Ghost of Tsushima marks the end of an era, as it could very well be the last triple-A exclusive to be released on Sony's PlayStation 4 – a console that defined and dominated this generation.
As the PlayStation 5 slowly creeps up to murder our wallets, we 'think of a better way to bid a fond farewell to the PS4, with a game that once again sets the bar high across the board – from visuals and sound design to storytelling and action.
Developed by Sucker Punch Productions, Ghost of Tsushima is a third-person stealth action game in an open world setting, featuring an absolutely gorgeous adventure through feudal Japan's most strikingly beautiful landscapes.
A Mongolian invasion fleet led by Khotun Khan invades the Japanese island of Tsushima in 1274. Jin Sakai – a samurai warrior and the chief of a local clan – joins the rest of the island's army, led by his uncle Lord Shimura, in an attempt to thwart the invasion.
However, fate was not kind that day. The battle ends in a disaster, with the entire samurai army killed, Lord Shimura captured, and Jin grievously wounded and left for dead.
Narrowly escaping death, Jin realises that he cannot defeat the Mongols alone or with traditional samurai tactics, which requires him to fight with honour.
With all hope seemingly lost and most of his homeland occupied by ruthless Mongol invaders, Jin begins his lone journey to recruit more allies, and learn new fighting techniques to aid in his quest to free Tsushima.
The Way of the Ghost
The Mongol horde is brutal and relentless, and honorable tactics will not lead Jin to victory. He begins to forge a new technique of fighting – the way of the Ghost – which focuses on stealth, infiltration and sabotage.
Jin begins to wage an unconventional war for the freedom of Japan.
Raised and trained in the ways of the Samurai, Jin faces the most difficult decision of his life – honour the tradition and customs of his upbringing and maintain a fight he cannot win, or deviate from his path to protect the island and its people by any means necessary.
The huge open world of Tsushima features a diverse assortment of regions and buildings, such as countrysides, fields, shrines, ancient forests, villages, farms, mountainscapes, and various landmarks.
But the game has no immersion breaking objective markers or waypoints.
Combat in Tsushima
Ghost of Tsushima's combat system is complex and diverse, utilising a Tachi (a type of Japanese sword used by Samurai warriors), a bow and a grappling hook. You can face the formidable Mongol army head on, or assassinate them from shadows.
Jin can use throwing knives to take down enemies from afar, and drop firecrackers to create a distraction. The game also showcases one of the best blade-to-blade combat systems the open-world action genre has seen.
One-on-one duels against lone opponents, who are encountered throughout the game, are simply amazing, as these encounters force you to utilize all your techniques and reflexes.
Fighting a guerilla war with an army of invaders means you will frequently cross blades with multiple enemies. There is no lock-on system during combat. Instead, you must focus on using the precise attacks at the right time to break your enemy's defences, and then slice them up.
A perfect counter will leave your opponents defenceless for a moment, giving you the opportunity to immediately deliver the killing blow. This technique could take some time to get used to, but once you get the hang of it, you can become nigh unstoppable.
One of the combat techniques Jin has at his disposal is sword stances, and each one is suitable for a specific type of combat challenge. Throughout the game, you will learn different stances that can be changed on the fly during combat encounters.
A Mongol soldier wearing heavy armor and wielding an axe cannot be defeated with the same stance you used against a lightly armoured soldier carrying a sword. Using the correct sword stance and technique, you need to break his armour to bring him down for good.
The game will test your skills by throwing increasingly difficult challenges and tougher enemies at you, but there is no level gating, grinding or micro transactions, just complete freedom to hunt down the Mongol invaders by any means necessary.
Ghost of Tsushima is only available for the PlayStation 4, and might get an upgraded release on the PlayStation 5.