Ghost of Tsushima is a masterpiece. The gameplay was an amazing refinement of previous open world adventure games, the writing gives you a sense of belonging seldom seen in its genre, and the scenic environment design is a feast for the eyes and salve for the heart. Buy it now. Own it forever.
A review summary
SuckerPunchStudios blew away all of the expectations I had for Ghost of Tsushima, here to for I shall refer to as Ghost. I was already a fan of their work starting from the Infamous First Light, a shorter stand alone title set in the neon glow of Seattle after the events of Infamous Second Son. The studio’s ability to make a unique IP with fun mechanics and movement polish that has inspired others was clearly the right set of ingredients to build something new.
Upon seeing their first few trailers I had my doubts as to whether or not Ghost could be genuinely engrossing as it seemed culturally and tonally so foreign compared with their previous works. I am happy to say I was wrong, and beyond wrong I was utterly overwhelmed with my miscalculation to the point of delight.
If not for the suggestion of a dear friend of the show, Josh Hunt, who remarked that this was definitely, “a Zach Meyer-ass Game!” I may not have had the pleasure of entering the samurai movie buffs favorite setting. To fight a hoard of invaders, right wrongs, write poetry, take in the sights, and enjoy fast paced sword fights with a myriad of artificial rivals shouting and slicing their way towards me. It was indeed as he said.
Another aspect of Ghost that lands so well for me, is the way the story and choices are presented to Jin. To what extent the decisions you make play out to effect the outcomes but there was a clever writing trick involved that sucks you into being the good guy at every possible moment, only to see some of those decisions thrown back at you. Occupants of Tsushima are not always completely honest in their calls for help. Some of their stories are deliberately manipulative in a way that good story tellers snag you with.
I would also be remiss if I did not mention the incredible landscapes and photo mode tools available in Ghost. In a year of lockdown with the Covid-19 Pandemic creating uncertainty, grounding flights, and keeping folks at home, the digital Tsushima islands were a beautiful escape. They provided all the seasons, conditions, and amenities that a traveller yearns to see. The photo mode became a place for me to really drink in the sights and post too many pictures or postcard style screen captures to the main Twitter feed.
From Rolling hills and sandy shores bright and vibrant with the sun, to the snowing desolate mountains of the north, and nearly every point in between, Tsushima felt like a place were I could go and rest and enjoy…while running from Mongol warlords.
Ghost of Tsushima – on Playstation
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Illustration – Evan McIntyre