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Game review: Ghost of Tsushima

By Damian Seeto
Wed 15 Jul 2020
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Developer Sucker Punch Productions is well known for making the popular Sly Cooper and Infamous video game series. Instead of returning to its existing IPs though, the developer chose to make something different called Ghost of Tsushima

For the longest time, gamers around the world have been begging to play an open world game based on feudal Japan. Many people thought a future Assassin’s Creed game would be set in Japan, but sadly Ubisoft decided to choose other settings instead. 

If you want to play an Assassin’s Creed game based in Japan, Ghost of Tsushima is the game you are looking for. It’s an action packed masterpiece featuring great gameplay and a touching story to boot. 

Ghost of Tsushima is set in 13th century Japan in a place called Tsushima Island. You play a brave samurai warrior named Jin Sakai and he has to fight back against the evil invading Mongol Empire led by Khotun Khan. 

Sakai’s mission to eradicate the Mongols and save his people isn’t going to be an easy task because Khotun Khan has kidnapped his uncle named Lord Shimura. Sakai now has to then come up with a team to help save his uncle and rid Tsushima of the Mongol Empire forever!

What I like most about the story is Sakai’s struggles to listen to his uncle’s teachings. His uncle always taught him to fight with honour which means to never kill enemies from behind. However, Sakai begins to learn how to become a ninja/ghost when he meets a thief named Yuna. 

As the player, you have the choice to choose how you want to tackle the missions and kill off enemies based on the skills and techniques you want to level up first. This gives players a chance to either become a samurai or the opportunity to be known as a ‘ghost’.

A game like this isn’t going to be fun if the combat is shoddy, but I’m glad to say that the controls in Ghost of Tsushima are excellent. It’s a thinking person’s game because you need to learn how to parry and use the right type of stance in order to effectively kill your enemies in this game. 

For example, enemies with spears can be tough because they can damage Sakai a lot at the beginning of the game. Once you learn the special Water Stance later on in the game, killing people with spears no longer becomes difficult. 

You are also forced to learn to block and parry at the right time too. If you see a blue light, you need to press the L1 button at the right time. If you do this correctly, a perfect parry gives you the best opportunity to strike back and kill enemies with ease. 

The game also uses a very effective dodge mechanic too that allows you to avoid unblockable attacks. Unblockable attacks are indicated by a red light and you can move away or dodge roll in order to get out of harm’s way. Rolling on the ground also makes Sakai get very muddy if he uses the technique often on muddy grounds!

The AI is pretty aggressive in Ghost of Tsushima as they can really damage you a lot if you’re surrounded by a lot of enemy soldiers. What’s interesting though is that once you fight back, some cowardly enemies will run away if you get the upper hand. This little detail made the AI feel more realistic as they didn’t want to die so easily.  

Boss fights are also present in Ghost of Tsushima and these encounters are slightly different than normal. Bosses have a red life bar and most of them are epic one-on-one fights. The boss fights are fun and they’re far easier to play through compared to other action games like Sekiro and Nioh. 
Alternatively, there are several missions in the main story where you are required to use stealth. At the start of the game, Sakai is hesitant to kill like a ninja because he was taught to fight honourably. That all changes when he meets Yuna and he realises it will take more than brute strength to beat Khotun Khan and his Mongol army. 

Sakai has access to a lot of cool things to kill enemies quietly. He can use a bow and arrow, distract guards with wind chimes, or even throw smoke bombs and more. The stealth missions add more variety to the story as it would have been too repetitive going up against baddies face-to-face all of the time. 

You also have the option to ‘listen’ to the enemy’s footsteps giving you a fair idea on where they are at all times. It’s similar to the game mechanic recently used in The Last of Us Part II and it’s really helpful. Without this feature, I don’t think I would have been able to do the stealth missions so easily. 

One of the coolest gadgets Sakai has in his journey is a grappling hook. When Sakai attains this, he can swing like Spider-Man to get to higher ledges and areas. It can also be used to hide in high spots before you can pounce on top of an enemy undetected.

The game even includes wild animals that can both attack or aid Sakai in combat. My favourite encounter was when I freed a bear from his jail cell and he helped kill off the rest of the enemy soldiers for me. Nobody was strong enough to take down the ferocious bear!

Graphically, Ghost of Tsushima gives you a beautiful sight of what feudal Japan looked like many centuries ago. There’s a ton of grasslands for you to trek on using your horse as this island is large with three distinct regions. Not to mention it looks awesome seeing all of the leaves that are left behind by the trees in this game. The game also has a day and night cycle plus you will see things like snow and rain coming down in some other areas of the game too. 

To add more spiciness to the visuals, you can also play the game in black and white making it look like an old Japanese ‘50s movie. While this is a cool option to have, I still preferred to play the game in colour as it was easier to scout out enemies that way. 

While the majority of this game is great, there were some tiny issues I had playing it near the beginning. The beginning of the game is arguably harder because Sakai doesn’t get to unlock all of the cool abilities until much later in his journey to save Tsushima. 

For example, I had a tough time killing enemies with spears at the beginning of the game because I didn’t unlock the right stance to combat them at the time. I also had trouble battling bow and arrow bad guys too because you have to level up before you can deflect their arrows. 

It wasn’t until much later in the game that the combat feels satisfying. There were even some techniques I didn’t discover until after I finished the main story! If you’re having trouble playing the game, you should persevere because the gameplay gets better the more you progress through the story. 

Another minor issue I had with this game is that it’s quite stingy with how many gadgets you can carry at one time. I wanted to stock up on some gadgets, but you can only hold two or four items at a time. You can only increase the quantity of your arsenal if you collect a lot of supplies like ‘predator hides’. Sometimes enemies can give you more ammo, although this may not happen all of the time when you’re searching their dead bodies. 

Aside from a few small issues, Ghost of Tsushima is still a great game to play and is one of the best titles released in 2020 so far. If you love games like Assassin’s Creed, there’s no doubt that you will fall in love with this game too. The story is also great, but the gameplay is where Ghost of Tsushima really shines. 

Verdict: 9.0/10

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