Medieval Japan and a lot of blood: a review of the video game Ghost of Tsushima

Nothing will help you relax from the hustle and bustle better than a historical excursion during the battles of the samurai with the Mongols. The new game Ghost of Tsushima, already available for PS4, can provide this.

Games about medieval Japan are too rare, and if you reject projects with elements of fantasy, like Nioh and Sekiro, then only the strategy of Total War: Shogun 2 will remain.

That is why for fans of the entourage of the Land of the Rising Sun Ghost of Tsushima was of particular interest. Developers from Sucker Punch Productions promised to present samurai action in the open world with brutal and spectacular battles, beautiful locations and a story about defending the homeland from aggressors.

This arrangement of elements made many users look forward to the game. And then there is the exclusive status of PS4, which are famous for high quality, and the creators are not the last people in the industry. And so Ghost of Tsushima revealed its face to the audience and turned out to be a largely ambiguous game.

No, not bad, but not surprising.

NV understood what this project can attract you, and where the developers made mistakes.

He survived, but changed

The story in Ghost of Tsushima shows the year 1274. The Mongol army led by Hotun Khan landed on the coast of Tsushima Island. Eighty samurai, led by Mr. Simura, the uncle of Dina Sakai, the protagonist of the game, opposed the invaders.

He, as the last member of his clan, also took part in the battle, which lasted a very short time. Due to the numerical advantage, the aggressors quickly defeated the defenders of the island. Simura was taken prisoner, and Gina was severely wounded. After the fight, the protagonist woke up near a village, where the Mongols were already working hard.

The protagonist found a personal katana, met the archer Yuna, who saved him, and went to rescue his uncle with her. Arriving at the castle, where the Mongols held Simura, Jin met with Hotun Khan and suffered a crushing defeat. Miraculously surviving, the protagonist began to develop a new plan to save a single relative.

He must enlist the support of the surviving warriors and samurai on Tsushima, as well as save Yuna’s brother, a skilled blacksmith who will help overcome the high castle walls.

At this point, the plot of Ghost of Tsushima ends and the long road to the liberation of the island from the Mongols begins – the final goal of the game. This is not a spoiler, because Jin constantly talks about the desire to take revenge on the invaders. However, there are many enemies, and it is impossible to defeat them all in a fair fight.

Under the pressure of circumstances, the hero violates samurai principles and begins to act in secret ways, like a ninja. The latter, by the way, in the plot of Ghost of Tsushima is never mentioned for some reason. Apparently, the developers wanted to emphasize the uniqueness of the protagonist’s fighting style and his methods of warfare.

But if you arm yourself with historical facts and disassemble the creations of Sucker Punch with a look at them, then half of the plot will fall apart in an instant. But you do not need to do this, because the developers have never said that they are creating a credible game about medieval Japan. In Ghost of Tsushima in the first place drama, spectacle and pathos.

The leitmotif of the story shows a change in Jin’s consciousness: for the sake of his native Tsushima, he sacrificed the beliefs and principles to which he was accustomed since childhood. The samurai violated his code, which is why he feels remorse. History regularly shows that it is difficult for the protagonist to act covertly and kill opponents from behind. Jin constantly reassures himself that this is necessary, because there is a war, and after it will be possible to abandon all dishonest methods.

The drama, built on the transformation of a samurai into a ghost – a warrior who is feared by enemies, and respects the people of Tsushima, in principle, manages to absorb. There are even moments when you feel all the pain of the protagonist. His motivation is always extremely simple and clear: to kill opponents by any means and to protect the people of Tsushima.

Throughout history, Jin has done everything to achieve these two goals, making his image easy to believe. Although sometimes the protagonist leaks too much pathos. Every half hour, he is guaranteed to say some eloquent phrase about the honor, victory and protection of those who can not take care of themselves.

The developers have gone a little too far to convey the spirit of medieval Japan and the samurai era. The same applies to drama, built in several layers. Here and betrayals, and fratricide, and mass executions of civilians – which only trouble did not show Sucker Punch.

But due to the high concentration of tragic events, not everyone is able to absorb them. Later, next to another burned village, you jump as if you were in the middle of a field of flowers.

Hokku dialogues are confused

However, the excesses with drama and pathos can still be explained by the entourage, but the disgustingly written dialogues can not be justified. In conversations, the characters are often repeated, contradict themselves and change their mind after one argument of the interlocutor. It seems that the writers sketched a draft of the characters and decided to present it as the main one.

It is impossible to explain crumpled and broken dialogues differently. And now add here the terrible staging in some tasks, and you will get a not very attractive picture. And if such problems were felt in additional assignments, but they are also present in the chain of basic quests. I once cleared the Mongolian outpost, and five minutes later I was sent there for the plot.

There were a lot of enemies inside again, and I had to fight a second time. Moreover, the enemy camp is located on the way to the main mission and, of course, there will be users who will stop and go kill the Mongols. There are plenty of such shortcomings in Ghost of Tsushima – later in the text you will see for yourself.

We don’t have to talk about the characters in the game for a long time. The main and secondary characters look appropriate within the chosen entourage. There is a monk who takes care of his comrades, an experienced and proud samurai archer, a thief Yuna, who tries to protect his brother in every possible way, a woman in her old age who has lost relatives along with other members of the clan, and so on.

Every more or less significant character in Sucker Punch’s work faced the disasters and troubles that the war brought to Tsushima. Their stories can be found in special chains of tasks of colleagues. These additional plots are mostly able to interest and better reveal the allies of Jin. Missions for armor or special skills, marked with a blue icon on the map, are also well designed.

Each such assignment is accompanied by a prehistory with a hand-drawn screensaver and is distinguished by some feature. In one task, while Jin jumps to the goal, lightning strikes the ground – it’s just a visual effect, but it looks gorgeous. And in another you need to carefully inspect the surroundings and look for a goal on the visual landmarks.

It is a pity that in the general mass of quests can not boast of great variety. They offer to follow the goal, as in Assassin’s Creed, to explore the area from a height, when it comes to the stage of drawing up a plan, to fight or covertly eliminate opponents. All missions consist of 80% of battles and stealth, and another 15% of horseback riding to the goal in the open world.

A faithful horse can be summoned by a whistle, and it will instantly appear behind Gina. In general, there is an analogue of the Roach, which means that at least one reason to join the Ghost of Tsushima has been found. And seriously, the game lacks a variety of scenarios in the tasks. I want some fights with special conditions, competitions, who will drink more sake, jumping or something similar.

However, all of the above is replaced by battles, which, thank all the Japanese gods, turned out interesting and exciting. This is achieved through a deep combat system that includes many elements and features.

Against hordes of aggressors

In open confrontation, Jin’s main weapon is the katana of the Sakai clan. Holding it in his hands, the protagonist can strike fast and heavy blows, dodge, defend against enemy attacks and repel them. The last action occurs by pressing the block key just before the enemy attacks.

Medium-term timings are, in principle, gentle, so it is quite possible to fend off attacks. Initially, Jin can use only a stone rack, and when passing will open three more – water, wind and moon. To unlock them you need to kill a certain number of Mongol generals.

Each rack is used to battle a specific type of opponent. The stone is needed for battles with swordsmen, water – shield-bearers, wind – spear-bearers, and the moon – large and slow Mongols with a hammer, ax or cannon. Enemies also include archers and throwers of blinding grenades.

As you progress, the types of opponents do not change – only dogs are added to the list – but there are more powerful variations of swordsmen, spearmen and other enemies. They are characterized by increased health and resilience, as well as unique attacks.

For example, shield bearers will be able to set fire to a sword and inflict additional fire damage if they miss their attack. The archers do the same, and the swordsmen will arm themselves with a second weapon and will quickly jump.

All enemy attacks are divided into three types – normal, continuous and non-blocked. The second in battles is marked in blue, and the third in red, so that the user can react in time. For his part, Jin is able to not only cause damage with strong blows, but also reduce the resistance of the opponent. When it falls to zero, the enemy freezes for a short time. That’s enough to deal a barrage of blows and commit murder.

Each of the racks gives the protagonist a set of several skills. They are used by a combination of pressing and holding a strong attack key. In battles you always have to fight against a motley crowd of Mongols, much less robbers. Therefore, you need to look carefully in different directions, choose the right position and use the right rack to destroy the enemy.

Without this in Ghost of Tsushima can not do, because opponents do a lot of damage and do not hesitate to attack in the back. Throughout the passage, the enemies will kill Jin after 3-5 successful attacks. The protagonist, of course, is gradually pumped, but at the same time new, stronger enemies appear.

Determination is used to restore health after missed strokes, which is reflected in the form of yellow circles above the health scale. It is filled after killing enemies, successfully repelling blows and using some skills. The same resource is needed to apply the legendary techniques.

One blow – one corpse

Another element of the combat system in the project is confrontation. Before the fight, before the enemies have noticed Gin, the player can challenge them. After that, the main character will be approached by an opponent and a samurai duel will begin. The user must hold down the hard key and release it when the enemy attacks the main character. If you get into the timing, the protagonist will instantly kill the enemy.

Otherwise, Jin will suffer a severe amount of damage and will have to regain health, which, incidentally, is not always possible at the beginning of the battle. Sometimes, after a hard fight, you survive without determination, and in a new confrontation you do not have time to accumulate it and die.

The developers had to implement a spare way to fill one or two yellow circles out of combat. Then the described problem would not arise, and the balance would not suffer. However, this is only a small drawback, but the behavior of the camera – a much more significant drawback.

As mentioned above, Ghost of Tsushima always has to fight against the crowd, so you have to move and dodge a lot. Under such conditions, the ability to capture the camera on one opponent is extremely important, but the developers decided not to implement it. According to them, this feature will prevent users from feeling “alone in the middle of a gang of Mongols.”

But in the game, one way or another, you always dodge and run away from the environment, so as not to substitute your back. The argument of the developers sounds implausible, so the need to set the correct angle of the camera in dynamic battles are recorded as shortcomings. The tempo is too much wrong when you are distracted by adjusting the viewing angle.

Popularity is a force

And although Sucker Punch should have introduced an additional version of the camera with a fixation on the target, its absence does not greatly affect the final quality of the combat system. More importantly, it came out comprehensive and evolves throughout the passage.

When performing tasks, primary and secondary, as well as participation in other activities, Gina fills in a scale called “Legend of the Ghost”. When its level reaches the boundaries indicated by the circles, the protagonist receives technician points.

They are spent on pumping the protagonist in three categories – samurai skills, ghost abilities and endurance. The first includes improving evasion, parrying and some navigation skills, and the second – talents for stealth and all sorts of auxiliary shells, including smoke and powder bombs, kunai, Velcro bombs and bells.

Weapons from this arsenal are opened after the scale of “Legend of the Ghost” is completed and Jin acquires a new status, reflecting its popularity on the island and among the Mongols. The player himself chooses what to unlock first of all, forming his fighting style in this way.

Bombs and kunai are very helpful in clashes, because they cause damage and completely reduce the resistance of enemies. Each projectile can be further improved, and then they will find new effects. For example, the bells will turn into firecrackers and will attract several enemies from the district.

We steal and equip ourselves

Auxiliary weapons diversify the combat system and provide more ways to confront enemies. According to the plot, Jin will receive a bow and a wind pipe, which help in open confrontations and covert actions. Stealth in Ghost of Tsushima has to be resorted to quite often, and there are some problems with it.

The protagonist is able to sneak up on enemies and eliminate them quietly, hide in the grass and use the hearing mode, which shows the location of enemies in the vicinity. Like, a standard set of secret killer abilities, what could go wrong? Answer: artificial intelligence. Enemies are often nailed to points or moving along a small route, and they have a very narrow range. You can sneak up on any opponent and kill.

Plus, after detection, there are a few more seconds to commit a covert murder. As a result, the player can easily cut out the Mongol camp if the enemies do not stand too close to each other. And when you pump the chains of covert murders, even this obstacle disappears.

And if suddenly the enemies notice the corpse of an ally and raise the alarm, it is enough to hide in the nearest tall grass – they rarely search it. As a result, stealth turned out to be too simple. You don’t even have to use vines and parkour to climb the houses.

Acrobatics, by the way, is also used when traveling around the world – Jin is able to cling to the ledges, jump on the branches, climb rocks, and then even get a hook cat. Ghost of Tsushima does not rely on vertical gameplay, but it adds variety, which means that it copes with the task.

To strengthen the protagonist in the game Sucker Punch, in addition to skills, equipment helps. It won’t take long to talk about him – Jin uses a katana and tanto (a blade to cover up murders) as his main weapon and has one armor compartment. Helmet and mask perform a purely cosmetic role. There are fifteen types of armor, and some of them are issued according to the plot.

You only need to choose to your liking and change them depending on the situation, because some are suitable for open battles, and others save during stealth. Improving equipment is also quite simple: you collect resources in the open world, which are divided into four types, bring them to the right master and pump weapons or armor.

For the action of such surface elements of RPG is quite enough – they increase the variety and do not stress, because the materials accumulate naturally in the study of the open world.

Wind, lead me

Tsushima’s territory in Ghost of Tsushima is shrouded in a fog of war, that is, at first it shows no activity. They can be detected only when traveling on horseback or by visual landmarks: pillars of smoke, fireflies on trees, bonfires or with the help of animals.

Yellow birds lead Jin to the nearest place of interest, and chanterelles always point to the location of the Inari shrine. If you pray to them, you can open additional cells of amulets – perks for weapons, which give various allowances.

With the help of visual guidelines, the developers tried to increase the motivation for research and immersion in the virtual world. And you know, they did well. An important role in this was also played by the almost complete absence of pointers on the screen. The icon only appears when you get close to the target.

In other cases, the direction of movement is indicated by the wind. The user marks the map, then swipes the DualShock, and vortices appear, pointing in the right direction. This feature perfectly complements the oriental atmosphere at Ghost of Tsushima.

As for minor occupations, there seem to be many of them, but almost all of them are reduced to grind. Bend your fingers: clearing outposts, visiting shrines, swimming in hot springs, training with bamboo, casual fights with Mongolian travels, hawks and fights against bosses.

In the latter, you often have to participate in the plot, as well as when you perform side tasks. During the duel, the camera is fixed on the opponent, and Jin moves around him. Bosses always have several types of attacks, cause a lot of damage and are able to conduct series with unblocked and continuous strikes.

And in the rest everything is the same as in the usual fights: you choose a rack, block, repel and attack. Various bonuses and rewards in the form of talismans or cosmetics are provided for participation in each of the side activities.

If you do not rush to clean the map of question marks, which gradually open, and participate in portions in additional activities, they do not get bored. In most cases, it takes no more than fifteen minutes to visit different places and fight. On the way to the tasks, I was distracted by points of interest and did not get tired. But the desert of the open world may seem a disadvantage to some.

Life here is more or less felt only in friendly settlements and refugee camps. In such locations you can talk to NPCs, get a gift from them and learn about interesting places or events.

And the rest of the territory is forests, fields, mountains, rivers and destroyed villages. However, traveling on a war-torn world, he manages to feel like a lone ghost, one of the few defenders of Tsushima. Most likely, this effect was achieved by Sucker Punch.

Japanese beauty

Now it remains only to talk about graphics, sound and technical implementation. The project looks chic, especially in terms of visual effects. Travel changes the weather, the wind lifts up the leaves and petals of flowers, and the sky is sometimes pierced by lightning.

You never tire of looking at such beauty until the end. I would also like to praise Ghost of Tsushima for the range of drawing and the quality of shadows, but there are questions about the effects of fire, animation and lighting.

At dusk, the picture becomes oversaturated with orange, which severely cuts the eye. Characters sometimes move like robots and do not always choose the right path to the goal, although this is more of a claim to AI.

Well, facial expressions weakly convey emotions on the faces – Jin and at all, as if in most cases upset or surprised. But the sounds I want to praise: the soundtrack is good and made in the Japanese style, and the effects in mass battles raise the spirits and motivate to attack enemies faster.


Ghost of Tsushima came out with solid action, but with significant shortcomings and roughness.

Impressions from a good story about the honor and defense of the homeland, dynamic battles, exploration of the world and some minor tasks are spoiled by clumsily written dialogues, poor mission statement and simplified to the point of impotence stealth.

If you immerse yourself in the game with your head and rush to clean up the map, the content will be enough for 70 hours. But so Ghost of Tsushima quickly heals and gets bored.

It is better to focus on the strengths of the game: go through the story, quests of teammates and tasks to obtain armor / skills, and between them gradually clean up the map and pump the hero. Then the project will give pleasure and will not seem too big and stretched.