Reading Time: 6 min read

The Plot

Ghost of Tsushima Jin Sakai with horse.

I’ve spent the last 70 hours playing through a world inspired by Japan’s oldest history. I was thrown in countless battles, waged war on some of my enemies, but nothing could prepare me for the gruesomeness that would occur between the Mongolians and the Japanese.

Set around the year 1274. You take the role of Jin Sakai, a small clan leader from the island of Tsushima. You’re to fight against an invading battalion of grim reapers (the Mongolians) who wish for peace at the cost of blood.

Of course, you’d rather not be at the end of one’s sword, so you and 80 other samurai march onto a beach to fight these invaders only to be dispelled with simple, yet aggressive tactics that devastate your numbers. You’re now the only “Official” Samurai that’s left on the small island of Tsushima, with the lord of the island, your uncle Shimura. Who, Being taken hostage by the Mongolian leader Khotun Khan needs your help.

Now imagine, you’ve just been devastated with originally 80 warriors by your side. How are you going to defeat a Mongolian army of thousands by your lonesome? Of course, that’s right, Ninja tactics and the kind of behind your back stealth that the samurai find dishonorable.

I must admit, going into the review as someone who’s a big fan of Japanese history, I thought I was going to love this game. With an interest in the Sengoku era of Japan, I want to be as objective as possible, without getting into too many details.

In the first few hours of gameplay Jin sets out to save his uncle. After meeting a few allies along the way, you find Khotun Khan, and you’re quickly upstaged by him. Jin escapes the palace as his unsuccessful attempt to save his uncle the first time forces him to ally up. You end up learning the way of the bow, sword, and shadow tactics to get you to your goal.

To save his uncle, Jin needs a way to combat the Mongolians. As they have used advanced guerrilla tactics to massacre Tsushima’s island’s warriors.

Quickly realizing that he needs to change the way he’s always done things to save his people. Jin must turn into a folktale, “the ghost” to strike fear amongst the terrorizers and increase morale for the locals. Which gives a way for them to fight back against the Mongolians.

In becoming “the ghost,” Jin must do many unsavory things such as killing his enemies from behind their backs, poisoning them, and taking any means necessary approach. Effectively, destroying what “honor” he built being a Samurai.

This forces Jin to look at his past, himself now, and the future he wants to be remembered by. Should he continue to be “the ghost” as he will be remembered in fear of his people, sought after by the Samurai who once were his allies and a hero who saved the island from catastrophe.

Throughout the game you feel the dread, and hatred eschew from Jin as he tries to live with himself through his conquest.

The Gameplay

The combat has several sword stances, which I can only explain as a Nioh-like stance-shifting style. Ghost of Tsushima makes it clear which stances you use are good against an enemy, as you level up you acquire enhancements to those stances that add more style to your fighting ability.

This made combat satisfying, you could feel the punchiness as the sword struck an enemy. The parrying system and throwables were a joy to use. Parrying an enemy attack and then countering quickly in a single-blow strike felt powerful and fulfilling.

The combat incorporates stealth, strategic planning, and going swords blazing in any situation. Because of the several ways to engage your enemies, the combat is not overly repetitive. It was fun to think of interesting ways to attack my enemies.

The bow in the game added another layer to the combat system and only improved the overall experience as it was a primary choice to use for me when taking out groups of enemies in a large area.

The dueling system was my absolute favorite. It is a 1v1 situation where one swordsman wins depending on who gets slain first. If that does not get your palms sweaty, then I believe you are made of steel and applaud you.

Ghost of Tsushima is a large open-world game that can work both for it and against it. My gripe with the maps was that sometimes it was hard to find where the collectibles were located because it was easy to confuse if an item was below ground or above ground. I wished the topography was more detailed in this case, as it would’ve made traveling a lot easier.

Towards the end of the game, the maps were somewhat sparse whether it was intentional or not. The ground you need to cover to reach your next destination is stretched out unnecessarily. The lack of quick travels in between this area made for a tedious departure to your next destination.

However, exploration was a different story. The landscape and lush of the world around me were captivating. The visuals were very detailed, the water sparkled brightly, and it felt as if each NPC had a unique phrase for every time I engaged them.

I loved the historical accuracy of the world, the tales, and the legends around the island. It truly felt as if I were one with the Samurai.

In Ghost of Tsushima, there aren’t too many quests, but that makes for them to be really entertaining as they don’t feel too dragged out to not be fun.

The characters in the game were very well developed and had their own hardships and issues that they struggled with. It was eye-opening to see how a lot of the issues today carried over to the game.

Conclusion

Ghost of Tsushima is a great game, one of the few games that I felt tempted to complete fully. The world is large, but not too large to lose yourself in it. The graphics are beautiful. And the story writes itself as you journey through the island of Tsushima to free your people from chaos. If you are looking for a video game that has cut-throat action (literally), beautiful visuals, and great dialogue for the story. You should definitely play Ghost of Tsushima.