For years, fans have been crying out for an Assassin’s Creed game set in feudal Japan. This historical period marked by violence from both inside the country and out would make an ideal setting, yet those cries have fallen on deaf ears.
Thankfully, Sony developer Sucker Punch saw the value in an open-world game set in Japan, and since last week, we’ve been neck-deep in Ghost of Tsushima.
It’s late 13th century, and the Mongol empire is laying waste to nations on its path to conquer the east. Tsushima Island is all that stands between mainland Japan and a massive Mongol fleet led by its ruthless general Khotun Khan.
As the island burns in wake of the invasion, Jin Sakai stands as one of the last surviving samurai capable of protecting his people and reclaiming their home. Although Jin very quickly discovers that he must set aside the honour and tradition that shaped him as a warrior if he’s to stand any chance against the enemy.
Ghost of Tsushima features a gorgeous open-world for you to explore on foot or via horseback. Across your journey to liberate the island, you will be freeing hostages trapped in villages, racing and battling through billowing fields and even resting in the tranquil waters of hot springs. If Japan isn’t on your list potential holiday destinations, it will be after a few hours with this PlayStation exclusive.
Combat forms the bread and butter of gameplay which blends aspects from several popular games. If you’ve spent time with the Batman: Arkham games or Assassin’s Creed, you will have a fair idea of what to expect. Jin is equipped with a katana, bow and several other weapons and items obtained as the game progresses. There are the typical light and heavy attacks, blocks and dodges with four unique stances to learn; each offering move sets tailored to dealing with different enemy types.
There’s also a heavy dose of stealth gameplay and attacks—things like backstabs and deaths from above—which might seem at odds with a samurai’s pursuit of honour. That’s because it is. What’s interesting is that the contrast between a samurai’s honour and the dishonour that comes from stabbing an enemy in the back is actually addressed in the story. It’s not often that you find a violent video game with a protagonist who stops to reflects on his actions.
Jin’s armour, hats and masks can also be changed at any time, with dozens of options and colour dyes to choose from. You can go for a true samurai look or something more ninja or shinobi-like.
Fans of classic Japanese cinema need to check out the optional Kurosawa Mode. Inspired by the films of legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, this mode gives the game black-and-white visuals, a weathered effect and Japanese voice acting with English subtitles. It’s designed to evoke Kuroswawa’s classic films like Seven Samurai. Kurosawa mode can be switched on and off at any time and warrants exploring.
The bottom line is we’re still quite early on in Ghosts of Tsushima. Considering reports suggest it takes 40-to-50 hours to reach the credits, and longer for 100% completion, you could be playing this one for quite a while.
It’s also worth mentioning that Ghosts of Tsushima is the last PlayStation 4 exclusive before focus shifts to the PlayStation 5. Thankfully it’s shaping up to be a memorable swan song worthy of a place on the shelf with the other great PS4 exclusives like God of War, Uncharted 4 and Horizon Zero Dawn.
Ghost of Tsushima is available now exclusively for PlayStation 4.
The writer received a digital copy courtesy of the publisher