From Sly Cooper to Infamous, Sucker Punch has made some amazing games and Ghost of Tsushima is their best yet so here's my review.
At its core, Ghost of Tsushima tells a simple story of one samurai's journey to fend off invading Mongols from his home island of Tsushima. It takes place in the late 1200s and its narrative structure is inspired by classic samurai films. As a result, you'll meet plenty of friends and foes along the way; all of which are memorable, complex, and portrayed stunningly well by the cast of actors. Whereas many big titles feature cartoonish facial expressions and emotionally manipulative cinematography, Ghost of Tsushima tells its tale with maturity and finesse. In other words, observing the subtleties of each character helps flesh out who they are and where their motivations lie without metaphorically bludgeoning you over the head with it. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed how its characters are portrayed and I wholeheartedly believe that the acting within Ghost of Tsushima is the new gold standard for portraying video game characters.
You play as Jin Sakai who's an often conflicted yet ultimately determined samurai who was raised and trained with strict Bushidō principles which ensure that combat is accomplished honourably. However, when Mongols begin to brutally invade his island, he makes friends with a thief named Yuna who teaches him ways of fighting that go against these principles. From then on, you'll experience flashbacks and witness Jin Sakai struggle with balancing the way of the samurai with reclaiming his land by any means necessary. This aspect of the story is handled brilliantly and made me consistently question my own life. Is it better to constantly be principled and honourable or is it acceptable to stray whenever the situation calls for it? It really makes you think; well, at least it did for me.
Although its introduction is linear to help set up the story, Ghost of Tsushima takes place in a sprawling and jam-packed game world that's filled with absolutely gorgeous scenery. It's easy to often forget that you're playing a game as its world is astoundingly immersive and will make you feel like you're in the middle of a war-torn nation. Of course, not every square inch of it is inhabited by Mongols so it's wonderful to be able to take in the scenery in between confrontations. You'll even witness foxes hopping around that actually help you discover secrets, deer grazing in the fields, and dangerous bears that will kill you if you're spotted. Meanwhile, you can either travel by foot or horseback and although horseback is more efficient, I often chose to travel by foot so I could admire the view.
Considering Jin is a samurai, he has plenty of weapons, gadgets, and abilities at his disposal which help with traversal as well as combat. The former primarily consists of working your way between destinations and sometimes, you'll have to scale mountainsides and swim. Thankfully, Jin is highly capable and watching him climb a steep slope while using his trusty grappling hook to swing and scale walls is supremely rewarding. Once you reach the top, you can even pull out a flute and have Jin play a delightful song to help set the mood for the beautiful view. Oh, and I played on a PS4 Pro with an OLED TV so the visuals really pop.
Like many top-notch games, the combat in Ghost of Tsushima is as simple or as complex as you want it to be. In essence, you can stick to mashing heavy and quick attacks while dodging out of harm's way or you can take advantage of more complex moves to really gain the upper-hand such as parrying incoming attacks, throwing kunai to stagger foes, and challenging enemies to showdowns. Meanwhile, you can go about almost every confrontation in many different ways. For example, you may prefer playing like Agent 47 as you scope out your environment and carefully assassinate your foes one-by-one or maybe you want to pick them off with arrows at a distance.
Ghost of Tsushima is undeniably violent with plenty of blood and disgusting sound effects. However, I'm happy that there's no dismemberment or other potentially disturbing imagery because I don't particularly enjoy observing such things. It's a strange thing to say but I actually enjoy the level of violence in Ghost of Tsushima. It's not so soft as to ruin its impact but it's also not purposefully over-the-top like it is in some other big-name games. From watching bombs explode in the middle of a horde of foes to assassinating a guard through a shoji door, there's a great deal of fun to be had messing with the invading Mongols' plans.
As you progress through Ghost of Tsushima's many missions and explore its vast game world, you'll unlock plenty of upgrades for Jin himself as well as his gear. Besides his trusty katana and tantō, you can equip various helmets, masks, and armor as well as an assortment of long-range weaponry. Heck, you can even unlock additional saddles and songs for your flute. Although you can upgrade equipment and assign charms to your katana, the RPG elements are somewhat minimal which I appreciate as being able to enhance Jin too much would make the combat less challenging. With that in mind, most of the enhancements involve learning new evasive techniques, unlocking stances with supplementary boosts, and applying new traits to secondary weapons and core combat abilities.
Ghost of Tsushima's game world is large and beautiful and on top of that, it's completely full of things to do. For example, you may talk to an NPC who informs you about a hot springs location which then gets marked on your map so you travel there only to find some Mongols on the way and after fighting them, you acquire their supplies and finally take a much-needed rest in the hot springs which increases your maximum HP after you see Jin's glorious buttocks. To list more things to do, you can visit hard-to-reach shrines, write nature-inspired haikus, return the fire to lighthouses, train with bamboo strikes, and take on loads of optional tales which help flesh out the world and grant you access to cool stuff. With that being said, clearing out Mongols and reclaiming land is the most enjoyable feat.
Ghost of Tsushima is perhaps the greatest video game that I've played for this generation of consoles but it does have its downsides. For starters, the camera is controlled by you but it also tends to transition to some annoying angles, especially when you're in a tight spot which might make it difficult to see the action. Considering your fingers will be busy with combat, it's often difficult to put the camera back to an advantageous position. My only other complaint is that traversal sometimes results in awkward situations. For example, you may hop onto a cart thinking that it can be used as leverage but Jin ends up just floating in place. Once, I even got stuck between a crate and the ceiling and had to restart from the previous checkpoint to continue. Keep in mind; these issues are far from common.
Undoubtedly, Ghost of Tsushima is the greatest game of the generation. With perfect storytelling, supremely satisfying combat, and an astounding world that's packed with content and gorgeous sights, it raises the bar for open world games.
- + Awesome combat that's bursting at the seams with satisfying moves and weaponry
- + Jaw-dropping game world that feels real
- + Tons of rewarding objectives to master
- - Camera can sometimes obscure the action
- - Some minor traversal issues