Sucker Punch have been making games just before the turn of the century, but this is the first time they have ever made an “18” rated title. No corners were cut to deliver the true experience of a Samurai bar maybe the gushing blood from wounds. Did Sucker Punch go straight for the jugular, or is it a painful death of a thousand cuts instead?
It is quite hard to imagine how long since the last time I played a game that featured Samurai, let alone a good one. My mind goes back to the PS2 era and games like Onimusha and the Tenchu series to some degree. Others like NiOh and Sekiro revisited the well, but due to their difficulty and punishing gameplay they weren’t for me. Ghost of Tsushima blends what is great from all of the games of the past with what gamers have come to expect from more modern games such as The Witcher, Horizon Zero Dawn and Assassin’s Creed.
GoT is undoubtedly stunning. At every given angle you see a scene that could be a painting except this time it is in motion. Foliage moves with the wind and even carries leaves and petals along with it. But it isn’t just for show, the wind plays a crucial role in guiding you to you destination. No other game has ever been able to implement such a Ludic interface that blends into the world without taking the player out. Swiping up on the touchpad becomes second nature to summon the wind to coerce the player in the right direction.
You play as Jin Sakai, a man who was raised as a Samurai warrior from childhood by his only family; Uncle Lord Shimura. You are taught to fight with honour and by a warriors code. The game begins with a large scale battle during the Mongol invasion of Japan. Jin is faced with an enemy that fights without honour and therefore the entire samurai are slain. He is saved by Yuna, a thief who nurses him back to health and Jin must follow a code that juxtaposes his life-long training.
You can choose to fight the way you want in most scenarios. Face to face, with honour, or stealthily by stabbing your enemies in the back. Which the game discourages you a lot, especially in the beginning, not only by making it hard, but by hammering home Jin’s training via flashbacks. Soon you realise that you must do whatever it takes to win and even Jin and the player both get comfortable with it.
This is compounded by the upgrade system. You earn experience that unlocks ‘Technique Points’ which you can put into a multitude of skill sets. From ‘Ghost’ or Samurai style techniques. These vary from chaining assassinations or stealth kills to chaining ‘stand off’ kills or honourable kills. The good thing is the game doesn’t punish you in any way, and the more you play the more technique points you will unlock that will allow you to upgrade in every facet of Jin’s new combat style. I am a big fan of stealth games, so from the outset I thought i’d play stealthily throughout the whole game, but I would say I have leaned more towards the honourable side. Simply because the upgrades and armour sets allow you to chain more and more honourable kills, each of which is a single slash. But also, the combat is fun.
With every part of this game, there are many layers to it and that is likely why it is very fun. The combat being possibly the best bit. It is all about timing and you can get really good it the more you practice. From dodging to parrying timing is key. Then come four fighting stances each designed to counter specific enemy types; Water, Wind, Stone and Moon. You’d expect it all to be about sword-play but it isn’t. There are two types of bows with different arrows, blow dart also with different ammo and even throwables the list is impressive. Each one is useful, but you may find your play style will determine what you use. I played the entire game and never used the ‘Wind chime’ throwables used to distract enemies or even the firecrackers. The depth in the game is spectacular
Armour is another key part of the game, you will pick up many different types, each tailored for your gameplay style. A lot of these come from side quests so you will find yourself straying from the main line story to do these. The is the second game that I have enjoyed the side quests quite a lot, the first being Horizon Zero Dawn. There are a lot of side activity and you might even say too many, mostly because they are very repetitive.
Probably where the title falls a bit flat are the basic collectables such as Fox Dens and Haiku writing. Yes they start off fun and quirky, but by the sixth time you want it to be over as quickly as possible, but there are loads of them. The ‘Bamboo Cutting’ mini game is my favourite as their is some skill involved and only sixteen throughout the whole game, so it never really outstays its welcome.
The world of Tsushima is huge and you can fast travel after you complete a mission or collectable in an area which is incredible. The load times are astonishingly quick too almost next gen levels. Traversing is fun, but I wish there was a way to glide down from mountain tops as falling form heights isn’t Jin’s favourite thing to do. Each area looks superb and the environment artists and 3D modellers as well as the engine team have made a world you would love to inhabit. The character design isn’t the best in my opinion, Jin doesn’t have that classic ‘hero’ look, but you could argue against that I suppose. Most of the main characters look good and are voice acted well. I found Jin to come across a little flat until the very end where scenes get very emotional, but he is a man whose sole purpose is to kill. So I can forgive he probably doesn’t have time for charisma and fits the persona accurately.
The cinematic influences are clear throughout, particularly during the many duels. These are one on one battles that pit you against another skilled swordsmen and almost all fights are to the death. They all start in the exact same way, with a face-off and both opponents unsheathe their swords. A little repetitive and something that I found to be the case a few times, I wished I could skip the cutscenes, but you can’t. The backdrop to every fight is like a piece of art, it adds to the drama. Some of the fights you want to be in, and several you do not for several reasons.
Khotun Khan is possibly one of the best antagonists in a game. His acting is superb and I was enamoured by him in every scene. He isn’t the monster you’d expect the main villain to be, but he will commit horrific acts when needed. There were hints of Scarface in the portrayal. There are particular scenes that you can’t look away and I was very teary at the end. I played for days and there is no in-game clock to time, but it would exceed 25 hours at least. I played a lot fo the side missions and unlocked all of the mythical quests but after completion the game opens up and you have areas to liberate as well as any remaining side missions and collectables to pick up.
You must play this game, truly a swan song for PlayStation 4 exclusives.
- Replay Value