Ghost of Tsushima – Even in Conflict, There is Beauty

Ghost of Tsushima box art

Released on: July 17, 2020

Available Platforms: Playstation 4

Price: $79.99 CDN ($59.99 US)

Developed by: Sucker Punch Published by: Sony Interactive Entertainement

Those that come by to read my reviews from time to time (whom I appreciate immensely) will notice that I have a fascination with Japanese culture, themes and history. It might be why I liked Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice so much. When the announcement was made that an open-world samurai game was in the works, I was intrigued, but skeptical. From what I saw of the trailers, the gameplay looked an awful lot like Sekiro’s, but open-world. As its release drew closer, my curiosity grew. Finally, when Ghost of Tsushima hit the scene, I knew I had to hop on board. Is Ghost of Tsushima the game that walks the path to greatness?

Ghost of Tsushima title screen

In the late 13th century, Jin Sakai and his uncle, noble samurai, witness the horror that is the Mongols invading the island of Tsushima. They and their army try their best to rid Tsushima of the invaders, but they were too numerous, and too strong. Jin took a near-lethal blow, and his uncle got kidnapped. All hope is lost… or is it? Jin wakes up and meets Yuna, the lady that helped nurse Jin’s injuries. With a second life granted, can Jin take back his home from the Mongol invasion? Before getting Ghost of Tsushima, I did a little bit of research. Apparently, there was a huge Mongol fleet that was heading for Tsushima in the late 13th century. Unlike Ghost of Tsushima though, there was a giant storm that caused most of the Mongol fleet to die on their way there, leading to their defeat at Tsushima. Back to Ghost of Tsushima, the story is a little by-the-numbers, as astute players can call major plot points ahead of time. Despite that, I still found myself liking Ghost of Tsushima’s story. The characters, while being serious and dour most of the time, are relatable. I mean, I would be pretty upset if somebody came to my house and started making trouble, let alone a whole army coming to tear apart your island. What I found most memorable, when it comes to story, are the side quests. A lot of them have the player find clues as to the explanation behind certain events, ultimately leading to a final showdown with the culprit(s). These are a welcome distraction to the gloomy and austere story. 

Ghost of Tsushima - Young Jin training with his uncle.
A young Jin training with his uncle

The graphics of Ghost of Tsushima… oh my god! I am going to come out and say it: Ghost ofTsushima is, in my opinion, the best looking game on Playstation 4. Some might claim that statement is hyperbolic. Those people have not played Ghost of Tsushima. What ultimately made me get the game was how absolutely gorgeous the screenshots were. To my pleasant surprise, those screenshots do not do Ghost of Tsushima justice. I could even recommend those who are not into the story, or the gameplay of Ghost of Tsushima put the game on its easiest difficulty and just go around the game and take pictures, because there is a photo opportunity everywhere in Ghost of Tsushima.

Graphics are one thing, but I’ve always believed that a game has to play great in order to be great. Ghost of Tsushima hears those words loud and clear, and delivers on the gameplay. Even at the beginning, Jin starts out with an impressive arsenal. He can use light attacks (with square) to wear down/kill his enemies and heavy attacks (with triangle) to break an opponent’s guard. On the defensive side, Jin can dodge (with circle), block and parry. If my love for Sekiro didn’t give it away already; I love parrying in video games. The fact that, in an instant and perfectly timed moment, my opponent is rendered stunned, horrified and confused due to their own fault never gets old. When Jin parries his opponent, the enemy’s guard is broken, the resulting counter-attack does a considerable amount of damage, and the enemy is left wide-open. Even before Ghost of Tsushima truly opened up its combat options, I was on board. It reminded me of Sekiro in all the right ways. 

Being an open-world game, Ghost of Tsushima has many tidbits, nooks and crannies to explore. Exploring these will give Jin a myriad of benefits, like increased health, resolve, and charm slots for additional bonuses. One of my favorite things to do is follow the golden bird whenever it shows up, as it will, more often than not, lead me to secrets and special events that I would have more than likely ignored without it.

Ghost of Tsushima - Petting the fox
Let’s not forget the best feature of the game!

At the time of this writing, Sucker Punch (the makers of Ghost of Tsushima) released a cooperative multiplayer mode called Ghost of Tsushima: Legends. I do want to mention it briefly here as a feature, because it is truly remarkable that a robust multiplayer mode be added to an already complete game that it would be criminal to ignore. I do feel like Ghost of Tsushima: Legends deserves it’s own review though, so I’ll stop here.

*Spoiler section ahead. Read at your discretion*

Despite me calling out Ghost of Tsushima’s gloomy story, I do find it interesting. During the course of the game, Jin’s deeply ingrained samurai beliefs are constantly being challenged by the desire to rid of the Mongol menace on Tsushima. One the one hand, he doesn’t want to disappoint his uncle who taught him that “a samurai must always fight the enemy head-on, and with honor.” On the other hand, if Jin did that, he would obviously get overwhelmed by the Mongols and die. If Jin dies, then Tsushima surely dies with him. I also admire the subtle weather changes that happen the more the player finishes off their enemies with backstabs and other gear.

*End of spoiler section*

One minor flaw I have with Ghost of Tsushima is in its glitches. Many times I’ve seen enemies clip through the floor, visual oddities, and I was even suspended in the air for a long time with the game thinking I was falling. These could be pretty annoying, except I find them hilarious in Ghost of Tsushima. Here we have a man who’s struggling with, not only saving his home, but also his existential crisis on whether abandoning all he’s ever known to save Tsushima and its people is even worth it, only to have the corpse of the deceased farmer suddenly get stuck in the floor and start shaking awkwardly. Some might find this breaks the game’s atmosphere, I think it adds to the experience.

Ghost of Tsushima - dead body flopping
It looks like he can’t decide if he’s dead or not…

The one thing that throws me off with Ghost of Tsushima’s combat is that there is no lock-on. Ghost of Tsushima aims to be cinematic. As such, Jin will gravitate towards his enemies automatically, but the camera will remain stationary. It took some acclamation at first, but I forgot it was absent as I kept playing.

To call Ghost of Tsushima phenomenal would be an understatement. Gorgeous visuals, enthralling gameplay and a world so lush with content and life that I could recommend Ghost of Tsushima to anyone who has even a passing interest in all things Japan.


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