With the PlayStation 5 seemingly on the horizon, developer Sucker Punch Productions made damn sure the PlayStation 4 went out with a bang with Ghost of Tsushima. Ghost of Tsushima followed on the heels of the controversial launch of Last of Us Part II. But does Ghost of Tsushima have the strength to stand on its own and stand out?
Ghost of Tsushima follows Jin Sakai, nephew of the great samurai Lord Shimura, as he finds his home decimated by the invading mongol horde. With a broken spirit and broken armor, players help Jin spark hope on the Isle of Tsushima to gather an army to help fend off the Mongol horde and free Tsushima, and hopefully stop the invasion of Japan as a whole.
Throughout the journey, Jin confronts his desire to uphold the samurai code and fight with honor or do whatever it takes to save his home. From the moment I booted up the game, the story sank its claws in me and did not let go. The slaughter at Komeda beach to the liberation of Lord Shimura, Ghost of Tsushima kept me on edge. There were moments where I had to stop playing because I was too nervous to keep going. I was afraid of what the outcomes were going to be.
Ghost of Tsushima follows the standard open world adventure game system. Players get a large map to explore, with multiple side objectives which reward cosmetic skins or stat upgrades. There are plenty of side quests which offer more of the story and more information on what kind of a man Jin is.
Beyond the main story, there are a few side characters whom Jin helps come to terms with the catastrophes that have befallen them. Characters such as Lady Masako, whose family has been murdered. Sensei Ishakawa, whose student has betrayed him. And Yuna, the thief who saves Jin’s life from the slaughter at Komeda Beach.
The map feels just big enough to be accessible and exciting, but not too small where the players feel like they could blink and miss most of the Isle. And honestly, I don’t know why anyone would want to miss the visuals of Ghost of Tsushima. Ghost of Tsushima is one of the most, if not the most, visually stimulating game this console generation.
The environments felt real and inviting. I would often stop and spend 30 minutes in a field of flowers using the incredible photo mode to see what snaps I could take. Not only is the game gorgeous, but the soundtrack matches the world perfectly. The subtle flute, or strings that would fill the empty flower fields as Jin surveyed a Mongol camp was sublime.
One of the best features of Ghost of Tsushima is the combat. Jin has access to a wide variety of ways of dispatching his foes. Jin has a bow and arrow, his newly found “Ghost” techniques, and his beloved Katana. Combat is an absolute blast. From the first encounter to the final duel, combat remains immersive and exciting.
From the get go Jin has access to one of four “stances.” These stances offer bonuses for handling the multiple types of Mongols. The first stance you have access to is the stone stance which tears through foes with swords, but is ineffective against other weapon types.
The way combat works is simple, yet offers depth and excitement. Every enemy has a stagger bar above their head. And using the proper stance quickly breaks their stagger, opening them up for a devastating combo. Not only that, Jin has the ability to parry most attacks which instantly opens the enemy.
The most intense part is that most foes go down with 3 to 4 strikes, but the same goes for Jin. This makes every encounter a constant gamble, but if performed correctly makes players feel unstoppable. Near the middle of the game, combat becomes a fluid dance of swapping stances to quickly clear an encampment.
In all honesty, my favorite part of Ghost of Tsushima is the feeling of intimacy it grants the player. Throughout the game, there are little moments where Jin is left alone with his thoughts, and players are granted a small insight into them. Whether it’s thinking about his favorite food while in a hot spring, or observing the beauty of Tsushima to draft a Haiku, players get an insight into the emotions of Jin.
It was these moments that made Ghost of Tsushima special to me. It was the pure rawness for Jin, who is supposed to be this lone badass warrior, to have moments of self-doubt that humanized the entire experience.
Normally, I try to end the reviews with a little negative to go with the positive. But I found no faults in Ghost of Tsushima. I spent close to 70 hours with Ghost and absolutely loved every second of it. From standing in pure awe at what Sucker Punch was able to do with the PS4, to raiding every Mongol camp, to chasing every fox, or honoring every Shinto Shrine, Ghost of Tsushima stayed engaging and fun.
After rescuing Lord Shimura, I knew Ghost of Tsushima would rank high in my favorite games. It was near the conclusion of Act 2, during a discussion between Lord Shimura and Jin before taking back a castle controlled by the Mongols, that Ghost of Tsushima became my favorite game of all time. The emotional impact of Ghost of Tsushima cannot be downplayed or undersold. I knew the ending was coming. I called it during the final invasion. But I was in no way prepared for the impact that it would have.
Ghost of Tsushima is a perfect blend of open world action/adventure, without skimping on the story. From start to finish Ghost of Tsushima left me on the edge of my seat. And it kept me pushing and driving to see all the secrets hidden on the Isle. I cannot recommend this experience enough.
Sucker Punch has sent the PlayStation 4 out with a bang. And with something that makes me excited to see what’s in store for the future. Please, do yourself a favor and pick up Ghost of Tsushima and see what it takes to defend your home.
Ghosts of Tsushima was purchased at retail for review purposes. All images in the article captured in-game; featured image from Sony.