By: Corey Lack
I recently finished playing the game, Ghost of Tsushima and I can say, without a doubt, that this game is every bit as much as it was hyped to be. It will easily have a chance to be this year’s game of the year. Fans of older samurai movies will especially enjoy this game as there are many trademarks from them in this. There will be spoilers in this article so I’m gonna put a major Spoiler Warning here.
The game’s plot is focused on Jin Sakai, one of the few samurai that managed to survive the initial invasion of the Mongols, and his doing whatever it takes in order to push the invaders out of the Japanese borders. Through the course of the games story, Jin gathers allies from all walks of life rather than just the remaining samurai, the Mongols, and bandits aren’t the biggest threat. Jin’s actions, despite seeking to protect his people and free his home from the grasp of the Mongols, is considered extremely dishonorable and the actions of a criminal. These include the use of poison and stabbing enemies in the back rather than facing them head-on as is considered appropriate for ‘honorable’ samurai. The plot really draws the player in with dramatic and shocking scenes as well as interesting characters.
Three of the main characters, Jin, his adopted father, Lord Shimura, and the Mongol leader, Khotun Khan, are the most interesting ones in the game. Jin’s gradual change from an honorable samurai who can’t even consider stabbing an enemy in the back to the Ghost who will do anything that’s necessary is understandable and fascinating, especially when Shimura, who raised him and is laser-focused on the idea of honor, interacts with him and sees his dishonorable and ‘shameful’ actions. Khotun, despite appearing in only a few cutscenes after the prologue, was also a threatening and very human character. He was willing to do whatever it took to succeed and conquer Tsushima, securing his legacy in history. His size and armor are all designed and made with the clear purpose of intimidating the player and I have to say they work, especially when he shows soon after his introduction that he isn’t just a mindless brute, but also a keen strategist as well.
That said, the main place the game seemed to be lacking was with the other characters. Jin’s allies, the ones given the most screentime, just were not very interesting in my opinion. Yuna, the thief, Sensei Ishikawa, the samurai bowman, Masako, the aged warrior woman, and Norio, a Buddhist warrior monk, each should have been interesting and on the surface they were, but by the end of their individual storylines, I lost interest.
Also, there is not enough that can be said about the environment. The detail of the world has clearly been painstakingly rendered to be as realistic and lifelike as possible, from the leaves of the trees blowing in the wind to the fur and sounds of the various animals that are seen throughout the wilderness. There were times where I would stop and just admire the scenery, though I wouldn’t recommend doing this in the middle of a fight as you can find yourself taken down pretty quick if you get distracted.
Finally, the gameplay is, for the most part, as well done as the environment. The combat is easy to grasp and has quick fluid movements. By the end, you will really feel like you are a samurai as you take down every enemy in your path. The idea to use foxes and birds to find hidden locations works really well and fits in with the spiritual aspects of the story. The only issue that came up is the birds would occasionally fly in place when it came into contact with a wall or building, making following them in settlements an unnecessary annoyance. That said, the game worked really well and I highly recommend it. I’d give Ghost of Tsushima 9.5 dead Mongols out of 10.