Updated: Apr 7
art by Sucker Punch Productions
Ghost of Tsushima is a game that was ahead of its time. It was a nice surprise to see a game design that reinvented the wheel of open-world games set by assassins creed. As well as displaying the beauty and horrors of Japan’s culture. The story takes place on the Japanese islands of Tsushima where Mongols have invaded. You play as Jin Sakai a samurai that must disregard his beliefs in order to drive off the Mongol invasion.
The Way of the Ghost
If you have ever taken a history class in japan you would know how unique their culture is duo to how they developed. Being an island at multiple points in time they excluded themselves from the world this allowed them to not be influenced by other cultures and they got to choose what traditions to take from others, why making their own. Ghost of Tsushima explores this and adapts it into its game design.
Whether it bathing in a hot spring to increase max health, cutting bamboo to hone your resolve, finding fox alters and temples to get charms blessed by the kami (gods), or writing haikus. All the activities in the game reflect Japanese culture and return validated the mechanics of the game. For example, a samurai needs to have resolve in order to be a samurai. Resolve in the game heals you and allows you to use special moves.
However, there is one cultural aspect that stands out and it doesn’t affect the player power but it’s why the game’s plot is so full of meaning. If you played old sucker-punch games like infamous you would know that the player’s choices matter whether to go good or evil and Ghost of Tsushima does this in a way that I think the last of us part 2 tried to do and failed. In Ghost of Tsushima, you can challenge enemies to a standoff charge in and face hordes of Mongols like a true samurai. Or you can sneak around and stable enemies in the back, use ghost tools, poison them and each time you do so it shows a flashback to Jins uncle Lord Shimuria teaching Jin about honor and the samurai way as Jin or you the player throws that away in order to fight the Mongols.
This is so impactful because if you have studied samurai they follow the Bushido Code it defines what a samurai is and Jin or you the player throws away that code in order to become the ghost and save Tsushima. The game explores this and shows this to the player and how Sucker Punch was able to convey that I am no longer samurai and teaches me about Japanese culture all through gameplay makes this game worthy alone of the game of the year.
A world of Art
In the last 10 years, we have seen advancements in games and my god do a lot of games look great now but it’s mostly if not all textures. What makes Ghost of Tsushima stand out is its use of particle effects and lighting. Using the particles of the wind to tell the player where to go, the leaves blowing on the ground the fireflies make this game feels so alive. Combine that with light that looks like ray tracing or the game’s color palette just brings so much life to this game. I know that Japan's countryside is known for its beauty and this game does it justice. My ps4 had a hard time handling this game and I wish it were a launch title for the ps5.
Light in the Dark
It's Not A Sport's Game of The Year 2020
I don’t have a lot of things to say about this game I haven’t had this much fun with an open-world game since Breath of the Wilds and sadly I was unable to explore the free Legends update that I hear puts games like Fortnite and destiny to shame. There is more I could say about this game but I think this is one we all should experience like 2019 game of the year Sekrio Shadows die twice. All I wanted was a long story but for Sucker Punch to release a new IP something we don’t really see in today’s world of sequels. Ghost of Tsushima was a wonderful surprise in 2020 a hidden gem in a year with buggy games and disappointing storytelling. It’s the smaller PlayStation studios that continue to outdo themselves.