atmospheric sandbox that glows with combat

Everything in ‘Ghost of Tsushima’ revolves around the atmosphere, a careful work of setting in feudal Japan. Y all the efforts of Sucker Punch are oriented to transport the player to those times and those customs, myths, folklore and social classes. Not only from a graphic section, from the design of scenarios, sets and the development of the plot: also the combat mechanics and the learning system of our hero want to launch the player into the 13th century.

And from that point of view, it can be said that the game is practically perfect. So much so that we highly recommend playing it in Japanese: this option will not give you problems because you will rarely have to attend to the action while reading subtitles, and the immersion will be total. The phonetics of Japanese, its slow rhythm and the phonetic cadence is perfect for the spiritual heroic journey that our protagonist travels. Thus, also interesting is the (understandably) highly publicized display mode in black and white and with celluloid “inaccuracies” so that the image looks like something out of an Akira Kurosawa movie.

Because ‘Ghost of Tsushima’, in the same way that it does not talk about a typical samurai, it does not want to be a game that portrays a typical historical setting. But unlike other games with ambitious settings in the past and that boast of their rigor (without going any further, Ubi did it a few days ago with his new ‘Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’ inspired by the time of the Vikings), ‘Ghost of Tsushima ‘is both a portrait of an era and how we imagine it.

The Sucker Punch game is not only a game about samurai, but about the myth of samurai. From how we understand them today, and from all that feudal Japan entails: from the spirituality of landscapes and the intrinsic importance of crafts, customs, art and folklore, to the thoughtful use of violence and its consequences. The result is a game that can hardly be described as trustworthy to historical facts. (the context of the Mongol invasion is real, without going any further, and the island of Tsushima as well, but the characters and the details of the story are made up), but that makes a superhuman effort for the player to immerse himself in the atmosphere of that world, half reality and half legend, absolutely alien to the West of the 21st century in which we live.

The story behind the ghost

In 1274, the Japanese island of Tsushima is invaded by the Mongols. A samurai surviving a massacre of his own makes a difficult recovery and decides to fight back with the help of his uncle, kidnapped by the invaders. This is the starting point: our hero Jin Sakai will not only have to create a small army of outcasts and warriors around him, very far from the dignified samurais, but to find a new style of fighting adapted to the very serious circumstances.

The Mongol invasion, finally rejected, has had an indelible impact on Japanese culture and philosophy, and that is what ‘Ghost of Tsushima’ tries to reflect

The attempted Mongol invasion of Japan between 1274 and 1281 was one of the events that have most marked the culture of the country, since with the exception of the years around the Second World War, It has been the only time in which the country of the rising sun has had to face such an aggressive advance from abroad within its borders.. For this reason, the Mongol invasion, finally rejected, has had an indelible impact on Japanese culture and philosophy. That’s what ‘Ghost of Tsushima’ tries to reflect, and it achieves it, as we said, thanks to an impeccable exercise in atmosphere building.

Interestingly, there is no set weather or time of day for each mission: if our character dies and we have to face a story again, the setting can change completely. It may be raining and it may be night, or we may appear in a golden hued sunrise. All this reinforces the idea that Japan is a place where adventure takes place, yes, but also, in a sense, a state of mind: atmospheric details are the least.

For this reason, ‘Ghost of Tsushima’ makes efforts from the design of the game so that the immersion is total. There has been much talk about the absence of direction indications or minimaps to orient oneself: it is managed thanks to a wind that crosses the landscapes and that indicates in which direction to head. For practical purposes it is not much different from a huge blinking arrow, but it does a lot to immerse us in the story, and as in ‘Red Dead Redemption’, many times you will prefer to ride through the exquisite and idyllic scenery of the game rather than resort to automatic travel to areas that you have already visited.

It is in this way, too, that you will come across the random events that appear in the game, of Mongolian patrols that liquidate the confrontation with wild animals such as bears or various secret areas indicated by visual clues. Settling these minimisations will earn reputation points that abound in the true history of the game., Beyond the Alien Invasion: The transformation of the samurai Jin into a fearsome creature that attacks from the shadows.

Everything in the game revolves around that transformation, including its great strength: the combat system. A lot has already been said about him, but let’s emphasize a couple of aspects: on the one hand, his relative realism and brutality, which makes only a couple of badly fitted big men destroy our health. The battles of ‘Ghost of Tsushima’ are short and tense, a game of dodge and counterattacks (with only two options at the beginning: hard / slow and soft / fast shots, although the simplicity works in your favor) deeper than it might seem at first, as blocks, feints and other useful strategies are soon accessed that they do not serve all the time or with all enemies. The combat, thanks to this, never becomes repetitive.

The reason is that there are different styles of combat that serve to face different enemies, and that can be combined quickly and at any time. The styles are complemented by ghost weapons, inevitably reminiscent of the arsenal of treacherous ninjas.: smoke bombs to flee from enemies, objects that distract them and favor stealth, explosives that stick to opponents, blowguns … and all of them can be improved by gaining experience.

And what’s more: the most important weapons beyond the inevitable samurai katana – and armor, and other combat and strategy aids – are achieved with side missions that are worth carrying out, because they often have magical elements that do a lot to enrich the aforementioned semi-mythical atmosphere with which this Sucker Punch proposal tinkers.. The origins of some of these weapons are recounted as Japanese legends and are captured on screen through beautiful pictorial sequences and musical interludes, and the reward for finding them is a profound enrichment of the combat system, which nevertheless always remains. simple and accessible.

As the game progresses you will see that the frontal fighting system, with Ingredients as satisfying as the challenge minigame that allows you to take out a couple of enemies with just as many katana blades, becomes a dynamic in which stealth is favored. For example, a hook makes its appearance that allows access to high positions from which to enter enemy areas without being seen, and that in many respects reminds ‘Sekiro’. Weapons increasingly favor treacherous and swift attacks. The game system is transformed, without ever leaving aside the interesting original samurai fighting system, which also becomes more sophisticated when the enemies get tougher, forcing each movement to be taken care of.

‘Ghost of Tsushima’: SamaGame’s opinion

Having tasted the absolutely amazing from a technical perspective ‘The Last of Us Part 2’, this ‘The Ghost of Tsushima’ is a step below, although it is full of finds. The scenarios are solid, perfect to be explored thoroughly (and in many sections of the game that activity will be essential), but the sandbox nature of the game makes them obviously less precise, less careful to infinitesimal detail, something that I could boast of. the amazing proposal of Naughty Dog.

There are certain problems with the camera that are unleashed especially in the fights, somewhat less lucid than they deserve with the tremendous work of razor-sharp mechanics behind. Sometimes the camera turns to the most inappropriate places and elements of the set get in the way of vision, ruining more than one fight. These are moments, however, specific, and in ‘Ghost of Tsushima’ literally hundreds of fights await you, so it is not a problem that ruins the experience.

For the rest, the experience of ‘Ghost of Tsushima’ requires that the setting, characters and historical period interest the player. For example, beyond the plot and action, all forms of character improvement (from spells that boost their abilities to the great idea of ​​suits to modify their abilities, going through the search for elements in the scenarios that go from artisans to increase equipment to areas to compose haikus) are immersed in the mythology of the cinema and the samurai narrative.

But if Kurosawa is your quintessential action film icon, you’re passionate about the gory poetics of samurai stories (and ‘Ghost of Tsushima’ is very, very gory) and the evolution of a feudal warrior transforming into a terrifying legend is suggestive to you, possibly there is no better game to shelve the Playstation 4 catalog than this one. Sayonara baby.