Title: Ghost of Tsushima.
Release date: July 17, 2020.
Console (played On): Playstation 4.
Mode(s): Single-Player and Online Multiplayer.
GENRE(S): Action, adventure, Drama, Stealth.
Developer: Sucker Punch Productions.
Director: Nate Fox & Jason Connell.
Writer: Ian Ryan, Liz Albl, Patrick Downs & Jordan Lemos.
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment.
Composer(s): Ilan Eshkeri & Shigeru Umebayashi.
Voice Actor(s): Daisuke Tsuji, Eric Steinberg, Sumalee Montano, Patrick Gallagher, and many more!
My Overall Rating:
We all live by a code. We abide by rules that we deem right, sometimes imposed by society, sometimes established through culture and history. With them, we are able to understand the world, pick the paths we want to walk, forge our identities, and build our legacy. But when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Even if it means making personal sacrifices, even it means breaking that very code that served as the foundation to our lives. From the developers who brought gamers the Sly Cooper and Infamous franchises now come a brand-new project exclusively on PlayStation that will send fans to 1274 when the fictionalized Japanese island of Tsushima is invaded by Mongols and one samurai will fight for his people at all costs.
What is Ghost of Tsushima about? Led by Khotun Khan, the Mongolian army swarm the island of Tsushima to pursue their mission to conquer the Japanese mainland. With the entire nation’s samurai army assembled to repel the invasion, the battle requires every single one of them to put their life on the line, including Jin Sakai, whose uncle Lord Shimura leads the people’s defense. Unfortunately, his uncle is captured, Tsushima is captured by the Mongols, and Jin miraculously survives a terrifying engagement only to realize that, alone, he will not be able to give back the people, the home that they were stripped of. He thus embarks on a mission to recruit allies, disrupt Mongol activities throughout the island, and learn new techniques outside of his samurai ways to one day take down Khotun Khan and his army.
Starting off at the lower fraction of the island, you are given the opportunity to discover the people through an open-world setting. As you give them a hand with their problems, you slowly build a reputation amongst them and work your way towards conquering back the various portions of the land, moving upwards as you recruit new allies ready to help you with your cause by reclaiming castles and territories occupied by the Mongols. Each major character also has a parallel chain of side-quests that allow you to invest yourself into their troubles and learn about their history, their drives, and their motives. While Jin Sakai’s character isn’t particularly charismatic, his plight remains one riddled with tough decisions that challenge his training as a samurai, often bringing him to wonder if he’s right to go down a shameful path to achieve his goals. It is his transformation that will bring gamers to appreciate his character. With themes of loyalty and revenge at the heart of this narrative, the team behind this video game does an exceptional job in breaking down the core values, lives, and dilemmas that oppressed people must embrace to survive.
The gameplay mechanics that are presented in Ghost of Tsushima are fairly simple and gains complexity as you progress. Focused on a blade-to-blade fighting system, players must assume one of four stances that they can alternate between in mid-fight to take down various enemies. With each engagement, they must strategically attack using light or heavy attacks, as well as a dodge or block technique, to try and break the enemies’ body equilibrium and then put an end to their miserable lives. On top of his katana and tantō, Jin Sakai also learns to use various weapons, from kunai to smoke bombs, to gain an advantage on his enemies, especially when he’s surrounded by a dozen of them at a time. While the enemies’ artificial intelligence is often questionable, there is just enough realism in battle sequences, especially when played on “lethal” difficulty, where a single slice can be the end of anyone’s life, to make every encounter immersive, engaging, and gore-tasticly satisfying.
Where this video game outdoes itself is in its visuals and aesthetics. It is incredibly stunning. Spine-tingling. Heart-stopping. Having replayed the entire game on the PlayStation 5 to experience the visual upgrades to a game that was already astonishing, it is also safe to say that they didn’t dare cut down their efforts in the graphics department. Unsurprisingly, the game’s entire flow relies heavily on exploration. Traveling on your mysteriously loyal horse (that magically appears behind you when you call for its aid), you are brought to travel countless kilometers exploring a beautiful fictionalized Japanese landscape that add its own dose of magic and beauty to this video game. Although it requires gamers to have an affinity for such things—if the option of a photo mode doesn’t already say so—it is clear that the developers wanted players to grow to love this animated environment and understand its hidden beauty amidst the chaos brought upon it by the Mongols.
If there’s one thing that can’t be reproached to this game it is its ability to immerse gamers into a world that captures the emotions and culture of the Japanese people. Add in the optional graphics setting that allows gamers to into Kurosawa Mode to simulate the legendary Japanese director’s movies, with staggering black-and-white rendering, as well as a phenomenal score that brings to life the story at hand, there’s very little more that they could’ve been done to deliver a polished narrative-driven game. Just to prove us wrong, the developers also later added a cooperative multiplayer expansion called Ghost of Tsushima: Legends that offers gamers the chance to go into additional story-driven content to try and defeat a supernatural demon back to wreak havoc on Tsushima. Having now platinumed the game, it is only a matter of time before a sequel is announced, especially now that a live-action movie is officially confirmed, to pick up the story where things were left off and for fans to revisit the tales of Tsushima.
Ghost of Tsushima (2020) is a visually breathtaking homage to 13th Japanese samurai history with a riveting tale of honor, courage, and tradition within a quest for revenge.