Ghost Of Tsushima Review (PS4)
Jin Sakai, the protagonist of this AAA open world game based on historical real events, is a man on a mission for revenge after his homeland, the isle of Tsushima, Japan is raided by Mongol invaders. The countryside he once called home becomes ravaged as it's residents are slaughtered or forced to join the rebels. Nearly killed, Jin somehow manages to live through the initial invasion but not in time to save all of his family. Jin, himself is nearly killed and when he awakens to see the destruction the Mongols have wreaked upon beautiful Tsushima, he vows to seek out and butcher the man responsible, Khotan Khan, cousin of Kublai Khan and the enemy commander of the regiment spread out throughout Tsushima. The Mongols are burning, pillaging and ultimately slaughtering all Japanese citizens who refuse to submit to their ways, and Jin being a trained samurai for his whole life, swears to end this rebellion and set things right for his people. Thus, our story begins......
Sucker Punch clearly has learned a few things since creating their earlier titles, such as the Infamous series. These games, while very similar, lack the beauty and scope of Ghost of Tsushima. The open world of Tsushima is much more enjoyable to gaze at and explore openly versus Infamous' dark grimy street corners. That being said, this game does not check all the boxes for a flawless open world game for today's standards. I will dive in more detail later, but the quests could certainly take a page or two from The Witcher 3 as they are all the same and are rather boring. Either fetch quest related or you are killing Mongols, Which is what you do the entire game so Sucker Punch could have made it even better were there variety in the quests. The scope of the world map and all the vast locations at hand to freely roam can be a bit overwhelming. This is what saved this review I'm writing from receiving a much lower score is the isle of Tsushima itself, it's a stunning sight to behold and captures Japan in what most think of when we think of Japan. Bamboo forests, hot springs waterfalls, bitter frosty cold mountaintops, its all here. Therefore it is not an exaggeration at all to say that the games saving grace is the setting as no one has quite made a region that looks this good. I can only imagine playing in 4k or even on PS5. UNREAL!!
But now, I will go into more detail about the pros and cons at play here in this ninja/samurai spectacle. Kurosawa films are an obvious inspiration, as the game features a few classic duels that are perfectly recreated from the some of the best classic samurai films from Kurosawa. This is another factor about this title that manages to make it a worthwhile purchase. The combat is accessible for any and all players, not requiring too much patience or skill as the "soulsborne" games we keep getting these days. The controls are easily memorized and a touch of square and triangle perform the low powered and high powered attacks with Jin's katana. There are numerous stances such as the Stone Stance, which is the default Stance Jin starts the game out with. You unlock more as Jin gains experience and continues to battle more and tougher enemies. Observing or killing enemy commanders in charge of a location and Jin gets one step closer to unlocking another Stance. Each stance has unique benefits to battle situations. The Stone Stance for instance, is effective against enemies who carry swords. The others you will gain will give you advantages over enemies with shields, big brute enemies and even archers. It's a good thing the combat in game is so easily recognized and accessible because throughout Ghost of Tsushima, you will be doing the most of this. Going back and forth up and down the map clearing out Mongol invasion points and clearing towns of the threat, it can become a little repetitious. Also, in combat, not only does Jin have great skills with a katana and bow, but as the game goes on, he begins to realize the need to kill from the shadows and while that may not be a trait that is looked highly upon by the samurai he has trained his whole life to become, may be required nonetheless if Jin has any hope of freeing Tsushima from the Mongol grasp. You will be required upon many occasions to stay hidden and perform ninja like assassinations and stealth kills to remain undetected and become a "ghost" in combat. Jin does not like the consequences this type of act may bring upon him and the dishonor that goes along with it but he knows that honor is not winning this war. So, as the game progresses, Jin becomes more skilled and unlocks new takedown abilities to aid him in the retaking of his homeland. Luckily, there are a few minor distractions along the way such as Shrines you can reach which send you through platformer challenges, rewarding players with unique buffs called charms, which are basically a type of accessory to equip Jin with that provide boons and make it easier to perform certain takedowns or kills. There are also Fox Den's to locate and after finding them, you will have to follow the tracks of the friendly fox, who will lead Jin to guardian statues, and when Jin is able to reach them and bow and make an offering will receive more resolve. Resolve is the games way of providing Jin a means of healing. You can only do it so many times and at the start of the game Jin only has one or two resolve points. As you progress, Jin can up that amount by a tremendous amount, making the later game boss fights much easier to accomplish. Also, there are hot springs to visit which upon doing so, will give Jin a permanent health boost. The game also makes a few other minor attempts at encouraging players to gather collectibles such as Mongol Artifacts or Singing Crickets, but mostly these are easy to skip and don't provide much else than a brief description or a new song Jin is able to play with his lute. In the end, they don't offer enough to stress over or scourge the huge map Tsushima entails.
Back to the quests, Jin has several key allies who are fighting for the same cause as he. Characters such as Sensei Ishikawa, a very skilled archer, whose home has been plowed by the raiders, can be completed. These "tales" as the game calls them, are very much worth seeking out and completing as they reward players with very unique items and skills. You can unlock a bow and arrow, flaming arrows, explosives, but the best of all is the tales that reward epic or mythic armor. These armor sets are usually tougher to acquire than the average quest types, but very much worth the risk as Jin can don the armor and gain access to very powerful buffs and battle changing abilities. One of the end-game armor sets acquired even provides Jin with such an intimidating aura that enemies have a 30% chance of becoming terrified when Jin parries or performs a perfect counterattack. This comes in handy when you find yourself heavily outnumbered which happens quite often in this game. You can also find dye merchants who can dye your armor sets many different shades of colors, giving Jin a new look. The main characters, critical to the main story, will become visible upon the map, so there is no reason not to complete these assignments and reap the big rewards for their completion.
The story is a little mundane and predictable, but is worth experiencing all the same. There are a few plot twists that managed to catch me off guard but alot of the content within is stuff we have all seen a thousand times before. But even so, between the rapid bouts of melee combat, the exploration of beautiful Tsushima (which by the way are some of the most gorgeous vistas on PS4 to date!) and the armor sets and new weapons to upgrade your arsenal with, Ghost of Tsushima is an adventure worth the price of admission. The fetch quests become irritating but once you reach the later stages of the game, things heat up quickly and will have you willing to ride it out till the end.