After months of waiting, we finally got to see some gameplay for Sucker Punch Productions new game, Ghost of Tsushima, and boy, was it worth the wait. In an 18 minute gameplay presentation on Thursday, creative Director Jason Connell teased exploration, combat, customization, and even an in-depth look at the photo mode included in the action-adventure title coming to PlayStation 4 on July 17th. After a week of already exciting announcements, like the Unreal Engine 5 tech demo for the PlayStation 5 revealed on Wednesday, Ghost of Tsushima is on track to be one of 2020s most exciting releases.
Players take control of Jin Sakai, one of the few remaining samurai on Tsushima island during the Mongol invasion of Japan in the late 13th century, and must explore the island in order to locate various secrets and side missions. Over the years, more and more games have included large, fully explorable maps and Ghost of Tsushima is no exception. Various quest markers pepper the open-world map leading the player to optional tasks, like liberating a ransacked farm from the Mongols, but more thematic cues, like plumes of smoke, strange landmarks, or even animals, are also seen across the island and can guide players to otherwise hidden locations.
Players have the option of completing missions as the powerful, combat focused samurai or as the stealth-oriented ghost. As the samurai, players attack strongholds directly and in broad daylight, cleaving through enemies with well timed swings of the katana and strategically rationing your stamina. Attacks use energy which doesn’t appear to regenerate immediately. This, combined with the player’s ability to change their stance depending on who they’re fighting, adds a bit more depth to combat that we don’t see in the typical dodge, parry, and attack formula.
The ghost, on the other hand, is Jin’s terrifying, Batman-like alter ego. Under cover of night, players will sneak through enemy bases, silently taking bad guys down one by one. Jin’s grappling hook adds an extra layer of strategy when traversing enemy territory and his ranged weapons, like his throwing knives and bow, appear just as powerful and satisfying to use as his sword. Missions can be completed as either the samurai or the ghost, but it seems that the player must choose which one to use before starting. Hopefully, this will keep players who choose a stealthy playstyle from giving up immediately after being spotted, as is common in games like Far Cry.
Inspired by Japanese cinema, notably Akira Kurosawa films such as Seven Samurai, Ghost of Tsushima is truly beautiful to behold. Vast, rolling fields of grass, thick bamboo forests, and cozy japanese villages are just a few examples of the jaw dropping locations you will find yourself exploring in the game. Ghost of Tsushima includes a photo mode with traditional options like color grading and depth of field, but also more obscure settings like wind direction as well as Jin’s facial expression. For the extreme samurai fans, Ghost of Tsushima includes full Japanese voice acting with subtitles as well as a black and white “samurai cinema mode”, in which lighting is rebalanced and a film grain effect is added. While I am personally not usually a fan of these settings in video games, I will definitely be having more than a few standoffs using samurai cinema mode during my playthrough, as it’s simply too breathtaking to ignore.
Ghost of Tsushima looks to be an extremely polished take on the familiar open-world, action-adventure games that have become so popular. With certain aspects reminiscent of Assassin’s Creed or even Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Sucker Punch Productions has added its own twist to the classic formula with intuitive exploration mechanics and satisfying, juicy melee combat. All of this combined with a unique and, frankly, underused feudal japanese setting makes Ghost of Tsushima one of my most anticipated games of the year. Ghost of Tsushima arrives on PlayStation 4 on July 17th.