Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: July 17 2020
Platform: PlayStation 4
Jin Sakai, a samurai from the Sakai Clan, is one of the few survivors from the first wave of attacks of the Mongols on the island of Tsushima, led by the cunning Kothun Khan. In order to save his home, Jin must fight with whatever he has at his disposal, regardless of the Bushido, the warrior’s path. And thus, the tale of the Ghost begins.
This game is the perfect addition to your library if you’re a Hack N’ Slash fan. The combat can be very challenging, especially on Hard mode. Defeating foes requires a lot of focus on well-timed attacks. You can block most of theirs, but if you parry by blocking right before it, you’ll have an opportunity to counter attack. And even then, you have the perfect parry, which can instantly kill a lot of enemies once you’re upgraded it enough. Speaking of which, the game require a bit of grinding for these upgrades – at least on a higher difficulty – but not enough to make it intolerable. It also won’t be much of an issue if you explore a lot, but more on that later.
The game also rewards good timing with the standoffs, where you hold a button and release it before an enemy hits you. Doing so will instantly kill them. Don’t miss it, though. It hurts.
The only downside I had with the combat are the duels; they’re some of the best combat the game has to offer. However, at least on a standard PS4, framerate drops can happen more than they should in these fights, especially fights with a lot of particle effects around them. Since this game is tied to precision and good timing, these drops can cause you to miss a parry and get hit.
The stealth mechanics are a bit more simple, but entertaining nonetheless. It’s what you expect from games that aren’t stealth-oriented. For instance, enemies have little-to-no peripheral vision, and will take quite some time to detect you. Still, I had a lot of fun with the stealth, especially since it offers a nice gameplay variety. Sometimes I used stealth, other times I just challenged the enemies. It’s also very useful if you’re not strong enough to deal with the enemies head-on.
All bugs found were hardly detrimental, and don’t compromise the game in any way. In fact, I found most of them quite funny. Keep a look out to see if you spot a headless body crawling for mercy, it’s very amusing.
Long story short, it’s amazing from beginning to end. It has a lot of emotional moments, and, interestingly enough, the stealth approach is actually plot-related (if you know how samurai were, you’d know they wouldn’t stab enemies in the back), which makes your approaches as either Samurai (combat) or Ghost (stealth) have a more profound touch.
Not just that, but the side-quests are very interesting as well. There are a good amount of them, and most of them concern the allies you meet along the way, which makes them more interesting as characters. Personally, I found Norio’s tales very emotional, and were home to some of my favorite missions. The developers clearly worked very hard to make sure each tale had some good writing. In fact, it’s so good that the tales told in some of these side-quests would rival other games’ campaign modes, in terms of the quality of writing.
When it comes to exploration, the number of options are massive, but at the same time, they’re not overwhelming. The scenario is simply beautiful; each gives a very calming sensation when you’re exploring. There’s little-to-no HUD during your treks, so you can really take the scenery in. Plus, since the wind itself guides you towards your goal, it gives a much more immersive feel to the game.
Not only that, but it’s extremely rewarding as well. The spots you can find can increase your health, resolve (used for skills and more importantly, to heal yourself during combat), charms (that give you passive abilities once equipped) and the aforementioned side-stories. Finding these locations is also very immersive. Keep an eye out for foxes and especially golden birds, they can lead you to many interesting locations.
Both a technical a story masterpiece, this game honors samurai movies as if they were always made to be turned into video games. The combat is fluid and satisfying, and the story is both emotional and does make you think about what would be deemed honorable or not. This game is definitely a must-have for action fans, hack ‘n’ slash lovers, and anyone who appreciates fantastic writing in video games.