At long last we’ve been given a decent look at Ghost of Tsushima, the new game from Sucker Punch, coming to PS4 on July 17th 2020. PlayStation’s State of Play is an 18 minute long look at various elements of the game. We get a look at exploration, combat and some of the types of activities we’ll come across on the island. Thankfully, unlike certain other recent “gameplay” reveals, Valhalla, this one did not disappoint. Basically the entire run time of the video is spent showing us in-game footage.
The first thing to say about it is that the Island of Tsushima looks incredible. A stunning set of environments that are vibrant, stylish and are very engaging to look at. The colours really stand out and the effects used for falling leaves and the wind are stunning. Points of interest will be marked by environmental features which stand out or by animals which can lead you to them if they are hidden away. They’ve also instituted a system where Jin, the protagonist, can call upon gusts of wind to help guide him on his way. It’s an interesting design choice which should make the open-world environment much more immersive, removing the need to look at a mini-map or a compass etc. If it works well it will really add to the experience.
Combat comes in two main varieties, Samurai, which I’ll get to in a moment, and Ghost. The Ghost combat is stealth based. The aim is to sneak up on enemies, using every clever scheme in the book and all the tools at Jin’s disposal and torment the Mongol invaders as a silent, unseen killer. It looks good and dynamic with a varied toolset for the player to make use of. Fortunately, this doesn’t seem to come with any “instant fail” parameters which is the bane of many stealth sections in games and often a major source of frustration for players. It’s a very appealing playstyle and it should have consequences in the story. A written on-screen prompt during the State of Play mentioned that the enemies will learn to fear the ghost, “use it to your advantage”. How one might do so is an intriguing proposition.
The combat of the Samurai is the “honourable” way, straight forward, up front, no deception, no mercy. My main fear for this game has been my concern that it’ll take too many cues from the “Souls-like” games and be far too difficult. I like a challenge but that style of game is a step too far for me as there is no wiggle room. Mistakes in those are brutally punished and you die a heck of a lot and that’s not what I’m looking for here. I need a bit of wiggle room to make mistakes. From what was shown during the State of Play my fears haven’t totally been allayed. Is being able to block incoming attacks limited in some way? Can I deflect arrows right from the start or is that a skill that needs to be unlocked? How big an impact do the stances make and how adaptable are the enemies in countering them? There’s some unanswered questions here for me, hopefully Sucker Punch will have balanced the risk/reward well.
The structure of its open world runs the risk of feeling very outdated and very “Ubisoft” circa 2012. The key to that being a success is two-fold; 1, not over loading the map with stuff and 2, integrating the activities into the world narratively and thematically. A good example of this is Sony’s PlayStation’s Insomniac’s Marvel’s Spider-Man (PS4). The side activities were very much of that familiar ilk but they contextually fit into the world and crucially the map wasn’t saturated with them. If Sucker Punch have learned any lessons from that, which I’m sure they have, they will do the same. The glimpses of the side stuff we did get was encouraging in this regard. I would hope that after taking the care to develop a more immersive system for way-points and navigation for the player, I’d like to think Sucker Punch will have taken the same care with the activities they take you to.
All in all I’m really excited for Ghost of Tsushima, let me know if you are too!