Ghost of Tsushima Review
Ghost of Tsushima Review
With the Last of Us II creating a whirlwind of emotions among the gaming community, a lot of people are looking for a PlayStation exclusive that isn’t quite so hit or miss. Ghost of Tsushima, released 07/17/2020, is an excellent send off into the next wave of consoles. From the early gameplay demos we could tell that it was going to be a beautiful and interactive world and it did not disappoint. Ghost of Tsushima is absolutely worth playing from the beautiful scenery to the fulfilling story.
Ghost of Tsushima, developed by Sucker Punch Productions, allows you to play as a Samurai, Jin Sakai, during the Mongol invitations. Throughout the game you will have the ability to decide if you will tackle challenges as the stealthy, and elusive, Ghost, or if you will adopt the straight forward, and honorable, fighting style of the Samurai. While the story does offer some choice of dialogue, Jin’s tale is mostly unaffected by the choices you make. Ghost of Tsushima is a linear story set in a vast open world.
The choice and freedom given to players is more about combat than story direction and dialogue. This is for the better though, as the story is full of endearing characters and intriguing moments. The very large open world is complemented by the lack of HUD indicators. This gives players a feeling of immersion that is the backbone of this game. They use a feature called “Guiding Wind” that creates a gust of wind for the player to follow in place of a giant digital map. This really allows the game creators to lean into the strengths of this game, for a more immersive experience. I played around 12 hours, up to this point, and had plenty of fun simply wandering the Island of Tsushima itself. Although, if you aren’t as much of an explorer as myself, there are still plenty of outposts to liberate, shrines to visit, and gear to collect.
To start off, the combat is fantastic. It is both unique and easy to pick up. The katana actually feels like an efficient weapon, as it should. It brings to mind Star Wars: Fallen Jedi. In Star Wars the lightsaber felt like I was fighting stormtroopers with a wooden spork. Fallen Jedi downgraded the awesomeness of the lightsaber just to make their game challenging enough to enjoy. Well EA, take notes. Ghost of Tsushima proves that challenging gameplay and weapon lethality are not opposing ideas. Combat is very satisfying and difficult enough to really put you in Jin’s Samurai flip flops, as it encourages you to embrace the ways of the ghost in order to survive and save the island.
Now, here is a hot take for you… The visuals of the environment are the best part of the game. I know there probably isn’t any other review out there that says that (just in case you missed it, that was sarcasm. Unfortunately, word doesn’t come pre-loaded with a sarcasm font option). Seriously though I have enjoyed every second of just exploring the environment and it hasn’t gotten old yet. My early hours were spent distracted by its dynamic beauty, so much so that I missed some of the early dialogue. On several occasions, I had to ask Josh what they said because I was honestly just looking at a leaf. The sounds as well as the sights are almost enough to make this a good game without any combat at all. Not so obviously, the voice acting is very good. I played with both japanese and english settings and the emotions of each character are easily felt and heard either way. Now, there are a few moments where the audio is a little weird. On one of the quests my opponent's audio came out as if I was on speaker phone with them. This has happened in two separate duels so far so hopefully this can be fixed in a later update.
While the environment can be quite dynamic, the character models are anything but. Bodies are near motionless, some would say static, outside of a few cutscenes. I’ve heard some reviewers describe the dialogue cutscenes as talking heads. Sadly, they aren’t wrong. Fortunately, the voice acting makes up for most of it as well as the geography.
As great as the combat and environment is in this game it does have its “just ok” parts. Horse riding can be a bit stale if not for the beautiful environment. Don’t get me wrong it's not bad by any means, it’s just a little clunky. The upgrade system is pretty simple. You upgrade your katana, tanto, bow, and armor by gathering materials in the environment. The most interesting part is the skill tree, which admittedly is good but could use just a little more innovation. Lastly, things like making Haikus and finding hidden shrines do add a little creativity to the upgrading system that while repetitive is at least something that makes the game stand out.
Now bare with me as I nitpick for a minute. As fun as it is to explore the island of Tsushima the traversal mechanics are not great. Climbing is nothing special. It is very simple and lacks versatility. The climbing mechanic feels like it belongs in a game from almost a decade ago. In fact it gives off Assassin’s Creed 3 vibes. Which isn’t necessarily bad, I just expected a little more from Sucker Punch on this aspect. Objects do have a tendency to phase through things in the world rather than interact with them as well. Bodies may go through lamp posts, birds and weapons can pass through trees, crabs scuttle along the ground only to sink into the flat sand. These are times where I just get broken out of the beautiful, beautiful, immersion that this game does generally well.
Ok one more complaint, then I swear I am done. The camera MUST get updated. I cannot begin to tell you the amount of times I had to decide if I wanted to blindly dodge or look at my attacker but wasn’t allowed enough time to do both. There is no lock on button and objects can get in between you (the camera) and Jin. There were multiple times where a tree took up over half my screen while I was fighting a dozen Mongul soldiers. If the game were to add a transparency effect to make the trees invisible or just somewhat see through when in between you and Jin, that would make a huge difference. The camera is definitely my least favorite part of this game and something that I hope gets updated in the future. If not, that is ok though. Because this game truly is great.
So in conclusion, Ghost of Tsushima is absolutely worth playing. It is possibly, no probably, the best game of the year so far. Any fans of Samurai history and lore will enjoy this game. I, myself, have been wanting a good Samurai game for a while and have been very satisfied thus far. I am sure there are much better opinions on this than myself, but it seems to my white eyes that there is an honest attempt at representing the Japanese culture. The game was casted well and is full of Asian actors. Which is so nice because I think we can all agree white washing is a huge problem, specifically in Asian themed media… *cough* Avatar: The Last Airbender Movie *cough*. Anyways, attention to detail and respect for the island of Tsushima makes this game at the very least respectable by anyone who appreciates gaming. Because of the camera and lack of innovation of crafting as well as body dynamics I can’t quite justify a 9 or 10 but it is well worth an 7.5 from Samurai Reviews. I anticipate that will go up once I finish the game completely and we get some needed patches.
Ghost of Tsushima: 7.5 (with a potential 8, or even more, after updates and patches.)