Luke has been playing video games and reading comic books since childhood. He's a bearded family man in plaid.
You Are Samurai
You play as Jin Sakai, a young Japanese lord who is tasked with ridding his home island of the invading Mongol hoard. War has come to this part of Japan and it is up to you to help win back your ancestral home.With some of the most beautiful scenery, music, and character design coupled with amazing and intuitive gameplay, Ghost of Tsushima is a must play for the year.
The most important part of an action game like this is the combat. There are two different types of combat in Ghost of Tsushima, hand-to-hand and ranged. As a samurai, becoming skilled with the sword is integral to being successful in this game. And believe me, you'll get plenty of chances to perfect your skills. As you improve you learn whole new techniques of swordplay which can be switched mid-combo in a fight. These fluid movements are awesome to pull off and makes for an immersive experience. There is a parrying system in this game similar to games like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice or Jedi: Fallen Order. When you block at just the right time, you can deflect the enemies attack and deliver a devastating attack that feels like a scene right out of a classic samurai movie.
Ranged combat consists of archery and throwable weapons. There is a wide variety of different options when it comes to ranged combat and it depends on your play style. If you want to be sneaky and stealthy, then the shortbow with the traditional arrows or the throwing knife called a kunai is for you. If you're going into a Mongol controlled village looking for a fight and want to cause the most chaos possible, well there's a wide range of choices for that aspect. You have explosives, smoke bombs, firecrackers, fire arrows, and arrows with bombs attached to them. No matter what method of combat the player chooses, this game allows you to become an incredibly skilled warrior that absolutely commands the battlefield.
Why This Game Stands Out
Dozens of action games come out every year and most of the time you press two buttons to attack. But where this game really shines, at least for me, is the layout and overall design.
First, let's talk about HUDs in modern video games. HUDs, or heads up display, inform the player of what's going on around them. This can range from any number of things. Mini-maps in the corner, compasses with mission markers, ammo count and life bars, the list goes on and on. In some games the HUD is incredibly useful and streamlined, like in the most recent God of War or Fallout 4.
There are other games where the HUD is so distracting and busy that it makes playing the game feel like you've accidentally clicked on a spam link and your computer is flooded with pop-ups. And sometimes that's not even the case. In games like Red Dead Redemption 2 and The Witcher 3, I found myself constantly watching the mini-map while travelling. The roads in these games are very specific and the most efficient way to get from point A to B is to keep your horse centered on the road. Veering off course just a little bit slows your horse down to a noticeable degree that you might as well just watch the mini-map and follow the road. How can I enjoy the scenery that took literal years to make when I'm constantly using the HUD to travel?
With all of that being said, Ghost of Tsushima is completely innocent of all that. Travel by horseback is an absolute necessity and the game uses a method that I'll just simply refer to as "nudging" the player in the right direction. If you happen to be turned around and need to find a specific location, just open your map, mark a spot, and the literal wind will blow in the direction that you need to take. It's that easy. This mechanic also shows off all the hard work that Naughty Dog put in, from the character's clothing to the tall grass, leaves, and flower petals, they all react to the wind blowing and it is by far the most aesthetically pleasing thing I've ever witnessed in a video game. And if that isn't enough, the game uses context clues to show you where possible side missions can be found on your way. From birds, foxes, and smoke on the horizon, all of these little nudges push the player into getting to their destination while being able to fully enjoy the scenery. That is the shining star of this game.
If That Wasn't Enough
This game has multiple things going for it and I'll briefly list some of them here.
- you can duel other samurai
- the game has incredibly fast loading times, so fast that checking your phone in between cut scenes is a thing of the past
- there's a visual option called "Kurosawa" mode. This puts the game in black and white, adds a film grainy texture and alters the sound so that it's like you're in a classic Japanese samurai film.
- the look of the player character is entirely up to you. You can be in full armor or look like a vagabond, it's purely up to the player. Hats, helmets, masks, and armor are totally customizable.
- if you don't like seeing blood you can turn that off completely
A Strike Against
There is one part of this game that I've heard from a lot of players that I can agree with is that the collectibles and currency in the game is overwhelming. You need wood, wax, leather, iron, steel, gold, silk, animal hides, and I'm sure a few other things in order for you to be able to level up your weapons and armor. And not only that, you need a lot of these items to do so. It wasn't enough for me to quit playing the game, but it was a drag having to search areas to get enough stuff to level up my gear.
What's the Verdict?
I could not recommend this game enough to anyone who will listen. Ghost of Tsushima is an incredible game that everyone with a PlayStation 4 needs to experience for themselves. With action-packed intuitive gameplay and gorgeous graphics and design, this exclusive title from Sucker Punch should not be missed.