Ghost of Tsushima, which Sucker Punch is releasing Friday, is the last major game exclusive to the PlayStation 4 before Sony Interactive Entertainment rolls out the PlayStation 5 this holiday season.
In this game, you take control of Jin Sakai, a samurai who is trying to defend his home island against a Mongol invasion. It’s actually based on the real-life invasion of the Japanese island of Tsushima by the Mongols in 1274, which is a cool starting point for history nerds like me.
The game might also appeal to fans of classic cinema because of the ability to play in “Kurosawa” mode, a black-and-white filter that will make you feel like you’re playing inside of a 1950s film by the acclaimed Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, whose samurai films partly inspired this game. You might not want to play the entire game this way, but it’s cool to try it out at times, especially when you’re dueling with another samurai. There’s even a Japanese dialogue option if you really want to immerse yourself in the world of feudal Japan.
These are just a couple of the cool features of this open-world game that I had a chance to play over the past couple of weeks. Here are some of my takeaways.
Let nature be your guide
One of the unique aspects of this open-world game is the lack of a mini-map that would guide you during the game. Instead, you should rely on the “leading wind” to guide you. After tracking the location on the map that you access through the game menu, the wind will blow in that direction. You can mark places for missions (in this game these are fairy tales), as well as villages, shrines, hot springs and other interesting places. If you have gone astray and do not want to access the map, simply swipe your finger on your controller, and a strong gust of wind will indicate the correct path. This is a really neat mechanism to break through this huge open world.
In addition to the wind, you will often encounter golden birds, which you can follow along the locations that will lead you to characters who can discover new tales and other useful locations to improve abilities, such as bamboo strokes, gift altars, shrines and much more. Following a fox can lead you to a special type of shrine called Inari Shrine. Getting to them can be difficult, but getting into them will allow you to open spell slots to strengthen your weapons.
These are just some of the ways that Sucker Punch tried to make the game as exciting as you want it to be. You can play the game in the “expert” mode (not to be confused with one of the three difficulty levels of the game), in which the display of heads-ups on the screen is minimized. There are no waypoints in this mode, and collectibles such as bamboo, yew, flowers, and other supplies are not highlighted to indicate that you should come up and pick them up. Instead, you have to rely on your instincts and knowledge of the game. In this mode, your health panel also does not appear in battle. It seemed funny to me to turn on expert mode from time to time, after I got used to the game, and then saw how I could find objects and places.
Wind enhances already beautiful landscapes
The wind does not just blow to act as a guide; it also helps create a very distinctive look for the game. Depending on your surroundings, whenever the wind blows, it can circle around colorful leaves from nearby trees, create waves on huge fields of pampas grass, explode snowflakes or coals from burning structures. He breathes life into an already beautifully landscaped island and gives it an unearthly look.
This is also a very colorful world. In one part of the map, you can ride a horse in a field of white, feathered pampas grass, while in another area you go to a temple surrounded by trees with golden leaves, or travel through a forest full of red maples. The whole world is beautifully created – not only landscapes, but also samurai armor and sets of swords. Heck, even Mongolian outfits and weapons look cool.
The ghost of Tsushima uniquely emphasizes stealth. It is in your interests to sneak up on your enemies and silently destroy as many Mongols as possible before openly attracting someone and attracting more enemies. You can not only make your way through the tall grass, under buildings and on the roofs of houses, but also ultimately unlock skills and objects that allow you to hide, such as smoke bombs, distracting fireworks and poisoned darts.
I’m terrible at being secretive in games, but believe me, in this game it’s worth being patient. In fact, there are some missions that can only be completed unnoticed; if you are noticed in a Mongolian camp, the alarm goes off and you need to start all over again.
Combat is fun and satisfying
Of course, despite the emphasis on stealth, the battles in this game are really nice, and using the perfect parry or one of the more advanced combinations to kill the enemy is such a rush.
There are several different types of Mongols that you will encounter – some with swords, some with shields, some with spears, and some just known as cattle – and you will need to use different tricks to defeat everyone. There are also archers. Professional advice: if you take them first, your life will become easier. You will earn points for completing missions, which you can then use to improve your skills. There is also a special advantage that you will receive after defeating several enemies in a row without taking damage, but I will not ruin this surprise.
Boss battles take the form of duels. You cannot use any of your items to damage an opponent in them. The thing is how good you are with your katana. Parrying is much more important in boss battles than in regular combat. It will not only save you from heavy damage, but also bring you “determination”, which can then be used to replenish your health.
Make sure your outfit and set of swords is updated and you fill the charm slots on your katana to be ready for dueling. You can mix and match your outfits, hats and masks, but only your clothes give certain advantages in battle.
History buffs, rejoice!
I was very excited when I heard that this game is based on a real historical event: the Mongol invasion of Tsushima in 1274. The Mongols actually invaded the Japanese island of Tsushima, which lies between the Korean Peninsula and the rest of Japan, as a precursor to the beginning of the invasion of mainland Japan. I studied history in college and am very interested in this subject as a whole, so playing this game was great.
Khotun Khan, who leads the Mongol invasion of Tsushima in the game, is fictional, but he says that he has to do with the two actual historical Mongol khans that you probably heard about: Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan. Although the Tsushima island depicted in the game is not identical to the recreation of the real island, based on a recent post about the game on the PlayStation, it seems that the developers took care to recreate the real elements from the island in the game. In fact, Sucker Punch even consulted real samurai to communicate the authenticity of the game. Playing the game, I wanted to learn more about feudal Japan and samurai.
A question of honor
Honor is the main principle of the game. To be a samurai means to fight with honor. This means that you need to fight the enemy, and not rely on cunning tactics.
However, as soon as the Mongols invade, Jin realizes that this may not be the best way to defeat them, and that in order to become a “Ghost”, you must commit dishonest acts. While stealth may be the best way to fight back the invaders, it can shock some feathers of Uncle Gene, Lord Shimura. Shimura tells Jin that “terror is not a samurai’s weapon” in one place and that “only cowards strike from the shadows” in another instance. This is the main point of tension throughout the game, except for the conflict with the Mongols.
Despite the fact that passing the game encourages cunning and cunning, this does not mean that sometimes you can not be honest.
Each time you encounter a group of Mongols, you have the opportunity to do a noble thing by declaring your presence and fighting one of them in the confrontation. In fact, this is a mini-duel, and if you correctly calculate your first move, this is one enemy kill. When you participate in a battle, sometimes you don’t completely kill the enemy, but he will be brutally beaten, and you will have the opportunity to act with dignity and kill him. This is another way to gain the determination to replenish your health.
The main mission, Gene’s story, reminded me a bit of Horizon Zero Dawn in terms of gathering allies for the final fight, but it was not as long as I expected from an open world game. It’s not as long as a game like games like Red Dead Redemption 2 or The Witcher 3. However, although the main Ghost of Tsushima track seemed a little short, it never lasted, and many side missions and mini-games will certainly give you a lot of others things to take your time during and after you finish Gene’s story.[1-click-image-ranker]