the game isn’t by any means based on real facts or real samurai, it’s a fantasy world that takes inspiration from the Mongol invasion of Japan.

Another pillar of the game is the supporting cast and their respective stories. It would be a sin to talk about Ghost of Tsushima and not mention Lady Masako. This character is well developed and her story is powerful and complex, you will find yourself wanting to know more about her past and convinced to aid her anytime.

These side characters and stories are rewarding, not only to you as the player but to the grand arc of the game. During these side missions it’s possible to understand their motivations, where they came from and what they desire, giving them an important role in Jin’s path. Be it a new friend (Yuna), a childhood friend (Ryuzo) or even Jin’s Uncle (Lord Shimura), they all have unique motivations regarding themselves and the fate of the island.

When it comes to liking a game everyone have different preferences, but bad gameplay mechanics could be a universal deal breaker. Fortunately that’s not the case for Ghost of Tsushima, it’s great but not perfect. I’d separate the combat in two, stealth and samurai, and one of them is definitely weaker.

The stealth portion of combat doesn’t feel good, and I believe it’s tied to how bad the enemy AI is. For the most part you can avoid playing this way but from time to time the game forces you to approach a mission furtively. I played the game on hard to compensate and it worked, combat in general was difficult at the beginning but after some progress and getting used to the mechanics it became easier (it went back to being difficult at the last chapter).

The samurai combat, on the other hand, is phenomenal. The player needs to master parry and dodge timing, and know when and how to attack making use of different stances. When you fight multiple enemies and you know what you’re doing, it’s a beautiful dance, it flows perfectly and feels greats. Same goes for duelling, the high stakes combined with the rush of defeating your enemy is thrilling. This is without a doubt a strong aspect of the game.

One of the technique pages and a glimpse of how to customise your character. (Screenshots by the author)

To evolve Jin’s abilities there’s an experience system in the form of Increasing your legend. Whenever you do so, you’re awarded with technique points that can be used to acquire new skills or upgrade existing ones. The player needs to choose where to invest the technique points, and this makes the game different to each player at the start to middle point (before getting a lot of points in).

The map on open world games is where the player will spend most of their time, and for Ghost of Tsushima, the island itself can be considered a character, a well developed one. The exploration is fun, since there’s no waypoints (in the common videogame sense), it’s the wind that guides you to locations. Not only that but hearing and seeing a special bird than proceeding to follow it, to eventually get to a point of interest is rewarding.

The golden forest, a beacon of hope. (In game photo by the author)

I believe it’s common sense that foxes are cute (right?) and in this game they help you find hidden shrines! You just need to follow and pet it at the end (yes, you must pet the fox otherwise you’re a monster). Jokes aside, these creative forms of exploration make it so going around Tsushima is a joy and rarely tedious.

Exploring the world rewards you with ways to increase your stats, like heath and resolve. Well, who doesn’t want to get better by taking a bath in thermal waters or cutting bamboo in a little mini-game. It’s also possible to write haikus, which is a moment of peace and calm given that the island is being invaded.

To discover the map you need to walk (or gallop) around and remove the fog from it. By the end of the game I was clearing the fog just to have it completely clear, and that was a little on the tedious side, but honestly, I never got tired of how beautiful the island is. The colours, the vistas, well crafted as a believable place.

Did I mention that this game is BEAUTIFUL? (In game photos by the author)

The island also have its myths and with it a set of missions, Mythic Tales. I won’t say anything about these besides the fact that they take you to beautiful set pieces and great duels. Definitely a highlight of the game.

Despite it being obvious at this point I’ll say that I had an amazing time with Ghost of Tsushima and highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys single player open world experiences. There’s a lot more that wasn’t mentioned here, like customisation of your gear and how cool the armor sets are. Tsuhsima awaits, don’t miss out on this great game.

(In game photo by the author)

Now is a great time to jump on this train since there’s a new patch coming out Friday, October 16th. This new version brings loadouts, new game+, new merchants and more to the single-player portion. Yes, there will be a multiplayer mode now, allowing for new co-op story missions, 4 player survival missions and a new raid.

Graduated college in 2018, Journalism. Pursuing a Gaming Journalist career. You can follow me on Twitter @thalesaugusto .

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