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Feature Article

Ghost Of Tsushima: Everything We Know About Historical Accuracy, Combat, And More

The latest on the big PS4 exclusive.

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Sony's reveal of Ghost of Tsushima was one of the highlights of Paris Games Week 2017, and what a surprise it was to find out that Infamous and Sly Cooper developer, Sucker Punch Games, is behind the project. The original trailer laid the foundation: a fictionalized take on an actual 13th century Mongol invasion, with a protagonist who transforms from samurai to ninja in order to protect the island his people call home. This year's E3 gave us a first look at live gameplay, and our first real taste of the beautifully realized environments that serve as the backdrop for what promises to be a brutal and unforgiving conflict.

We've pulled together everything we know about Ghost of Tsushima so far, including info on combat and details about the island and its inhabitants, and will continue to provide new updates as we learn more.

Characters, Story, and Setting

Ghost of Tsushima is set on the Japanese island of Tsushima, a location that in 1274 was invaded by Mongol raiders. Sucker Punch did extensive research on the actual island, including the study of the original beach where the Mongols first struck land. The team's vision is best summarized as an informed remix of the real island's geography, flora, and fauna. For Sucker Punch, it's all about glorifying the source material to set the stage for equally beautiful and tense moments in a war-torn idyllic countryside.

The lead character is Jin Sakai, and Jin will have to take what he's learned after years of training as a samurai and adjust his techniques in order to fend off forces that greatly outnumber the island's inhabitants, let alone the one-man army fighting to protect them. Sucker Punch's Chris Zimmerman described the tone of the game as brutal, but he also clarified that both sides of the conflict will reflect the humanity that so often gets lost in combat-driven games, with both Mongols and Japanese characters that will defy expectations--Masako, the character in the E3 trailer, being a prime example.

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Combat

One of the primary conceits of Ghost of Tsushima is Jin's gradual adoption of ninja-like fighting and stealth techniques, of which we've only gotten a taste of so far. The majority of the available info on combat is focused on swordplay, either in one-on-one fights or with Jin facing off against small groups of enemies.

Despite the prevalence of realism, Ghost of Tsushima is not Bushido Blade, a fighting game where a single sword strike could spell death--just like real life. According to Zimmerman, this model simply isn't fun in the team's eyes. Still, we have seen moments in the available footage where Jin successfully takes off body parts and kills enemies with a flick of his wrist, and it appears this is more likely to happen while fending off common enemies, versus more important battles where opponents can absorb multiple slashes.

While Sucker Punch has hired weapons experts to help direct combat and attack animations, the studio is also going to play up traditional techniques by judiciously adding flair for effect. "There are things that Jin does when you're fighting that no samurai would ever do," said Zimmerman. "He does spin strikes, which are fun, they're very showy, they are completely… you would never do that [in real life]. You would never turn your back. There are things that he does even right now that we may continue to edit as we look for that balance. We'll see if we can find the best of both worlds, where it's as real as it can be while still being a video game."

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Historical Accuracy

One of the most interesting discussions around the game coming out of E3 was about Sucker Punch's philosophy behind making a fun, fictional game based on dramatic real-life events. Once again, Zimmerman offered valuable insight. The team knows what historians have reported, but only so much of it will be honored--a decision made to cater to mainstream expectations of samurai, informed by movies and games alike.

According to Zimmerman: "we're going to deviate from historical truth, we just want to do it intentionally. A lot of the support we get from our friends from Sony in Japan, and our Japanese friends in Sony US, and all the cultural consultants we've assembled to help us do this stuff, is to make sure we don't deviate accidentally. There are things we are going to do that are different and we want to choose those wisely."

"If you have an idea about what samurai look like or how they act or how they think we're going to give that to you," he added. "Most people's idea is really based on an idea of samurai which is really more of a 16th-, 17th-, 18th-century idea of samurai; 13th century, historically, is pretty different. In terms of how they fought, what they wore, it doesn't match your expectations. So we're not sticking exactly to the historical truth of Kamakura-era samurai. It's gonna be a little different. The armor that you see him wear, it's not 13th century armor. It's more warring-states-period armor. Because, honestly, the 13th century armor is pretty jarring looking, it's not what you'd expect. It's really boxy. It doesn't look aspirational. And we wanna make sure that what we give you is your fantasy of what being a wandering samurai is."

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Language Options

The E3 gameplay trailer had some of us concerned due to the use of English voice acting, which stood out given the game's historical basis and the stated import of cultural identity. Rest assured, there are language options available for players who prefer to hear Japanese and Mongolian voiceovers with English subtitles.

Difficulty

Speaking to Zimmerman, it sounds like Sucker Punch will create multiple difficulty settings in order to cater to a wide range of players. "There are difficulty levels and that's actually kind of more important for us than it is for a lot of games, because it's an open world game and lots of different people play those games for different reasons. There are people who are going to say it's beautiful and they just want to see what it's like, and yeah, their experience has to be different than somebody who looks at it like they've always wanted to play a really grounded katana fighting game, and the fantasy for them is about challenge, discipline, practice and precision--that's what they expect of samurai and that's what the game should demand from them as the player."

Release Date

Neither Sucker Punch nor Sony have committed to a release date for Ghost of Tsushima at this time.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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Peter Brown

Peter is Managing Editor at GameSpot, and when he's not covering the latest games, he's desperately trying to recapture his youth by playing the classics that made him happy as a kid.
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