Ghost of Tsushima: Review

By Rosh, Adlai | Manila Bulletin, July 14, 2020 | Go to article overview

Ghost of Tsushima: Review


Rosh, Adlai, Manila Bulletin


Written by Adlai Rosh

Jin Sakai draws his blade and issues a challenge. He approaches a camp full of invading Mongols, who have come to the island of Tsushima as their first step towards conquering Japan. He stands before four men, who yell at him in their language, cursing him as he waits with his blade at the ready. They stare each other down, the only movement the grass blowing in the wind. Then, one man strikes - Jin moves. With a flick of his wrist, he cuts him down. Two of his companions attempt to exploit this opening. They die just as easily. The fourth stumbles back, screaming in terror as Jin wipes the blood from his blade and bows at the still-warm corpses, paying his respects to the dead.

What would've been a cutscene in any lesser game was but a fraction of gameplay. Ghost of Tsushima quite openly draws inspiration from Samurai fiction, and it shows. Should the player wish, Jin could fight as an honorable Samurai does - challenging his foes head-on, never backing down until all have fallen, looking them in the eyes as he cuts them down without hesitation. It's a game that wears its Kurosawa influences on its sleeve and isn't afraid to admit it. There's even a "Kurosawa" mode in the game that allows you to play through the experience with a black and white film grain filter and Japanese audio. One of the key gameplay features, the stand-off, even stimulates the tension of a samurai duel by giving you the opportunity to thin the ranks at the beginning of a fight if you challenge a group of foes directly.

Direct combat isn't the only way to play the game, though. Ghost of Tsushima has two distinct playstyles; the honor-bound Samurai, and the cunning Ghost. Stealth and trickery is the name of the game. While the Samurai is content to strike his foes down head-on, with sword and bow, the Ghost follows no such code. Willing to do whatever it takes, the Ghost employs tactics that tilt the odds in his favor. From Kunai that open foes up to attack to smoke bombs that allow for a quick escape, indirect combat and ingenuity are the Ghost's bread and butter. Head-on fights might be a challenge, but the Ghost's tools allow him to even the odds.

While I expected the game to have an arbitrary Karma system like in Sucker Punch's previous work, inFamous, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I could choose to play however I wanted, whenever I wanted. …

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