Ghost Of Tsushima (GoT) is a third person game where the last Samurai on the island of Tsushima must take on the invading Mongol army. There’s an open world to explore with plenty to do, the game feels packed but never overstuffed.
The plot is divided up into many stories, the main quest is about Jin (the samurai) who survives a terrible slaughter in an epic opening battle, he must overcome his ideas of honour to assume the persona of the Ghost which causes him internal turmoil as well as disagreements with his allies. Jin has a group of close followers, all of whom have a specific and useful skill set which they use to fight the Mongols and to further their own stories. Sadness, Joy, Mysteries, Anger, Betrayal and so much comes through the characters which keeps the game engaging to the point that it’s more of a draw than the gameplay.
Gameplay wise, we get third person platforming where specific outcrops must be gripped in order to climb (similar to old Assassin’s Creed). There’s a grapple hook to be used at certain points allowing the player to swing over distances or climb vertically. The climbing is quite satisfying as it sometimes requires a bit of thought, this includes objectives that are big platforming puzzles to get to Shrines that appear frequently throughout the game.
GoT uses stealth as a key element. Detection cones from enemy sight lines, crouching in long grass and the use of rooftops all help the player keep out of sight to avoid battles. Part of the struggle with samurai honour comes from the fact that Jin can fight dirty, using gadgets like kunai and smoke bombs as well as assassinations to defeat his foes. There is a lot of emphasis on stealth with some missions failing if you get detected, it always makes sense story wise but these missions can be a little annoying. We also get tailing missions that require stealth.
When Jin isn’t creeping around, we get to go full Samurai warrior as we challenge enemies to standoffs where skill with a blade (or patience on the player’s part) results in quick kills. There’s a slightly button bashing melee combat system complete with parries and dodging for general combat and special moves can be unlocked as the game goes on such as Ghost Stance mode which allows for one hit kills. There are special Stances that can be changed between as a tactical choice which will help when battling enemies that wield different weapons. A few situations strip back what the player can access for a one-on-one melee duel that does test your knowledge of the game. Bows, throwing weapons and a poison dart gun with also help eliminate foes.
The key selling point of GoT is the Divine Wind which the player can summon for direction. Other than a health bar and weapon display there’s very little HUD. Whether doing the Mending Rock Shrine, the forest Samurai spirit mission, just exploring or anything else, Ghost Of Tsushima thrives on having the player look at what they are doing as being observant in this digital world is the solution to many problems. I learned to love the little yellow bird that appears when I was near something important. When you do focus you find the best this game has to offer as the world isn’t as bland as it first seems. It’s a pretty game but the best bits are the details.
The side activities include: following foxes from their dens, reflecting on Jim’s thoughts at a hot spring, crafting haikus during peaceful moments and a bamboo speed and memory game. There are also collectible records, artefacts and banners to find across the game world.
I got the odd graphical issue with thing occasionally going through walls, plus if the Jin walks slowly on rough terrain he starts juddering. A personal quibble is the lack of lock on got me hit a few times and you annoyingly can’t open the map right after performing most activities. GoT is sort of bland looking woodland but the systems in place do help.
Overall, GoT is a fantastic open world game that combines elements of both new and old Assassin’s Creed games but arguably does it better. The combat is easy to learn, tricky to master. The platforming is better than I’ve found in a long while. The stealth isn’t too intrusive and it works well enough. And the game is very beautiful, even on PS4. I even got the Platinum Trophy for this one as the game doesn’t want to waste your time, you just have to play as much as possible to see and do everything (although I did have to look up two Trophies). Seriously good, I do think I’m a bit fatigued with open world games though so I can only fairly call GoT great.