Today, many games are lauded for “playing like you’re in a movie”. As more studios invest more money into video games, the gap between movie and game gets closer every day. Ghost of Tsushima is so incredibly close to a perfect blend between Samurai movie and Action RPG the likes of which has been seen so precious few times before. Everything about the game is not only engaging, but cinematically impactful. And while the game does have its minor faults that stop it from being perfection incarnate, it is nonetheless an absolute must play of this generation.
Ghost of Tsushima starts off with a bang, throwing the player character immediately into war. The cutscene blends immediately into gameplay, which caught even me by surprise having seen similar scenarios before. Not only was the action impactful, it really felt like I WAS a samurai. The tutorial melded seamlessly into the gameplay, not detracting from the heavy nature of the warzone your character finds himself in. This opening scenario really set the pace for what was to come, and while it was cutscene heavy it never felt overbearing. In short, every action felt incredibly impactful and fun to execute.
The combat in Ghost of Tsushima is incredibly responsive. While it lacks lock-on targeting, it is very reminiscent of games like The Witcher 3, where you’re stacked up against multiple enemies and have to look to dodge and parry according to the tells the enemy is giving you. The lack of lock-on targeting makes this daunting at first, but truthfully it doesn’t take much away from the combat. With the wide arsenal of stances and secondary weapons presented to you throughout the story, it never feels boring to just have the katana. Combat is varied between stealth gameplay and full on combat, with one of my favorites being the “Standoff” system. This is when you challenge enemies to 1 on 1 combat, and pick the perfect time to strike to down them in one hit. While it can seem challenging when they bluff you to attack, it’s so satisfying to mow through a group of people before they can even touch you. Between this, the archery and the stealth gameplay, it never gets old taking down entire enemy camps alone. The only thing that takes away from this, however, is enemy variety. Once you’ve been playing for a decent amount of time, you’ll see the exact same enemy over and over. It’s not like fantasy games where you’ll fight monsters and the like so there’s that scaling variety, it’s more so finding the same 2-3 archetypes of enemy and fighting them in different ways until you find the boss.
Ghost of Tsushima’s main strength is how well it rewards you for exploration. The island of Tsushima is packed to the brim with side-quests and secondary objectives that are not only fun to discover, but satisfying to finish. From Fox Dens to Bamboo Strikes and Hot Springs, the amount there is to find is absolutely immense. The game never feels like it’s punishing you for straying away from the main story. Rather, it encourages this exploration with beautiful vistas, cosmetics, and engaging side stories. While you’re encouraged to continue with the story to unlock more items and progress through the island, the captivating beauty of the environment in all forms of weather is cause enough to just take your horse and run around. This is even reflected in the skill tree, as you can allocate skill points to having the wind show you to collectibles or upgrades rather than taking a point in a combat stat. This is a welcome change for those more inclined to exploration, as it feels more engaging to follow the wind to a space than have the collectible just be marked instantly.
While Ghost of Tsushima has many amazing parts to it, there are some faults that can detract from the experience at large. Seeing how it is set in Japan and has an option for fully voiced Japanese dialogue with subtitles, that’s the option I went with. While it offers a more authentic experience in general, the lip-syncing is pretty off and can make the cutscenes awkward to watch, especially in more tense moments. While that is probably my biggest issue, the smaller ones tend to add up. Climbing is very hit or miss, as it’s not only tedious at times but the grappling hook is very finicky. There have been shrines I’ve tried to ascend and just never got the prompt for the hook, and fallen to my death more times than was honestly necessary. Finally, the economy around the “Resolve” system is pretty skewed in the healing direction. As you unlock more skills, they require you to use Resolve to execute. While some are cool to watch, they can be quite underwhelming against later enemies. Healing is almost always more useful, and because of this these abilities can go largely unused. A s secondary resource system would have been more effective, almost like the Concentration feature for the game’s archery.
All in all, I think Ghost of Tsushima is a must play. The game is beautiful in every sense, and has so much to do. While there isn’t much replay value past the first playthrough, I feel that once is more than enough with the sheer volume of content this game presents. Combat makes you feel like a samurai, the boss fights feel more like genuine fights for life, and the scenery is phenomenal at every turn. With so much to do and so many ways to go about it, Ghost of Tsushima is worth every penny and then some, proudly solidifying itself as a new standard of game that future similar titles can only hope to be compared to.
Score: 9 out of 10
Reviewed on PlayStation 4