Sony continues its glorious tradition by saying goodbye to its console with some great exclusive games. This year, PS4 owners had the opportunity to see, among others from Dreams, Nioh 2, Final Fantasy VII Remake or The Last of Us Part II, but the last word belongs to Sucker Punch, the authors of Ghost of Tsushima, whose review I had the pleasure to write.
We already know that the Japanese publisher will not repeat the mistakes made during the PS4 premiere, when in autumn 2013 it was still releasing games available exclusively for the old PlayStation 3, such as Gran Turismo 6, Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus, Beyond: Two Souls or Puppeteer. This time, the end of the year will belong only to the fifth stationary console of the Japanese, so the parting with the “four”, which I define as the end of PS Studios creating high-budget games exclusively for this equipment, is now. And just as God of War II was released on PS2, and Polyphony Digital races on PS3, the most popular console of the current generation also received a worthy farewell gift. In addition, quite unusual, because it is a new IP from a developer who has been operating in completely different climates so far.
One of the advantages of Sony as a publisher is the artistic freedom it allows its internal teams. Naughty Dog managed to create something even better than Uncharted, Guerrilla Games are no longer Killzone’s slaves, Bend Studio does not have to deal with spin-offs of famous series, and now the fathers of Sly Cooper and inFamous wrote a completely new chapter in the company’s history. Ghost of Tsushima , their latest work breaks with comic images of superheroes and anthropomorphic animals, offering instead one of the most interesting history lessons you can go with a pad in your hands.
Ghost of Tsushima – “Man is born crying. Once he cries, he dies.”
The American studio in Ghost of Tsushima takes us on a journey to the 13th century. It is the period of the greatest territorial expansion of the Mongol Empire, headed by Kublai Khan, the grandson of the famous Genghis Khan. After Japan rejects subsequent calls to recognize his sovereignty, the Mongolian army – which includes a total of about thirty thousand soldiers from Mongolia, occupied China and Korea – in 1274 launched an attack on the islands of Tsushima and Iki. The player’s avatar is Jin Sakai, a samurai fighting in the army defending Tsushima from the Mongol invasion. Unfortunately, despite the great bravery of the Japanese, the island collapsed under the pressure of a much better organized and equipped invader.
The enemy is occupying conquered territory and preparing to attack the shores of Japan, but this does not mean that the samurai have definitely surrendered. Jin, one of the survivors after the battle, quickly realizes that the combat techniques he has learned so far are ineffective against the invaders. The warrior decides to change his strategy, fighting like a ghost from now on.It attacks small groups of enemies, uses its own weapons against the Mongols, introduces uncertainty and fear into the ranks of adversaries in order to save as many compatriots as possible and make it difficult for the enemy to attack other regions of the country by sabotaging the occupant’s actions. And despite the fact that he will meet many allies on his way, success will be extremely difficult. Not only is the advantage of the Mongols great, but the army of the enemy is commanded by a worthy opponent – General Khotun-chan. The commander of the enemy forces seems perfectly prepared for his mission, because he has strength, charisma, skills and, above all, great determination to fulfill orders from the Mongolian capital. Does Sakai and his allies have any chance to win such an opponent? And if even, at what price?
The works of Sucker Punch, excluding perhaps the last two installments of inFamous, could boast good scripts, but this time – incl. Due to a completely different convention – the task set by the studio was much more difficult. Action games without fantasy elements, and in addition faithful to historical realities, are a rarity. Similar AAA titles – even raisins. Meanwhile, the Ghost of Tsushima writers team he rose to the occasion by compiling an engaging and excellently written three-act story that is about more than a samurai guerrilla. The internal conflict with which the main character is struggling comes to the fore. Sakai, a lifelong fighting and living in accordance with the bushido code and etiquette, uses methods in his fight against enemy forces that any samurai would consider shameful. “It wasn’t me who changed, but the world,” she says in one of the scenes.
The protagonist’s attitude can be discussed for a long time over a glass, as well as about the choices of very well-defined supporting characters. Another interesting thread is the influence of Sakai’s activities on the inhabitants of Tsushima. Jin, in fact one person in conflict, rises to the rank of an island legend – as the Ghost, in the imaginations of the peasants, a three-meter demon with red eyes becomes a symbol of the fight for a better tomorrow. The cultural conflict is also clearly outlined. The Mongols, in fact representatives of the Turanian civilization, consider deception and deception as a virtue, which can be seen in one of the first scenes, when, when summoned to a duel of honor, the Mongol commander pours tar and sets fire to the samurai. Yes, this is definitely a game for an adult audience, because we will see (or hear) murders on children, brutal tortures, and even human experiments. I will remember the story from Ghost of Tsushima for a long time.
“Every good fort must have a loophole to attract the enemy.”
I find the main plot, written for about twenty hours, very engaging, but in this case as important as the well-written and well-written story is the convention of Sucker Punch. Without revealing any secrets of the scenario, in this review, I would like to highlight the formal solutions used by the developer. Ghost of Tsushima is an extremely elegant work, not without coincidence associated with the films of the legendary Akira Kurosawa. The game features not only the reflections on human nature typical of the works of the famous director or the concept according to which there are values more important than life, but also the narrative and visual techniques for which the author of The Seven Samurai was famous.The title of Sony is an epic work, as the action takes place over many years, and the poetics does not so much refer to classic samurai films, but even resembles another of them, but transferred to a different medium.
Wide shots presenting in Ghost of Tsushima the breathtaking landscapes of feudal Japan, locations made with great reverence, scenes with a dozen or even several dozen characters, rich colors – we can find all this and even more here. The frames were composed similarly to the master Kurosawa, who claimed that the viewer’s attention to the picture is primarily drawn by movement. During the dialogues, the characters are constantly moving, in the background you can see other characters, the wind moves trees and flower petals, in the distance we observe falling leaves or running animals – someone really understood the artistic sense of the cinema legend.In addition, the game fantastically juggles the aspect ratio between television 1.85: 1 and cinema 2.35: 1 panorama. Optionally, you can even play with a black and white filter and feel like in a 1960s movie. It’s just a miracle!
Inspirations of the “chanbara eiga” cinema are obvious, as is the gameplay built on the well-known and popular open-world action game scheme, which some people call a bit contemptuously “Ubi-game”. By the way, it’s interesting that players require constant changes and innovations in games with a similar formula, although they cannot define them, and when Death Stranding appears on the market – a title that tries to at least differently distribute the various accents of the game – they do not buy such a release. The authors of the reviewed item did not try to reinvent the wheel, but thanks to the combat system, several fresh ideas or styling for oriental cinema of the previous era, Ghost of Tsushima has its own identity and stands out both against the hits from the Sony stable and the products of the French company.Reflecting enemy forts and outposts, gameplay based on combat mechanics and stealth, a fast travel system or a map full of optional activities – we play it often.
However, side quests rarely match the level of development of the missions of the main plot, instead of a huge icon, the direction of the chosen target is indicated by gusts of wind, the combat system does not draw from Rocksteady’s Batman, the gameplay is very organic, and the whole has the final touch that was missing, for example, in last year’s Days Gone or Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Behind this title are people who asked themselves a simple question: what do players like best? In Ghost of Tsushima, we can find a strong scenario worthy of the best Sony games, an open world formula with a huge number of activities, fleshy non-obligatory tasks evoking associations with The Witcher 3, a combat system that draws equally from the mainstream and soulslike sub-genre, pace and motifs from the Uncharted series or the fantastic binding.
“The bad guy is sleeping peacefully.”
Perhaps the most intriguing element of Ghost of Tsushima ‘s gameplay is the battle mechanism. The key issue in an action game about samurai, which the studio realized, reaching a satisfactory compromise on the subject. On the one hand, the game is accessible, and on the other hand, it requires the player to understand the system and constantly pay attention.I would define this mechanic as Nioh for a wider audience. The fundamental issue is dodging and blocking – without mastering these two pillars, no Sunday player will finish the game at the default challenge level, it’s simply impossible. In order to best translate the clashes of 13th-century Asian warriors into the language of video games, the creators decided that only by watching your opponent you can achieve victory. Normal attacks can be blocked, those marked with orange flames can only be avoided, while those highlighted in blue can be neutralized at your discretion.
Two types of battles have been improvised in Ghost of Tsushima : with a group of adversaries and honorable sword duels. The system shines especially in the second case, where fictional and optional bosses in fantastic scenery (waterfall, bamboo forest, temple ruins, sunset) test our dexterity, patience and, above all, the ability to observe the opponent and adapt quickly – you can sweat not only because that the game was released in July. There are several attitudes to choose from, each of which is more effective against an adversary with a specific type of weapon, although juggling between them is not as important as in Nioh’s dilogue.Interestingly, in order to restore some of your health, you have to work for it by filling Hart with the Spirit – the better we fight, the better our chances of survival. In this game, we won’t buy healing items, which additionally raises adrenaline during the battle.
A bit different, but just as pleasant, fighting against whole groups of enemies. Before we go into battle, we can provoke our opponents to put their best man against Jin. The winner is the one who hits the opponent first, so you should wait for the opponent’s move and counter it at the right moment. Later in the adventure, the adversaries can mark their blows and are faster, but the game is worth the candle, because in this way we can start the fight with the enemy unit by eliminating several soldiers in a relatively easy way (combined series of kills). Once the battle is in full swing, the system looks the same as in one-on-one matches, except that we also have a different weapon, carrying killing tools such as kunai, smoke bombs, exploding bombs, a bow and a few more for you to discover.
Deciding on the realistic convention of their work, the authors of Ghost of Tsushima made the task a bit more difficult when it comes to differentiating the opponents, because we naturally fight mainly with humans, although they have several types of weapons, while most bosses have a unique repertoire of blows. The spirit is very pleasant to use, especially since we get a line with a hook quite quickly and the game world is expanded vertically.This tool is especially useful when we attack unaware guards from above, but the stealth aspect of the gameplay is the standard of the genre. Still fun and rewarding (bloody executions), but roughly familiar to anyone who has played any game where enemy bases must be captured. Distracting wind chimes, poisonous darts, bow headshots, spectacular eliminations combined into long chains, and average AI of adversaries who never look at the sky. In this matter, GoT is “only” good.
“In a crazy world, only madmen are sane.”
Jin’s combat abilities grow with every hour of fun in Ghost of Tsushima . The authors have implemented a rich character development system, so everyone can adjust the style of the game to their preferences. What do we not have here? The hero’s skill tree, which grows into several categories, such as samurai (parry and dodge), stance (additional blows for each style), ghost (gadgets and throwable weapons), and exploration (gusts of wind direct us to specific locations). The most important weapons in the game are, of course, the katana and tanto, which must be upgraded with the resources you acquire (crafting), just like a ranged weapon with several types of arrows or an outfit consisting of armor, a hat and a mask. All this can be freely repainted, modified and enhanced with talismans, as well as a horse saddle or the melodies that change the weather on the flute.
With success on the battlefield, the reputation of the Spirit of Chushima increases – thanks to this, we gain access to the fury mode, increase the health bar and the number of points described as the Hart of the Spirit. Most importantly, progress in Ghost of Tsushimatakes place naturally, and the game rewards literally every activity we undertake. I would compare the construction of optional tasks and the development of the map to Geralt’s third adventure, where attractions were waiting at almost every step. While visiting the island, I very often deviated from the main path or road to a side mission, because other things caught my attention. Torii gates led me to shinto altars (offering fun in the spirit of Tomb Raider), foxes as a symbol of the deity Inari led to hidden shrines, while golden birds showed the way, among others for bamboo stands (training), hot springs or good haiku (short poetry) places. And along the way, random events, hunting and a lot of collectibles.
With all this, the game tries to deepen our immersion into the presented world, so the visual language it uses is not as loud and flashy as in similar games with an open structure. Wind and animals directing us to selected / hidden locations are not everything, because smoke also plays an important role, the source of which usually means new attractions. The unwritten rule of this production is that if you can see something in the distance, you can definitely get there. And despite having fun in Ghost of Tsushimais based mainly on fighting and exploring a huge island (on foot or on horseback), it is really worth visiting this living world, because the developer made a lot of effort to ensure that the design of the mission did not bore players who fell asleep with a fall on their knees while taking over new warehouses in Mafia 3. Here, the quests are divided into three categories, namely Jin’s Journey, Tushima’s Tales, and Mythical Stories.
I have praised the plot of Ghost of Tsushima before, but the people who developed optional missions in many cases, in many cases equal in scope and the plot context of the main story, also deserve praise. Many quests are devoted to the personal drama of supporting characters, and we’ll also find a plethora of smaller stories about the worst and best of people, as well as a pinch of humor. The tales of the poet Yamato, which are associated with the search for the equipment of legendary warriors, are a perfect springboard from the harsh war atmosphere. The multi-stage tasks are among the most interesting, leading the player to the most charming and unusual locations of Cushima. They evoke associations with the adventures of Drake or Lara Croft, they were sprinkled with probably the most difficult duels in the game, but each repeated fight with a vengeance rewards the fair for their completion.
“Man is a genius when he dreams.”
Ghost of Tsushima is the third open-world game in this generation, from which I could not tear myself away, picking up nocks like in The Witcher 3 and Death Stranding. A fantastically created world, very smooth gameplay and a pleasant interface are not the only reasons why it’s hard to put it down. For a production with an action set in an open environment, GoT looks and moves phenomenal . The data loading screens are so short that their values can be expressed in seconds, when using fast travel and without any textures reading before our eyes!Do you know the loading screen of Horizon Zero Dawn or the Wild Hunt by heart? Here, sometimes you won’t even have time to read one tip while loading the data. Sucker Punch has done something amazing on 2013 gear by lining up with Naughty Dog, Santa Monica and Guerrilla Games. Good company, but it cannot be otherwise, because the virtual Tsushima, interpreted by the Americans, is as impressive as the post-apocalyptic USA in the adventure of Aloy or the mythological Scandinavia from God of War (2018).
I have already written a lot about the stylization of Ghost of Tsushima for the works of Akira Kurosawa, the quotes from which precede the next paragraphs of this review, but also technically speaking about a miniature work of zero-one nature. Regardless of which part of the island we visit – from sun-drenched beaches, bamboo forests, through farmland and pampas meadows, to the snowy mountains of Jogaku – individual elements of the game world have been perfectly textured, the changing weather conditions are breathtaking, just like lots of animated objects. On this occasion, the creators have prepared an extensive Photo Mode, so you can be sure that after the premiere, we will have a flood of wonderfully cropped screens on the Internet.
The latest title from the creators of Sly Cooper is very polished, in the pre-release version it is on the opposite pole than the Days Gone debuting on store shelves in 2019. Not counting minor errors, such as the hero levitating for a second while jumping on an obstacle, repeating NPCs, two or three animation drops below 30fps or “looping” AI of opponents while playing cat and mouse, it will be difficult for someone to assemble a compilation movie with the sea glitches in Ghost of Tsushima . The artists and technicians responsible for the audio layer kept pace with the programmers and graphic designers who showed great attention to detail.The sound system helps to feel like a tourist on the thirteenth-century Tsushima, it also has a real impact on the game, because, for example, listening to birds singing helps to reach unknown places. The songs by the duo of composers Ilan Eshkeri – Shigeru Umebayashi are even more catchy.
The former has made soundtracks from the films Stardust or 47 Ronin, while the Japanese became famous for the soundtrack to the House of Flying Daggers and Hannibal Rising. The men did a great job, perfectly reflecting the atmosphere and theme of the game. It would not be possible without the use of classic Japanese instruments, so in the more melodic songs we hear the shakuhachi flute and harp, powerful taiko drums when we take part in the action, as well as female backing vocals and a beautiful oriental vocal. Ghost of Tsushimaoffers several language paths, of which I was interested in English (original), Polish (it’s good) and Japanese. And although I always recommend getting to know audiovisual works according to the intention of the creators, in this case I encourage you to listen to the actors from the Land of the Rising Sun, whose voices are enhanced by the already unique atmosphere.
“I don’t hate anyone. I don’t have time for that.”
If the last great adventure of Nathan Drake, the unforgettable journey of Kratos and Atreus, discovering the secrets of the Ancient Ones with Aloy, Spider-Man’s confrontation with the Sinister Six, learning about the bloody history of Yharnam, the Indian episode of Chloe Frazer, the last show of Kojima Productions or Ellie’s vendetta did not convince someone to the purchase of a PS4, thanks to the reviewed title, Sony provided one more argument.
Ghost of Tsushima is a great example of a top-shelf AAA action game, for about fifty hours enchanting with the script, world construction, combat system, rich content, fantastic style and setting. It is not an ideal position as there are no such items. We know the scheme on which the Ghost’s adventure was built better than well, and the stealthy aspect of the game is a genre cliché, but the latest work of Sucker Punch does not resemble a product taken off the tape, but a passionately staged journey to feudal Japan struggling with Mongol barbarity. The producer says goodbye to the giant known as PlayStation 4 in a beautiful style.