What does it mean to be a samurai? What methods are you willing to use to save your people? Does the end always justify the means? What if being dishonorable becomes a necessity? These are questions that are never easy to answer, but which represent the fulcrum of the journey of Jin Sakai - protagonist of Ghost of Tsushima, the last effort of sucker Punch - last samurai surviving the Mongol attack on the island of Tsushima, who in a desperate mission to free his land must question both his belief and himself.
Le exclusive PlayStation 4 are often accompanied at launch by very divisive feelings in the community (see the recent case of The Last of Us Part 2), and Ghost of Tsushima is certainly not far behind. Since the first reveal of gameplay in fact, the game has turned up the nose of a large slice of the players, with combat sequences that seemed extremely scripted, and a style of play that reminded all too closely the saga of Assassin's Creed. Pad in hand, however, many had to change their mind, since certain Ghost of Tsushima respects and embodies all cliche more classic of the open world "To Ubisoft", but goes even further, offering the senses of the player a living and breathtaking world, full of poetry and attention to detail, which although often suffers in part from the repetitiveness of the genre now abused, also shines with a clear and distinct personality own.
The narrative plot of Ghost of Tsushima
The events narrated in Ghost of Tsushima, although they sometimes take some narrative license to make everything more playful, they are told with an eye to the historical reality of what happened in Japan at the end of the thirteenth century. The Mongol invasion of the Japanese territory actually left from the island of Tsushima, who first experienced the ferocity and barbarism of the enemy army, which unlike the Japanese army, was equipped with a new and fearful weapon: gunpowder.
As in most open worlds, in Ghost of Tsushima the game opens with a more cinematic and scripted sequence before throwing our character into the open world. In this case it is the tragic battle of Komoda, in which a handful of samurai tried in vain to oppose the landing of the Mongols on the island, before being all (or almost) brutally massacred. In fact, the young survives Jin Sakai, not by miracle or divine intervention, but simply because lucky enough to receive treatment from a good Samaritan woman before it was too late.
The desperate situation that our protagonist has before his awakening seems to have no way out: the Mongols are slowly occupying all of Tsushima, the samurai have fallen in battle and the only hope that the island and its inhabitants have to drive out the invaders resides in Jin, the last man able to oppose the invader. The latter will therefore be forced - as events proceed - to compromise with honor code of the valiant samurai, until he became a fierce and ruthless warrior called "the Specter", capable of fighting enemies with poorly suited methods to those of the noble Japanese swordsmen.
Samurai and Specter
When it comes to gameplay and hand-to-hand combat in an open world, the two most striking examples that come to mind are those of the titles of Batman by Rocksteady, and the aforementioned Assassin's Creed from Ubisoft. The feeling that provides Ghost of Tsushima pad to the hand is a hybrid between the two well thought out, that on the one hand - especially in the early stages of the game when the various skills are not obtained and stance available during the adventure - look at the more methodical and controlled system of Assassin's Creed, made of parades, dodges and attacks that can be done with a few keys. As you proceed to unlock the true potential of Jin however this changes, and our samurai, similarly to the bat man, dance on the battlefield quickly and lethally, with an arsenal of weapons and gadgets that make the player able to approach any type of enemy efficiently and effectively .
The aforementioned are the fulcrum of this combat system stance, four fighting styles interchangeable on the fly during battles with the pressure of R2 + another key, which not only allow you to increase the damage done to the enemy towards which that stance it is super effective, but they give access to real combo, different for each position. Sword fighting therefore evolves with the progression of the character, providing the player with a feeling of fulfillment for completing certain challenges or quests that give access to new moves or tools for Jin. In this perspective it is shown how the choice - in the game design phase - of the developers of do not include a lock on system for enemies it is not a simple superficiality. If in fact at the beginning you feel lost without a button that allows you to keep the view locked on an enemy, proceeding in the game you realize that sucker Punch he deliberately eliminated this feature to ensure that once more advanced abilities are obtained, which allow Jin to move gracefully and lethally on the battlefield, the flow of the action is not slowed down or stopped due to the fixed view on a single target.
In addition to the classic frontal approach, one cannot fail to mention the possibility of facing everything in a way stealth, silently eliminating enemies without them noticing our presence. Also for this mechanic Ghost of Tsushima does not present anything extremely innovative or unpublished: the silent killings done from behind, the bells to attract and isolate the enemies, the alert level of the enemies visible on the screen, and so on. Jin is an agile climber, therefore moving surreptitiously as we eliminate the various enemies both vertically and horizontally is a walk and even if facing the various missions with this approach is not always possible, since the game sometimes forces the player to go to the charge in open field, doing it in stealth is certainly the most efficient way to complete the various primary and secondary quests.
A living and vivid world
The formula openworld Ghost of Tsushima is perhaps what has made many users turn up their noses who are still hesitant about buying the game. This genus has in fact now reached its saturation in recent years, and except in rare cases (see Breath of the Wild), titles of this type look a bit like everyone. Coming from a series like that of Infamous, it was difficult to imagine that Sucker Punch would radically change the classic formula of his open world and in fact it was not so. As anticipated in the introduction, in fact, Ghost of Tsushima respects all classic canons of the open world to which the gaming market has accustomed us for a decade now: camps to be freed at Far Cry, mountains to climb like the towers of Assassin's Creed, places of interest to be found to increase a statistic, random encounters of enemy patrols, and so on. The peculiarity of this title however is that these points are often not indicated to us by NPC or by secondary quests to be followed on the map, but by the very nature of the island of Tsushima. For example, the hot springs that increase Jin's health emit visible white smoke over the top of the trees. So if during a ride the player sees a column of steam, just follow it to find this point of interest. Or again, the mechanics of golden birds and foxes that, if followed, can lead Jin to shrines or other hidden places, hidden corners of the world that otherwise in such a vast map it would be practically impossible to discover.
Ghost of Tsushima therefore manages to render playful and alive the open world, rewarding the player who simply gets on a horse and explores the map, like a wanderer without a specific goal.
A poem for the eyes and ears
To reinforce this sense of wonder and discovery there is then the impressive technical and artistic sector of the title, which help to raise Ghost of Tsushima above the ranks of open world "photocopy". The settings and the glimpses offered by the Japanese island literally leave you breathless and everything is even more incredible if you think that we are talking about PlayStation 4, a console that now feels its honors weigh seven years of service on the shoulders.
La Artistic direction of the game is cured in every single aspect and in addition to the immense work done on lighting, reflections, the realization of the wind and the weather, flora and fauna, Ghost of Tsushina has an impressive physical engine, apart from the effects of blood. In fact, depending on the direction of the katana blow, the blood stains on the walls or on the ground reflect the direction of the real cuts inflicted on the opponents.
In the cutscenes and especially in the most important moments of the plot, the game takes on an almost cinematographic direction, taking full inspiration from the legendary films on the samurai of Akira Kurosawa, so much so that in the options you can also set one Kurosawa mode which turns the game into black and white and gives movies a 60s movie effect.
In conclusion, with Ghost of Tsushima Sucker Punch has created a real love letter for feudal Japan of the thirteenth century. Just like a sakura blossom, the combat system blooms over the progression of Jin, making splendid what at first had been shown simply as a closed bud. Deeply respectful of Japanese culture and customs, the title - although it presents the skeleton seen and revised of an open world in third person - skilfully mixes old and new mechanics, bringing out a product that manages to involve the player in his world with a poetic embrace, succeeding where others have failed.