At Sucker Punch they could have just shouted "If Ubisoft won't do it, we'll do it!"   in their conference room. Ghost of Tsushima is very similar to Ubisoft's showpiece. The main difference is something that many a fan has longed for, feudal Japan as the main setting. I myself have waited long for this and am very glad with the upcoming AC Valhalla but the feudal japan setting is something I've longed for for a verry long, long time.

Players take on the role of samurai Jin Sakai, during the Mongol invasion of Japan in the late thirteenth century, Jin’s island of Tsushima is the first place where the war breaks out. In the action-packed opening scene, Jin and his companions are defeated by the Mongol warriors, for whom no tactic is too cruel. This defeat makes it painfully clear to Jin that the traditional, honorable way of the samurai is not enough to defeat the Mongols. He has to become the Ghost of Tsushima.

Jin therefore constantly learns new fighting styles. He is already a skilled swordsman and quickly handles the bow ,with great finesse. But also less “honorable” weapons such as poison arrows and smoke bombs are part of his ever expanding arsenal to fight the Mongols. Moreover, Jin learns how to silently commit assassinations, for example by striking from the tall grass or by jumping on someone from a roof.

Ghost of Tsushima consists largely of fighting, which is very rewarding. The combat system seems simple, with a normal and heavy attack and a button to block or repel. However, Jin has different fighting stances that are effective against different types of enemies. Therefore, you would prefer to attack an enemy with a spear in a different fighting position than an enemy with a shield.

It takes patience and practice to master the system, let alone throw a smoke bomb in a fluid motion and aim an explosive arrow between someone’s eyes. However, as soon as it works out you’ll feel very powerful. It’s graceful if you combine all the different elements perfectly and efficiently turn your enemies into sashimi.

You will always encounter an opponent who is just a bit faster or smarter. Sucker Punch does not choose the cheap solution where an enemy that looks exactly the same is suddenly unbeatable because it has a higher level. Some enemies wear visibly heavier armor or suddenly wear a helmet, while some swordsmen sometimes surprise you with a slightly different fighting style. In addition, the game regularly presents you with one-on-one duels that require more concentration. The differences in enemies are more subtle than in many peers, so you can’t play simply on autopilot. You’ll have to keep adjusting your play style.

Jin’s adaptability is also an important element in the story. That is not only about the struggle with the Mongols, but also about his inner struggle, he gives up the honorable way of the samurai to protect his homeland. Not only does that fit the theme well, it also creates a nice dynamic with other characters who are all affected in their own way by the Mongol invasion.

Jin gathers a group of likable characters, each with their own storyline that runs parallel to the main story. That makes these side missions more interesting, because you get to know the main characters better. At the same time, this bond with the side characters reinforces the main story.

The game also has a nice rhythm, which automatically creates space for these side missions and the other activities on the island. Ghost of Tsushima is divided into clear deeds, so you know well what an appropriate time to do side missions and when you can prepare for a big confrontation. Fortunately, the story is not predictable. Ghost of Tsushima throws enough surprises at your feet to captivate and move you to the end.

The rest of the side missions and other activities are almost always a repeat of moves. Helping villagers, freeing settlements or just fighting with a Mongol patrol remains fun for a long time thanks to the strong fighting system. The so-called Fox Dens, on the other hand, become repetitive after a few times. Here a fox leads you to an altar, but this tune is exactly the same time and time again. Writing a haiku has been found funny, although it ultimately consists of choosing no more than three sentences that appear on the screen.

Outside of these activities, Tsushima looks somewhat empty and old-fashioned. Climbing is only possible in the designated places and the people of Tsushima hardly respond to your presence. Villagers usually don’t even have a routine and just stare in front of them.

For example, we gave a group of refugees access to a temple by speaking to a monk, but received no rewards or thanks. Another time we knocked out a Mongolian catapult and received some raw materials from the locals as a reward. A trail of dead foxes and deer, on the other hand, led to nothing. Sometimes it is as if the development has stopped in some places.

The game world itself, on the other hand, is beautifully designed. Sucker Punch does not aim at photo-realism, but romanticizes and exaggerates the image we have of Japan. The shimmering moonlight and the dazzling rising sun are beautiful to see. Colorful flower fields dance in the wind and so many leaves and pollen float through the air that you spontaneously get hay fever.

Lovers of classic samurai films can switch on the Kurosawa mode so that everything is monochrome and the sound creaks old-fashioned, but that is actually a waste of the beautiful colors and also of the atmospheric, authentic music! The game, on the other hand, also has the option to turn on extra dramatic contrast, if the colors aren’t bright enough yet.

However, the landscape not only functions as eye candy, it also has a practical use. Most open world games do have something of a map or radar in view, but Ghost of Tsushima solves it differently. The wind always blows in the direction of your goal, so you just have to look at the swirling leaves or the swishing grass to know where to go.

There are also golden yellow birds that lead you to special places. This could be an undiscovered side mission or activity, but also a new headband or hat. Fireflies from afar indicate that there is something to do somewhere and if you give a bow in the right place, butterflies, fish or leaves will whirl around you. Ghost of Tsushima is an almost spiritual experience at such moments.



+ Beautifull, detailed & wonderful world design.
+ Side missions interestingly intertwined with the main story
+ Fast loading times
+ Refined fighting system

– The  game world occasionally  looks empty in certain areas.
– Many activities are repeated and might come less interesting


The game has been tested on a PlayStation 4 Pro. Ghost of Tsushima is available on PlayStation 4 from July 17.