With Ghost of Tsushima, Sucker Punch tries their hand at a next-gen open-world experience, blending elements of stealth, sword combat, character customization and cinematic storytelling together. But does it all come together and become a quality experience, or will it soon vanish like a ghost into obscurity?
That sets it apart from their previous games already, but what sold me on it almost immediately was its handling of some design elements seen in almost every major AAA game of the last decade. A subtle, but welcome change is that there's no hard "quest marker" pointing you straight toward your current objective; instead, the wind blows toward whatever you've currently marked on the map, rustling trees, grass and other objects. Not only is this less distracting and 'video gamey' so to speak, but it adds an element of immersion as you can still run into roadblocks on the way there - steep terrain, roving bandits, and so forth, and even once you've gotten there, you often have to find a way in that isn't clearly marked. You can also spend skill points to point it toward other side-objectives that boost Health and Resolve, give new pieces of equipment and the like; something I recommend you spend your first couple points on, as you tend to die pretty quickly in battle until you've gotten the hang of its intricacies (though the Director's Cut offsets this to a degree by starting you off with a non-upgradable armor that boosts your health and defense).
One slightly odd element is that the game seems like it's set up to have multiple story paths based on your choice of tactics and dialog, but it actually doesn't. Whether you act "honorably" by facing all of your opponents head-on or use underhanded, stealthier tactics, the story plays out the same either way, with the only real difference being some lines of dialog here and there, with characters either chastising or encouraging your choices. Granted, Tsushima's marketing never claims that it does have multiple story paths or a branching narrative, which sets it a cut above most games I've seen that promise that and don't really deliver, but it did make me wonder if it was something they had planned but ended up scrapping along the course of development.
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platform: Playstation 4, Playstation 5
Released: 2020, 2021
Recommended Version: I've only personally played the Playstation 4 version, but the Director's Cut upgrade is available on both platforms and contains several additions and performance tweaks, including an entirely new area laden with quests based on Iki island.