The samurai: upholder of honor and ideals whose purpose is to protect their lord, then their people. The shinobi: masters of stealth and of getting their task done, no matter the cost. These two are the backbone of many Japanese stories and folktales. Today, we have two games that have the player experience what it’s like to be a samurai and a shinobi. That’s right! It’s Ghost of Tsushima versus Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice! Which is the better game?
Round 1: Story
Right off the bat, we have a doozy. Ghost of Tsushima delivers its narrative beautifully, delving deep into Jin’s upbringing, past experiences, and overall perspective. We then get to see him question his entire being when he deals with the Mongols without mercy. In Sekiro’s case, we have a boy, orphaned at a young age, taken in by a shinobi master that Sekiro treats like a father. Early in his life, he gets two credos: “Obey your father above all else” and “Accomplish the task at hand by any means necessary.” As I mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph, this is a tough one, but I will give it to Ghost of Tsushima. I love Sekiro’s story; it has multiple endings, twists, the choices the player has to make, etc. Where I feel Ghost of Tsushima etches out the win, in this case, is in Jin’s character. While the story of Ghost of Tsushima is more predictable than Sekiro’s, we get to know who Jin is, how he plans to save Tsushima, and how it’s affecting him psychologically. He even ends up questioning everything he believes in, less he and his people lose their homes. Sekiro, on the other hand, likes to keep its eponymous character’s thoughts and feelings secret from the player. The deciding factor ended up being; I know a lot about Jin and what he’s going through, versus seeing what Sekiro is going through but not knowing who he is. For that, I’m giving the point to Ghost of Tsushima.
Round 2: Visuals
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a gorgeous looking game. The mesmerizing in the sunny autumn forest, stunning flooded castle, foreboding and ominous pitch black caves, and some of the monstrosities the game calls bosses are jaw-dropping. The twist, though: Sekiro stands no chance against Ghost of Tsushima’s visuals. Ghost of Tsushima had me continually rotating the camera so that I could take in my surroundings. While there are places in Sekiro that are pretty, they aren’t everywhere. Ghost of Tsushima is awe-inspiring no matter where the player goes. The simple act of sharing a screenshot of Ghost of Tsushima is enough to make people want to pick up a copy and play. For that reason, Ghost of Tsushima wins the visuals point.
Round 3: Gameplay
This is where I might ruffle some feathers. Being an open-world game, there is a lot for Ghost of Tsushima to take into account. It has to provide a whole slew of things for the player to explore while also putting in enemies to challenge players passing by some regions of the map. What’s more, there are many places to visit, along with things to find in Ghost of Tsushima. In that aspect, Ghost of Tsushima shines since the visuals are so eye-catchingly beautiful that they are inclined to explore those places to see what marvels they can find. Those that want a tighter gameplay experience, however, should look at Sekiro. Sekiro’s level design may be more linear than Ghost of Tsushima’s, but I feel that works in Sekiro’s favor. Sekiro’s enemies are more formidable than Ghost of Tsushima’s, meaning the player has to take their time assessing which path is the safest and more efficient. The player also has to consider which approach option is best in Sekiro. Do they avoid the enemies altogether, or do they pick them off one by one? Ghost of Tsushima did have this level of attack planning… at the beginning. Once I got the Sakai Armor, I decided to abandon the idea of being sneaky and embrace my samurai heritage. Even when ten enemies surrounded me, I didn’t feel intimidated. Sekiro, on the other hand, had me panic if so much as three enemies ambushed me in a less than desirable spot. For that reason, Sekiro gets the gameplay point.
Round 4: Combat
Ghost of Tsushima’s combat feels cinematic. When fighting enemies, the camera angle wants to have Jin at the center, and his enemies looking like they are storming him from all sides. While I find this approach to the combat camera creative, Ghost of Tsushima doesn’t have a lock-on option. Sekiro goes for a more traditional, Souls-like philosophy. The player locks on to their enemy to study their every move. This makes Sekiro’s combat more exciting. Jin’s arsenal also involves jumping, dodging, parrying, using miscellaneous items, etc. Those mechanics are well weaved into Ghost of Tsushima’s combat, and it does make fighting enemies satisfying, but I feel like my enemy’s death can get slightly tedious after a while. Sekiro’s battles are like a drug to me: the moment I killed my first enemy was like a rush, I don’t feel very often from video games. Killing foes in Sekiro never gets old. That is why Sekiro receives the point for combat.
Round 5: Bosses
I’ll be frank; besides the main antagonist of Ghost of Tsushima, I barely remember the bosses. There was that one guy I decapitated in front of his army, which shook most of them to their core. That was exciting, but that was the most visceral I felt after beating a boss. It was terrific, but I do wish those moments were more common. Sekiro, on the other hand, I can recall most of the bosses in the first half, and a lot of the second half too. I mentioned this in my “The brilliance of the Souls-like” article, but beating Lady Butterfly was a unique, eye-opening experience that made me write the aforementioned article. What’s more, the second time I bested Lady Butterfly was just as soul-stirring as the first. Sekiro snags the point for having more memorable bosses.
Freebie: Ghost of Tsushima
I award Ghost of Tsushima a freebie for including the robust Legends mode. A multiplayer co-op mode on top of an already complete package makes me feel like I got free cookies with my ice cream, so Ghost of Tsushima steals a freebie for its Legends mode.
Final Round: Challenge
This is, what I believe to be, the deciding factor over which game I prefer, and I feel like for most people, this would be the same. So with that said, I will give the point to… Sekiro. Sekiro is indeed an insanely challenging game. What’s more, there are no options to adjust the difficulty. Ghost of Tsushima does accommodate the player in that regard, but with Sekiro, it’s do or die (quite literally in this case.) The fact that Sekiro is so notoriously difficult also made the entire experience that much sweeter as a whole. The final boss in Sekiro was so arduous that any mistake the player made could result in death. The coup-de-grace I gave to the final boss marked my soul. I see it in my head whenever I think about Sekiro. I even gave Sekiro a standing ovation when I got to the end credits. For having the best level of challenge for me, I need to award Sekiro the final point.
There you have it, my wonderful readers. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is the winner of our third Game Vs. Game. I do want to point out, though, that Sekiro winning does not depreciate Ghost of Tsushima at all. It should put into perspective how amazing I thought Sekiro was. Those who love the Japanese aesthetic and are looking for a quality samurai or shinobi game should give both of these games a try. Ghost of Tsushima I would recommend to players looking for the best visuals on Playstation 4, a moving story, and some sweet open-world gameplay. Sekiro is for those looking for a real challenge and want to test their mettle while also having a few shots of adrenaline flowing through their veins.