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Ghost Of Tsushima

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
Genre: Action
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Sucker Punch
Release Date: Aug. 20, 2021


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PS5 Review - 'Ghost of Tsushima Director's Cut'

by Redmond Carolipio on Aug. 20, 2021 @ 11:00 p.m. PDT

Ghost Of Tsushima is a sprawling, open-world samurai game set in feudal Japan where you play as a battered samurai, fighting back against overwhelming odds.

Buy Ghost of Tsushima Director's Cut

Ghost of Tsushima was undoubtedly one of the brightest gaming stars of 2020 when it came out last July. It seemed to come at the perfect time to a COVID-impacted global public in need of an escape, and it delivered the samurai epic many people have been wanting for years. It helped make the pandemic summer of 2020 bearable.

Now it hopes to do the same for the pandemic summer of 2021, this time in the form of Ghost of Tsushima Director's Cut, its visual splendor on display and fully tailored to the power of the PS5 and a new expansion that takes Jin Sakai, its hero, to the lands of Iki Island.

I'm going to assume that anyone who's stoked for or even curious about the director's cut is probably at least somewhat familiar with the premise of Ghost of Tsushima and our feelings on it when it was released. For first-timers, I'd rather not spoil anything, only to tell you that you play a samurai on an open-world adventure of vengeance, exploration and self-discovery in Mongol-occupied Tsushima (and now Iki) islands.

The journey to Iki island becomes available in the game's second act and begins with the investigation of a Mongol yurt and the surrounding area. While doing a little bit of samurai detective work, Jin is attacked by a group of Mongols that aren't really like the ones he's seen from the forces of Khotun Khan. These guys are crazier and harder to fight, partially because of the shaman farther away from the group whipping them into a frenzy with his Mongolian-bass chanting. They are a lot more aggressive and can take more damage while the shaman chants, so naturally, it's best to shoot him with an arrow or cut him down to revert the other guys back to normal. The shaman is basically a walking difficulty spike.

Jin finds out these guys were an expeditionary force from Iki island, and the very mention of the island evokes tragic memories for him. These memories eventually serve as the cornerstone for the narrative structure around Jin's experience on Iki as a whole. If the player chooses, Jin can commission a boatman to ferry him (and his horse) to the island. Of course, the boat trip doesn't really go as planned — the boat gets destroyed during a storm, and Jin gets washed up on the shores of Iki island. It's there he eventually meets the Eagle Tribe and its leader, known simply as The Eagle. I can only describe the Eagle as a sorceress who uses poisons and mind games to break, destroy or convert her enemies — the Mongolian version of Batman's Scarecrow or Mola Ram from Indiana Jones lore. Instead of reaching into Jin's heart and pulling it out, she makes him drink stuff that messes with his mind and lets her voice into his head to give life to his deepest fears.

As Jin progresses through Iki island's story offerings, the screen occasionally turns a hazy purple (not the good, Jimi Hendrix kind), and he'll hear the Eagle's voice saying something awful. Jin describes it to a companion as "my thoughts, but with her voice." This bit of design gave me shades of the outstanding Hellblade, which built its whole experience about a warrior battling the voices inside of her head and occasionally failing. It's a different dimension to bring into the world of feudal samurai, and watching Jin battle through these mental issues — and the imagery they conjure — added another level of depth to his character, even though his arc didn't carry the pure chaos of the mind like Hellblade's Senua did — and honestly, Jin should thank whatever gods he has for that.

I enjoyed how Iki Island ultimately came across as a condensed package of everything Ghost of Tsushima has to offer on the larger Tsushima Island. Though much smaller, Iki has its own map, complete with a fog of war that parts as Jin explores. There are a variety of locations to see, ranging from haiku to hot springs. There are also cute spots where Jin plays an actual tune with his flute that you as the player can influence by controlling a glowing dot with tilts of the controller, keeping the dot within the boundaries of an ethereal "tunnel" that breaks up and down as the song progresses. Doing it well leads to a bit of dialogue from Jin while he's petting an adorable animal nearby. The animals make it worth it.

When you're not playing Flute Hero, you can delve into the many side tales around the island, each of them carrying the same kind of thoughtful, diverse weight as those on Tsushima Island. One quest had me actually choose a hostage to save, and another had me pursue someone calling himself the "ghost" of Iki Island. There are even a couple of "mythic tales" that lead to Jin finding new items of legend, like a set of amazingly badass horse armor.

I welcomed some new gameplay elements in combat and traveling around the Island. The one that stands out the most is the "horse charge," where pressing the left shoulder button triggers your horse to charge full-steam ahead and blast through packs of bad guys. It feels a little cartoonish at times, but it's also somewhat addicting and satisfying. It also adds a great element to the horse, who just functioned as Jin's trusty and loyal transportation up to that point. Jin can also use his grappling look to latch onto and pull things apart with a combination of the right and left triggers. If you've played any of the recent Tomb Raider games, you'll know what this looks like and how useful it can be when it comes to exploration. Other experiences include a dueling tournament, which I actually found a little difficult at first, as well as the odd archery challenge, where Jin has to hit a set amount of targets in a limited amount of time.

Jin eventually manages to confront the Eagle in an epic final battle, but I feel like one would miss the point if you just invested into mashing through the island's main story missions in five or six hours. The world of Ghost of Tsushima is at its apex when it's explored, and exploring it on the PS5 is one of the great visual treats of the year. It says something about the visual quality of the PS4 version when I can say seeing the game on the PS5 isn't quite "leaps and bounds" above what we've seen before, but it's still breathtaking. The game has always been pretty, but there's a richness here that fills the eyes and soul with color. The light dances off the grass in a special way, and there appear to be valleys covered in falling lavender as you travel on horseback to different parts of the island.

Ghost of Tsushima Director's Cut feels like the truest, purest way to experience this title, so much so that I'm willing to go through it once again from the top, when Jin rode into battle with his uncle and almost died. I want to ride through the grass, stumble into duels, climb mountains and battle Mongols for another few dozen hours while making a stop on a freaky island to fight a crazy woman who likes poison and the color purple. I want to do it all, and I would recommend that anyone with the time should look into doing the same. It's still the samurai game of my dreams: Now it looks even better, and there's more of it.

Score: 9.5/10

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