Ghost of Tsushima starts out as a linear game with an open world that’s teasing you from the edges of your peripherals. Once I got into the game though, I realized those opening linear sections were nothing compared to the sprawling and beautiful open world just waiting to be explored. The game traps you with a great story and hooks you into uncovering every single secret it hides. If that sounds like something you’re interested in, then let’s get into this Ghost of Tsushima Review
The story of Ghost of Tsushima begins with a Mongol invasion of the prefecture of Tsushima. It’s a brutal, bloody battle, that sees protagonist Jin almost killed. From there it’s a classic tale of a Samurai questioning everything they know. Which leads to an end they may not want to live to see. Along the way, you’ll meet a cast of incredible companions, all of whom you could spend hours longer with if the game allowed.
I don’t want to spoil anything about the story, so I’ll stick to the key points. Jin is forced into a battle with himself. He’s a samurai and wants to fight the Mongol invaders head-on, with honor. However, they’re just too strong for him to do this. Jin has to resort to sneaking around, using the same tactics as thieves, and it doesn’t sit easily with him. The journey of Ghost of Tsushima is seeing Jin come to terms with becoming a ghost, a secret weapon that strikes before you see it. It’s a wonderful tale straight out of a samurai movie, and one that I think everyone needs to experience.
What a world
As I’ve already mentioned, Tsushima is the real draw of the game. The world is massive, taking what feels like half an hour to get from one side to another. You’ll be doing this mostly on horseback, though you can explore on foot, climbing walls and sneaking into caves. There’s never a dull moment while you’re riding around Tsushima. Sucker Punch has done a fantastic job of making everything feel very spaced out but packing the gaps between those spaces with more content than you can keep track of.
On top of the main quests, side missions, mythic tales, and collectibles, there are smaller locations to visit. Each of these are linked with something else you’ll be doing in the game. The way that all of these areas are linked is also probably the best innovation in open-world exploration that I’ve come across. Players are guided by the wind, which blows in the direction of your waypoint on the map, or the next objective. Following the wind feels intuitive, and I never lost my immersion because I barely had to open the main menu.
The wind isn’t the only thing guiding you though. Once you discover a location, say a fox den or hot spring, you’ll start to notice the telltale signs of them in the distance. This means that you can look around and just pick where you want to go. It’s a much more natural form of progression that makes every discovery feel meaningful. You’re never just ticking another box on a list, you’re finding somewhere that you’ve never seen before, and admiring it.
Birds and foxes will also guide you to key locations. Following the wind from one to the next can be very rewarding, and gives the game a sense of oneness with nature. At a time when we’re actually destroying the planet, it’s incredible to be able to play through such a lush world that’s based on a real place. I can’t help but wonder how much the developers hope it will impact some people to be more eco-friendly.
Ghost of Tsushima wouldn’t be a samurai game without combat, and there’s a lot to be had. Since Jin loves to give his enemies a chance at honor, you can standoff against any enemies you manage to sneak up on, if you don’t want to go the stealthy route. These standoffs are great, and never get boring, even if you do then with every enemy you encounter on the road.
Jin is a capable swordsman, but he learns as you progress through the game. This feels a little awkward, but I understand that Sucker Punch needed to work in new techniques over time, so it does work in one way. Still, I think that more could have been done with combat tutorials, taking progression in a different direction. This isn’t a criticism of the swordplay that’s there. It may take a while to master, but once you do, you feel like a true samurai.
There are different techniques that work better against specific types of enemies. As you unlock more techniques, you’ll be able to lay waste to groups of enemies that would have punished you in the early game. Items also help, such as the Kunai, because they allow you to tackle harder enemies without those later techniques.
Be the Ghost
The true Ghost of Tsushima experience has to be in the stealth though. You can sneak into almost every area, and take down every Mongol in sight without anyone knowing you were there. I did come across a few annoying systems. For example, archers noticing me from around a corner, or guards being drawn to my location when I’d done nothing to provoke them. All in all, though, I’d say the stealth is pretty competent.
I can only compare the stealth to that of Horizon: Zero Dawn. It’s there and is extremely useful while it works. But when an enemy sees you, they all pretty much know where you are. At this point the game becomes a bloodbath, meaning you’ll either need to let Jin die, or fight and kill 20 Mongols. Either way is fun, it would just be nice if the stealth, a key mechanic to the story and game, was a little more refined.
A treat for the ears
The soundtrack of Ghost of Tsushima is second to none. Not only is it as authentic as soundtracks get, but it’s also been implemented in such a way that you enjoy it in every moment you play. Whether you’re knee-deep in Mongol bodies and fighting more, or standing on the edge of a cliff admiring the scenery as a storm rolls in. You always notice the music, and it’s always fantastic.
This even extends to the sounds in the game. From people walking on different surfaces to the way your sword clangs against others or smashes into surfaces you break. It’s a great combination of over the top samurai movie noises, as well as something that feels close to what it would sound like in the real world.
There is a lot to Ghost of Tsushima. Not only what’s in the game, but the new difficulty mode, and even the newly announced Ghost of Tsushima: Legends. Make no mistake though, this is a game that you could be playing for months, as long as you’re willing to totally immerse yourself. The world is full of stories to explore, some of which aren’t even told through gameplay. If you don’t have the perseverance to find everything on offer, then this might not be the game for you.
I also can’t ignore the fact that the game felt unfair when the stealth just didn’t seem to be working. On the surface it’s fine. There were a lot of moments however, that I felt I shouldn’t have been discovered in, and it’s those that let the game down.
The world of Tsushima has kept me gong though. I can’t think of another game world that compares to it. Or one that comes close to the level of beauty and depth found here. This game explores every facet of Japanese culture. Best of all, it doesn’t do it in a way that feels fake or cringe-worthy. The game is respectful of its source material, even when it has fun with it.
What Sucker Punch has made here is a game that will stand the test of time. A PlayStation 5 release wouldn’t be surprising. I also certainly wouldn’t be surprised if a sequel comes along in a few years. This is a huge leap forward from the Infamous games, but its one that I’m happy to say does the PlayStation 4 justice, right at the end of its life cycle.
Just as you’d light a stick of incense in memory of someone who has been lost. This game is a burning reminder of what the PlayStation 4 has been about. It’s an incredible journey and experience that goes way beyond the core story. It attaches itself to your heart. Finally, it makes you ache for a world that may well never exist outside of games ever again.
Ghost of Tsushima Reivew
Ghost of Tsushima is a fitting swan song for the PlayStation 4. It's a game that presents a world in turmoil that you must fight to save, but there's also so much beauty to be found. It's far from perfect, but it's one of the best games that you'll play this year, or this generation.
- Great story
- An endlessly explorable world filled with wonder
- Innovative and immersive exploration systems
- The best soundtrack in gaming
- More iconic side characters than most movies
- Stealth feels a little broken
- A better progression system based around sword techniques would feel more immersive