Samurai sword-fighting has never been prettier.
What is Ghost of Tsushima?
We didn’t know much about Ghost of Tsushima when Sucker Punch (makers of Infamous) originally announced it at 2017’s Paris Games Week. That changed as of E3 2018, with the company giving us more details and even a first look at gameplay for the upcoming game.
What we can say for certain is that it’s an open world samurai game. As you’d expect from that description, you’ll be spending a lot of time with a katana, but there are also elements of stealth involved. This makes it feel like a nice swirl of Way of the Samurai mixed with a little bit of Tenchu.
Experience Feudal Japan
Details on the game are still scarce, but the picture is starting to come into focus. You play as Jin Sakai, one of the last true remaining samurais back in the year 1274. This puts the game squarely in the middle of Feudal Japan, one of gaming’s most interesting settings.
Unfortunately, a rising force threatens the state of things. The Mongols are riding all over the island of Tsushima, raiding towns for the purposes of killing, pillaging, and raping.
As the last of his kind, Jin Sakai is one of the only ones equipped to deal with the invasion, though he can’t do it alone. That is, he can’t do it with his more traditional Way of the Samurai. He has to adopt a new way: Way of the Ghost.
It’s not yet apparent what this new way of fighting will mean for Jin and how it might compare to the ways of old. We do know that he might not be going it alone, though. He’ll eventually meet an archer ally named Masako, though the two will find themselves butting heads in the future over questions of morality and revenge.
As seen in the trailer above, Masako’s issue with Jin erupts when she finds out he wants to enlist the help of a monk who somehow betrayed her family. Thus, there may be tough choices to make in the game that the character will have to make. Whether the player will get to influence those choices is up in the air. In any case, the action was enough to incite a fight between the two, one which Jin wins before gracefully sparing her life and reminding her who the true enemy is.
Jin’s legend will grow bigger as the game goes on. Characters in the world will begin to murmur and whisper about the Ghost of Tsushima and the immense power he has. It almost sounds as if he’ll be regarded as an urban legend, if not an outright god amongst men. And you had better believe his enemies are starting to hear about him, too.
To get an idea of the game’s scope, Sucker Punch says Ghost of Tsushima completely trounces Infamous Second Son. They’re referring not only to the game world, but also the story, side missions, characters, and everything in between. Mind you, Infamous Second Son was a pretty big game all on its own.
And we can already see evidence of those expectations in the gameplay reveal when Jin comes up on a horizon to see several fires raging in distant areas. Presumably, he could go right to those fires if he wanted. The developers really want you to be able to “lose yourself” on the island of Tsushima, so we’re hopeful that there will be lots of little things like collectibles, lore, and more to sink our teeth into.
Authentic to the core
For Sucker Punch, getting Feudal Japan “right” was very important for them. Their developers did a lot of research into the country and the era, their beliefs, their customs, and all the relevant tales of old.
They went as far as working with cultural guides and Kendo experts. They even sent an audio scout to Japan to record sounds, such as native birdsong and other things you may only hear when visiting Japan.
The end result should be a degree of authenticity that will make you feel as if you’re in the middle of something very real. Adding to that authenticity is the inclusion of a Japanese audio track for every region the game is launching in.
This should also translate to the game world at large. There will be many towns and places in the game based on real places in Japan, and the people in them will hopefully represent the culture as closely as possible. We should hear a bit of Mongolian throughout the game as the two sides clash. To tie it all together, an original score will be put together by Japanese composer Shigeru Umebayashi.
In the E3 gameplay video, we saw a few different gameplay systems at play, though nothing that was so intensely new that it took us by surprise. It began with a multi-man battle, with Jin having to go up against a group of Mongolian raiders caught in the act of murdering innocents.
The sequence began with Jin opting to forego aggression to instead play the counter game. As the first enemy lunged toward him, he unsheathed his sword and cut his throat in one smooth, swift motion. He then dispatched of the other enemies with more traditional swipes of his sword. There appears to be some sort of counter mechanic not unlike those featured in Assassin’s Creed or Batman Arkham games.
Another option for fighting multiple foes was revealed later in the trailer. Some sort of slow down mechanic was engaged which allowed jin to quickly switch between and kill 4 different targets with ease. This may be an element of his Way of the Ghost fighting style we’ve been hearing about.
Beyond that, stealth kills look to be an important part of survival. There’s the typical approach of sneaking behind your target and quickly cutting his throat, but there was also a stalkerish mechanic that lets you wait from an elevated position and jump down for an air attack. Again, not all that dissimilar to Batman and Assassin’s Creed.
Even early on, the animations and overall gameplay seem to have a great level of polish. Combat flows fluidly, and the world around you reacts to your movement. We can’t help but gush over the tall grass swaying side to side as your horse trots through the planes, or how the autumn leaves are swept away as you slash and dodge during fights.
The gameplay didn’t seem overly involved, however, we do know there will be varying levels of difficulty. Sucker Punch says the “tourist” types of players can get just as much out of Ghost of Tsushima as the “hardcore” types. The game will still provide a challenge no matter your level of skill, but it just won’t be unforgivingly hard if you don’t want it to be.
When can you play it?
Sony still has no solid release date to offer for Ghost of Tsushima. We didn’t even get a conservative “2019” window, so there’s no telling when this game will be ready (especially considering how long we’ve waited between announcement and launch for other Sony exclusives in the past).
We promise to keep you updated when new information is available, though, so be sure to check back often for the latest!
Updated February 2019: Updated with the latest information about Ghosts of Tsushima.
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