I decided against paying the extra $10 for the PS5 upgrade for one simple reason: would it not be easier to offer the PS5 upgrade for free to reward loyal fans (of which the primary upgrade is lip sync for Japanese voice-over which SHOULD have been done to begin with) and simply make the DLC $20? Have the PS4 version? $20 DLC. Upgraded to the PS5 version? $20 DLC. Sony, you’re in first place, you can afford this kindness. THINK, Sony.
Ghost of Tsushima is one of those games that kind of came out of left field, and even suffered a bit of a controversy around what is perceived to be a minor downgrade or graphical adjustments between its initial announcement trailer and release game. What’s important to me, though, is what this game brings to the open world formula.
…definitely signs they started out with a cookie cutter formula…
The first thing you should know is that there are definitely signs that they started out with a cookie cutter formula: slow cinematic walks, squeezing through gaps, wonky platforming, investigating/following clues, and liberating occupied areas. What this game does do differently is offer a genuinely well-crafted taste of culture. We’re talking multiple choice haiku, chasing foxes, and even a very clever use of the wind as a navigational guide. Then there’s the combat. I give credit where credit is due: this is probably as close to feeling like a samurai as a videogame can possibly get. Even switching between stances feels important in the right way: stay calm and focus because samurai take down their foes in as few strikes as possible. To make this even more apparent, you eventually start to have some seriously OP moves towards the endgame that help build that feeling of true samurai momentum. There wasn’t a moment I didn’t look forward to the combat, even when I would sometimes lose focus and die. Sadly, though, outside of the combat and moments of respite just frolicking the open fields, the rest of the gameplay is going to seem rather boilerplate for anyone who’s been playing the plethora of other modern, open-world games. They did add a multiplayer mode called “Legends”, though that’s more of a novelty that necessitates the belief that almost all videogames need some sort of multiplayer mode.
…you won’t be lacking in things to do…
Fortunately, on the note of other modern, open-world games, Ghost of Tsushima makes sure it takes up a significant chunk of your time: the main campaign takes somewhere between 20-25 hours depending on how many side missions you complete. Even so, there are tons of blips left on my map after I’ve beaten the game, so worry not: if you love the combat, you won’t be lacking in things to do which includes further unlocking skills, perks, and upgrading equipment. Though, I did find that a lot of that wasn’t needed if you were sufficiently skilled in combat, so a bit of a two-edged sword if you will. Lastly a lot of the side missions, called “Tales”, are also worth wrapping up even if you end up doing them after you’ve beaten the story.
I truly found both the hero and villain to be properly fleshed out…
You might recall moments ago where I said this game offers a genuinely well-crafted taste of culture. This is where the game shines: from its serene scenery to its sounds, they’ve taken the time to honor with painstaking feel the Japanese culture of its time. Is everything perfectly accurate? It feels so authentic that I can’t tell, and that’s how you know they did a great job. But unfortunately, this category also shows off some weaknesses despite its excellent foliage system (each your heart out, Breath of the Wild!). Yes, I understand this game was built for the PS4, but some things are off such as the horse animations, poor textures, and short shadow draw distance. And while the 60fps update for the PS5 helps the game feel great to play, it also shows off which cinematics were simply pre-rendered at 30fps. Furthermore, outside of a few obvious major cutscenes, facial animation leaves a lot to be desired (fixed by paying for the PS5 upgrade). But all is not bad outside the excellent cultural service: the story itself has two standouts. Both the protagonist and antagonist are excellently written: Jin grows in a way that demonstrates the difficulty in going against tradition; or in other words, ends justifies the means. Meanwhile, Khotun demonstrates that looming threat that is always somehow antagonizing you just out of reach. I truly found both the hero and villain to be properly fleshed out in a way that is sorely lacking in modern videogame storytelling.
…makes me both feel like a samurai and honors the culture from which they came.
I never thought I’d finally get to play a game that so painstakingly makes me both feel like a samurai and honors the culture from which they came. Sure, a lot of things surrounding this are specifically average, namely the core open-world formula, and that its last gen underpinnings are undermined further by some lower budget facial animation you have to pay to fix. Yet, I spent every hour unequivocally engrossed in a world crafted with the utmost respect for its source country’s era. This is a good game, even if it has several areas of weakness.