It is worth noting that prior to starting this, that this is the last known large scale exclusive for the Playstation 4. That’s a lot to live up to, and this is actually a really great experience despite that pressure which of course doesn’t factor into the scoring at all. It’s just a nice thing to start this off with, as it is sort of a swan song for the console.
With that, Ghost of Tsushima is an open world RPG experience where players take on the role of a lone Samurai. It’s about liberating the people of the island, and being prepared to push the boundaries of what it means to be a Samurai. There are of course expected levels of honor, and ways in which one must conduct themselves to fit into that sort of role.
That sort of system isn’t too helpful when you’re up against a ruthless opponent, which are the Mongols. It will take bending the code of honor, and going against entrenched beliefs in order to move beyond what one might consider a Samurai. It’s neat how the game plays around with this concept within the narrative. It’s given a key focus at the start, though it trails off in the middle for it to come back in a strong fashion towards the end.
There it stumbles slightly story wise, as a certain weapon that comes in later seems to be a default choice by the protagonist, and that could have been slid in a smoother way quite honestly. Still, it worked out well leaving an impactful conclusion that I believe will have a certain amount of discussion for how intense it was. The Haiku is a powerful statement, that’s for sure. I definitely won’t be spoiling things within this review, but I think that concept helps give placement to the structuring here. The story is act based with the first one being considerably longer than the others, with it narrowing in focus towards the end.
That’s good for the pacing, though there are of course many side activities and many additional quests to take part in. You can do these during your primary playthrough, or by going back afterwards in order to tackle them. In general I thought the narrative was well handled, though a tad cliché quite honestly. It was also fairly predictable at times. Still, it hit well with some emotional beats and was enjoyable. It heavily borrows from the concepts of older lone hero films, and does so well.
I do wish it was a tad more surprising, but with that I’m sure many will find some of the situations to be shocking in their delivery. The cinematics are very well done, and are backed by some simply stunning musical compositions. The audio here is just lovely, and while that should go under gameplay I transitioned into this note very well so consider that portion covered here. To focus on side activities for a bit, you do get fairly lengthy extra tales to take part in. There are also points of liberation, easier to enjoy landscapes and these are strewn across a very large, distinct island.
I should also mention the menacing foe, since the Mongols do have a direct leader. You get to hear some of what they’re going for with this enemy, but they don’t necessarily give enough of that perspective. It’s sort of just glimpses, and they could have showed more terrifying actions to create a larger sense of focus towards the individual. It’s hard to really describe since you feel a sense of anger, though for many cinematic segments there are just brief portions and I’d like to understand more of what this character sought after through this invasion.
This is a very impressive game when it comes to the visuals. The level of density within the close, and medium distance is superb. Each area is packed with flowing grass, various flowers and of course some menacing trees. I should also mention enemies too, you’ll face some that are roaming across the country on the odd occasion. Going back to the visuals, these are very impressive. It’s a lively world, that takes a very unique artistic approach. It’s realistic, but not to the degree of say The Last of Us Part II. It goes in a slightly different direction that I appreciated.
It’s very over to the top as to say. There are moments with leaves fluttering to the ground, which just makes each moment taking place there extra epic. It looks even cooler if you have on a swaying type of outfit with dynamic fabric. The fabric work here was very much top notch. On top of that, there’s also the majestic Kurosawa Mode which is a black and white with cinematic flickers that is insane. You must try it out, it completely changes how you see things. I would suggest at least trying it out, though the color vibrancy of the regular world is ever so appealing as well. Still, give it a try as it’s very neat from a visual stand point for sure.
To continue on the visuals, the architecture here is excellent. There are some really cool castles, unique structures to climb within for stealth and vast rolling hills that have been carved out for small towns. These places are filled with regular folks performing their daily tasks despite an on-going invasion. There’s also a distinct sense of change within the landscape as you continue to travel within the story. From scorched landscapes to freezing terrain you get some serious variety here. The initial area is particularly charming though from orange leafed areas, to sunny beaches and even majestic hot springs that might increase your health a bit if you rest at them.
I think that about sums up the visual component, now onto the movement and style of play. This feels very much like Assassin’s Creed, Odyssey in particular. That’s fine, just giving context for the style of play when it comes to movement or combat. It’s less about climbing despite having some, but the combat is similar. I would have actually liked the climbing to be more present, it was very smooth to perform. It also, at least initially seems to have the same issue when it comes to being overwhelmed when large groups are engaging on you at once. This is fine during large scale conflicts with friendly AI, or even as you grow your abilities.
Initially it can be tougher, and there are of course varying difficulty options to support that. I wouldn’t compare it to say Dark Souls or Sekiro difficulty wise, but am saying there’s an edge when you start off. I did quite enjoy the combat though when it comes to the style. You get various stances to unlock, and these each match a type of enemy. There are spearman; those with shields, swordsman and some brutes. The stances combat those, and are unique in their approach. This is also a game of patience, which I’m honestly not great at. Some enemies are tougher than others within groups, you need to be smart with parrying or rolling out of the way at times. They do over time grant you new ways to counter, including smaller tools.
You could throw say a smoke bomb, or unleash something like a poison dart. That leads into the stealth aspect which could have been handled better. It’s easier to do as you progress, but I also felt like the stealth was sort of awkward at times. It wanted to be a stealth game, while not fully committing. At times the AI didn’t seem too bright. I also would have liked a slightly more varied type of stealth grass, it looked cool but was the same color the whole way through.
Even have a slightly tonally different strand within the same color scheme would have provided some nice variation. I should also mention stand-offs, these are very neat time based striking stances you can set up when facing off against enemies. Ultimately gameplay wise it seems to lean on other titles, doing a good job of taking the best bits. Still, while playing it I felt like some aspects of play were done better by other titles I had played previously. Not to knock on this, as this great. I’m just saying some aspects could have been pushed further to make this stand out even more.
I should finally mention the performance aspect of play. For the most part this was very smooth. I did notice some hitches in various towns, where things did dip a bit. I really didn’t notice any problems during heavy combat, but it was something I thought I should mention. This being present as of the most recent update that was provided ahead of release on the base PS4 console. Again, not a huge problem yet something I did notice at times and wanted to point out. Considering the density, the quantity of AI from people to humans and the scale of this world it’s all quite impressive.
Ghost of Tsushima is a great experience, telling the tale of a lone individual that’s trying to hold together the idea and honor of what it means to be a Samurai despite the odds requiring new methods of engagement. It plays with that concept, not perfectly but in a way that will most certainly provide a lasting impact to those that work through the entirety of this story. It’s definitely a chunky tale, and one that is fleshed out further through many side missions that are lengthy on their own.
If that’s not enough, there are many areas to liberate and some fun smaller tasks to tackle. It’s a dynamic world, a striking one and it’s a joy to travel through. It features such a unique guidance system, a setup where the wind dictating where you’re to head. This melds well with the world, instead of just being a trail telling you where you’re going. You still have those markers on your map area, but just playing using the wind is a treat.
This definitely provides some graphic, visceral combative moments and it strings these together with impactful story beats. I liked what they did with the open world, and the depth of RPG mechanics that were present. Some aspects were slightly weaker, but they don’t detract from what’s a truly excellent experience. They pack a lot of content in this, many hours of gameplay are to be had within this adventure.
It’s a really great time, it’s fun to play and it should hit well within the intended crowd. It does feel similar to other titles, and I think it does enough to be its own thing within a setting that it truly does seem to respect. I’m sure you’ll be blown away by any of the heavy leaf segments, the intensity of combat or those visceral scenes of deep conflict. Become a legend, as you shift to one in the shadows as the ghost this island desperately needs.
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Ghost of Tsushima Review on Playstation 4
Review Code Provided by SIEC