Ah! Ghost of Tsushima! It's time for my review! But first let me explain. If anyone isn't familiar with how I do with gaming 'reviews', basically, I suck at it. Other people do it better than me and I'm not going to pretend that I have anything much to offer that hasn't been said. It's been out for a month now so other gamers/reviewers have already dissected the pros and cons of this game. So what's this? It's just a small few words from a person who was really looking forward to this game. So with that said, here we go!
It's a straightforward story. Based on the events when the Mongols invaded Tsushima, this game took some liberties in making it a bit more game friendly. The story wasn't bad, far from it. It was enough to keep me in the game but definitely not the most memorable story or emotionally captivating I have come across.
For me, it's always about the characters. The story/plot could be mediocre or below, but if I find the characters likable, it could definitely make or break the game storywise. Jin is far from unlikable but sadly, he's not exactly one of the most shining examples of a protagonist. He had his moments for sure and his conflict with who he is as a Samurai and what he has to do to repel the Mongols really was interesting. It had some payoffs, but at the end of the day, I really wasn't as emotionally gripped as I thought I should be. Especially with all the things that happened to him and the people around him.
Though I did appreciate and adored his relationship with his horse (the player can name); my horse's name was Kage.
Of course, there are side characters that offer some depth to the story. These characters all have their own conflict, trials, and tribulations. They will offer Jin some meaningful sidequests that give the players a moment's pause from the bigger plot of the game. There were a couple of standout characters and a few memorable segments. Me, personally, I enjoyed Lady Masako's tale and the conflict she offered. Sadly, there aren't as many memorable antagonists. So, in short, the characters weren't great, but they weren't exactly terrible. I still had some meaningful and enjoyable moments with the characters of this world.
Visuals, Graphics, and Presentation
This game is beautiful. That is the first thing I have to say. The environment is colorful, alive, and there are times when I just got lost looking at the world presented to me. From lush green, vibrant flowers, to the cold and snowy terrain--even the areas that are charred and destroyed has a certain artistic point of view that cannot be denied.
Stepping off the praise for just a moment, there are some jarring things about character models that I can't point out. At times they look awkward, plain here and there, and then the moments when they just don't move organically during cut scenes. These are a few and far between but they are enough to be remembered. But just about everything else with the game is just gorgeous. There are plenty of details given and Jin himself and all his customizable things are all given some thought.
Jin Sakai can choose from a number of things to wear. From a handful of Samurai-esque armor, to Japanese clothing like kimonos, and the sort. He can wear different masks, headwear, and they can all be mixed and matched. Basically one can pick and choose from different looks through what he wears for the hat, the mask, and outfit.
Then one can take the customization option a step further by finding flowers to use as 'dyes' for Jin's clothing.
I found more than enough ways to make Jin look a certain way and I didn't just use one particular combination either. Depending on the mood, the situation, etc, I changed things up. And yes, every Samurai armor does something different from each other and every clothing has the advantage to wear over armor.
Another neat thing is that players can give Jin different katanas to fit their color preference and/or style. I also found myself changing often to match the aforementioned reasons.
Now beyond cosmetics, players can also have different ways to use Jin. Just like any kind of open-world game, there is a small rpg-element that allows players to upgrade Jin's skills and use different battle tactics to wreak havoc against the Mongols. Some are acquired through story progression, while others are there, to begin with. Points can be gained through doing side missions or main quests and the more players learn what each skill can do, the more the one can really take advantage of Jin's tools to their fullest.
Some of those tools are going to be essential for stealth (ninja or "Ghost"). Stealth is an aspect of the game and there are some story-based missions that will require it. It's an option that can be taken easily and with things like poison darts, sniping with your bow and arrow, smoke bombs, and quick assassination strikes, Jin is definitely able to steer clear from the way of the Samurai. Now, it's not the smoothest kind of stealth gameplay I have come across. Sometimes the AI is a bit moronic and, to put it simply, they at times act like Skyrim AIs. If anyone is familiar with the meme, that should draw a good picture.
Now since this is a Samurai game, swordplay is definitely a big part of the gameplay. Most of the time the Ghost tools are optional but Jin using his katana is not. Jin can literally go in swords-ablazing and cut down hordes and hordes of Mongols. It is an action-RPG so it's got some hack-and-slash elements to it. There are plenty of cutting down enemies so knowing how Jin moves, his timing, and the enemies he is going to be going up against. Fighting is going to be one thing Jin will be doing a lot. With that said, there are plenty of ways to mix things up with his four different fighting styles. Not to mention, there are always the ghost style that can really shake things up--honestly, the fighting never got stale.
There are the Duel moments where the player is going to have to rely on the katana. They're not entirely too different from the usual in-game sword battles. What makes them stand out is that they are literally a one-on-one endeavor and solely the player against a boss. No ghost skills, no dirty trick, just Jin's katana (and the four styles), the skills within the katana, and the player's understanding of the game's mechanics and/or timing. Speaking of timing, there are also "Stand Offs"--basically it's the timing and anime segment which can almost always be activated before every skirmish. It's a good way to wither the enemy numbers before actually going right in for the massacre.
Sidequests and Shenanigans
Much like any open-world/sandbox game, there are plenty of shenanigans and sidequests. Most of these compliments the overall main quests and definitely gives the player plenty of things to do. It gives a bit more depth to Jin, the characters, and the world overall since most of them tell the anguish of Tsushima. There are some fetch quests, some collecting, and, of course, the forgettable ones.
Now while there are some downer fetch quests and some standout character story quests, there is the Mythic Tales--one of my favorite things that I did in Ghost of Tsushima. Now, these are presented with a bit more... mythical themes to it (duh) and they do step out of the grounded theme of the game. Now, by no means Ghost of Tsushima is a realistic and infallible retelling of History, but it doesn't present things like Nioh or Sekiro; and what I mean by that is that while it does have implications that there is magic going ons, it doesn't have a dragon or a gigantic creature swinging at Jin. The Mythic Tales gives a drop of fantasy but still puts it within the game's theme. They were narrated quite well with very Japanese artform cutscene--the rewards are great and very useful, and all in all, they add a good distraction to the overall story.
I think in the end, there is a lot of the usuals, there are plenty of tropes, but in the end, there are still some good and great things that came out of side quests. Helps that the gameplay antics were quite fun.
Photo mode is one of the key things in Ghost of Tsushima that makes it so .... breath taking. I don't think I have the adequate words so I'm just going to spam some pictures.
In the moment kills.
There are so many ways one can take a photo and just make it look good. Color types, weather changing, add the title font, add particles (read leaves, cherry blossom, crows), change the time of day, focus... so many things to edit to get such amazing pieces.
The great thing about this game is that photo mode is an easy press of the right d-pad button. Minus the cutscenes, every moment can be paused and edited to fit the picture. I spent a lot of time within the photo mode and there are plenty of shots I didn't even use for this review. Seriously though, it's probably one of the better photo modes out there and there were plenty of thoughts put into this. Even if it's something that people aren't into, it's something that I feel is worth trying once!
A competent story. Likable enough characters. Beautiful presentation and a complimenting photo mode. A very focused gameplay with some good variations. With all those going for it, I can forget that jarring challenge it brings--which can go from fun challenge to downright apalling incompetent AIs. I knew long ago that I was going to enjoy the game but I didn't know that it was going to be an honor to have played it. Ghost of Tsushima may not have brought new things to the open-world/sandbox genre--but what I can say that is what it does, it does amazing. Something that I can appreciate and definitely recommend. Seriously, this game is a must.
Until Next Time!