Ghost of Tsushima marks the return of Sucker Punch (series inFamous) to PS4 to tell the saga of Jin Sakai, a samurai who had to make difficult choices about honor, tradition and his own identity in order to combat the invasion of the Mongol army to the island of Tsushima. With third-person gameplay, lots of exploration and stunning visuals, the game arrives on July 17th and is exclusive to PlayStation 4. The game has an option for subtitles in Brazilian Portuguese.
Before starting this review, I would like to make some warnings: there are no spoilers in this text. For that reason, I did not put images of the game map – as there is a lot of information already unlocked on it that could ruin your experience. I avoided using some images from the menu too, as it contains features that will only be seen in more advanced parts of the campaign.
That said, come on!
The tale of a samurai and the bravery of a ghost
The history of Ghost of Tsushima, which takes place in the form of tales, uses the feudal period of Japan as a background, more precisely during the Mongol invasions of Tsushima, between 1274 and 1281. The island was an important commercial center of the time and, due to its privileged location (between Korea and Japan) was also seen as a strategic military point.
Returning to fiction and the game’s narrative, you take control of the then samurai Jin Sakai, belonging to one of the most traditional and influential clans in the region. Jin lost his mother as a child and father when he was a teenager. But instead of being alone in the world, he was welcomed and trained by his uncle, the recognized and always faithful to traditions, Samurai Shimura.
The first great moment of emotion of the game happens at the very beginning, still in the prologue, when in control of Sakai you fight, along with other samurai, against the first incursion of the Mongols to Tsushima, by the beach. What Japanese warriors did not expect is that they would be easily slaughtered by the invaders, leaving Jin Sakai apparently as the sole survivor.
Reborn from the ashes after the samurai defeat, Jin will need to reevaluate many values learned in life, as he will realize that strictly following the samurai tradition will not be enough to overcome the enemy. Mongolians learned Japanese language and customs and know exactly where and how to attack them.
It will be a difficult journey for Sakai and he will have to team up with hitherto unlikely companions, like the thief Yuna (Yes, a thief. But don’t judge the book by its cover!), And forge a new form of struggle to have any chance of victory, even if he needs to abandon the life of a traditional samurai and act in the shadows, like a ghost.
Gameplay very familiar to other games of the genre
Putting the cards on the table right away: if you’ve ever played games like Assassins Creed (Origins or Odyssey), The Witcher III, Far cry (from third party onwards) and Nioh 2 – you will have a total of zero difficulty in adapting to the gameplay of Ghost of Tsushima. Contrary to what some were asking, this is not a “Souls-Like”. Even the reference to Nioh 2 it is very smooth and basically is reflected in the use of “Stances” (Stances) of fight.
The interesting thing is that I also didn’t notice any intention of Sucker Punch to try to “mask” these references. Some are even identical to the games mentioned above – changing only the theme for feudal Japan (obviously).
As far as general game mechanics are concerned, no new wheels were invented. Apart from the parts that I can’t say because they would be spoilers for the gameplay, the feeling is to play an “Assassin’s-Witcher-FarCry-Nioh 2”, but with its own shine. This surprised me positively, because my fear was that this title would become more of a generic sandbox and patchwork game (Yes. I’m talking about you, Days Gone).
Just to give a few examples: you will whistle to summon your horse from another dimension (it appears out of nowhere); will hide in the high vegetation so as not to be seen when invading places dominated by the Mongols (which, when released, increase their reputation and can free the area for the population to return and offer their services); use a kind of “spider sense” to see enemies through walls; use identical sneak attack techniques from Assassins Creed (like darts to drive enemies crazy) and so on.
The story of the main campaign – engaging and with some plot-twists, some extra activities to unlock your inventory and give boosts to Jin, in addition to the side missions of your companions (I’ll talk more about that later) are essential to help maintain this gameplay, already extremely well-known, interesting from beginning to end.
Of novelty, it is worth highlighting the option of Jin Sakai being able to face the best warrior of an enemy group face to face, and in front of others. Yes, duels! You can duel and, if you hit the sword stroke at the right time, you will kill your opponent in one stroke (if you miss the timing, you can do very badly). This goes for both when invading Fortes or even when encountering opposing groups on the road.
With the highest level of legend, winning a duel can even terrify the remaining enemies, who will flee in despair (use the longbow and don’t let the wretches escape!).
Many unlockable skills and Stances
The versatility of fighting styles is one of the highlights of this game. You will have at your disposal three great skill trees for investing legend points, which are achieved by completing missions and / or dozens of activities for Tsushima – how to find temples (always in places of difficult access. What makes life easier, for what?), fox holes, bamboo stands and etc.
The skills trees are: Samurai, Stances (Stances) and Ghost. Each of them branch out into more options. In Stances, for example, it is possible to unlock more devastating blows according to your position in battle, that is, your Stance.
These Stances work in a similar way as in Nioh 2. For enemies with only swords and faster, you use Stone Stance; for opponents with shields, the Water Stance; Brutes, Moon Stance and, finally, for those who attack you with spears there is Wind Stance.
It is worth mentioning that, when I speak of enemies, I am not referring only to Mongols. There are many bandits scattered around the island taking advantage of the chaotic situation as well.
It is important that you learn to position yourself in a fighting situation and the game itself will sometimes warn you when you are insisting on using a single Posture for everything. It may seem, but Ghost of Tsushima it is not a button smash with automatic actions.
Parry at the right time to break the enemy’s guard, dodge indefensible blows to position yourself to flank your opponent, switch quickly between Stances (when surrounded by multiple opponents) to engage combos and don’t forget your Ghost items to get a certain advantage (like throwing kunais, using smoke bombs or even setting your katana on fire).
In addition to melee attacks, Jin Sakai will also be able to use a shortbow and a longbow in battle. Each has its own advantages and strategies. The longbow gives you the chance to use arrows that pierce armor and has a longer range, but you need to be on your feet to use it and, therefore, it is more easily spotted. The short bow has incendiary arrows and can be used in stealth, but has a shorter range.
Armor and customization
There isn’t much variety of armor, although there are plenty of hats, masks and bandanas to choose from, and they don’t fall like enemy loot. You need to earn them over the course of missions. The good part is that, after a lot of grinding collecting hundreds of raw materials around the map, you can upgrade these garments (as well as improve your katanas, bows and bags to store throwable items).
Each armor brings its own boosts, such as increased health, or improves your Ghost skills, or gives you an advantage when using ranged attacks, etc. When forging improvements (there is always a blacksmith in any village or temple that has been released), these skills specific to each equipment also improve.
You can equip talismans too (there are several ways to get them) to have even more boosts and to personalize your character style. Speaking of customization, it is possible to exchange flowers (one of the grindings you will need to make) to buy different colors and styles for your katana, bows and armor. Some of these styles can also be unlocked by completing missions.
Beyond the main missions: there’s a lot to explore
In the case of an open world game, it is more than natural and expected that there are dozens of missions, in addition to the main ones. That part reminded me a lot The Witcher III in some ways.
There are random missions, which you get by talking to local residents (who give you a rumor to be investigated), people shouting for your help in the middle of some other mission (you have the option to help or not), missions that survivors pass on to you after being saved, missions to unlock skills and mystical items, in addition to the quests of your companions (which are the most worthwhile, in terms of narrative quality).
I’m not going to go into detail about these missions of Jin’s companions, because even meeting each of these characters is interesting in its own right and you need to try it yourself. What I can say is that they are stories of overcoming, betrayal, pain, emotional and will shape your mood to face the last moments of the main campaign. My tip is: complete them before the final events of the main quest.
All of these missions and points of interest are marked on your map. Each mission or activity resolved makes this place a quick trip point – which is wonderful, because there will come a time when you can cut across the island in the blink of an eye. Blink even, since the loadings are quite fast for a game with how many visual elements to load.
There are so many opportunities to collect items to make upgrades that, before half of the main story, I already felt overpowered. Closing the last battles of the main quest was even relatively smooth because of that. Grinding is love!
Ah, the game doesn’t end just because you closed the main quest. After watching the credits, it is possible to continue exploring the island of Tsushima. After all, there are still many enemies to fight (and loot to hunt).
Extra activities on the map
Ghost of Tsushima is one of those games that presents gifts to those who love to explore. There are extra activities scattered around the island that yield interesting prizes. For example, several times a golden bird will fly around you insistently (sometimes even irritates). Go where it takes you to discover secret locations, characters with important missions, hot springs to unlock more health, wearable items (hats, bandanas and masks), etc.
You can also search for fox holes, which in addition to being the cutest little things in the entire universe, guide you to statues so that Sakai can pray and unlock more slots for talismans.
There are also bamboo stands to cut by pressing a quick sequence of buttons and, over time, accumulate more “Resolve” – energy that will be used both to recover health and to feed powerful blows.
Visual and soundtrack look like a movie
When I watched the gameplay of Ghost of Tsushima straight from E3 2018 I was impressed, but I thought: “this was designed to look beautiful in the presentation. The reality will be different ”.
I paid for my language, because the game is visually incredible – from the choice of shots and angles for the most important or dramatic scenes, to the details of the foliage, changes in climate and vegetation, light and shadows, panoramic … Anyway, the game te transports you to an experience of almost a great production of Japanese cinema.
Speaking of Japanese cinema, Kurosawa Mode stands out, which activates a black and white filter for the game and menus, in addition to adapting all the elements of the title to this aesthetic. This is a tribute by Sucker Punch to the legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. In fact, all the sound in the environment gives the impression of listening to an old film, with the right to hiss due to the wind and a little more muffled general audio.
The traditional Japanese music, which packs the soundtrack, is so rich and abundant that two composers were needed for the game: Ilan Eshkeri and Shigeru “Ume” Umebayashi.
Everything is beautiful, however… Yes, bugs. I found some. Nothing that compromised the gameplay, that caused some kind of crash in the missions or that made me restart the game, but they need to be mentioned. I sometimes saw NPCs walking against walls, or even falling into space (trying to walk, but stumbling over an invisible stone constantly).
Controlling Jin, I got stuck a couple of times between two rocks, but managed to get out by shaking myself a little. Again, there is always the hope of the release patch to fix these things.
Ghost of Tsushima it may be the last major PS4 exclusive and, if it is, it will close the “lineage of the house” with merit honors. It had everything to be more of a generic sandbox with oriental guise, but it delivers a very fun game, with captivating characters, cinematic visuals and a soundtrack that makes you travel back to feudal Japan.
Despite little innovation in gameplay mechanics, the title managed to extract and adapt the highlights of each game that it used as inspiration. At 45 minutes of the second half, Sucker Punch proved that it also knows how to make great productions and sets itself on the level of established studios of the open world genre.
PS: all images in this review (except the opening image, the bamboo stand image and the two that show the menu) were made using Photography Mode.
- History holds attention and NPCs are captivating
- Cinematic visuals and soundtracks
- Make a beautiful “dress” with the gameplay “patchwork” from other games
- The cute little foxes
- NPCs stumbling over imaginary stones
- More generic sidequests get repetitive very fast
- Jin is sometimes a little disoriented when climbing mountains