It’s going to sound pretentious but Ghost of Tsushima is one of the best games I’ve played in years. It has everything a video game needs — it is beautiful, it’s about Japan and, well, it’s fun. Ah, and you can pet a fox — 11 out of 10, the game of the year!
I must admit though that it may be a tough ride for people who, for various reasons, dislike the combat system offered in the game. Yeah, there are plenty of activities not related to swinging your katana — but still, virtually all main and side-quests are about fighting. You’re going to fight a lot. I can imagine that clearing 50 Mongol outposts for no other reason than “it’s our homeland and I must do it!” may become an extremely tedious activity if the process itself is not fun. Luckily, for me it was. You can even be creative, to some extent, while killing hordes of enemies. Want to honorably fight face to face? That’s a completely viable approach. Want to be a shameless assassin and knife bad guys from behind? There you go. All techniques Jin has at his disposal work fluidly and smoothly and, damn, it’s pretty satisfying when you pull off a sequence like attracting a bunch of Mongols using a firecracker, throw a bomb in the crowd, jump down and finish off staggered enemies, then use kunai when the reinforcements arrive, to get some time to retreat and, finally, kill those late-to-the-party dudes with a bow from a safe distance. I found myself using pretty much every ability available in the game, except maybe smoke bombs and the flaming sword (I got it pretty late in the game and it didn’t feel like something necessary).
Now a few words of appreciation of how beautiful Ghost of Tsushima is =) It maybe not as detailed as TLoU2 but aesthetically… it’s something. Wherever you go on the island, whether it’s a maples forest or fishing village or grassland, you’ll get a chance to take a stunning screenshot. The visual is an ideal compromise between realism and art. Yeah, probably the moonlight is not that punchy in real life and the forests on Tsushima can’t boast with such saturated colors even in fall — but come on! In the game all this works.
Objectively speaking, the plot and characters in GoT are sort of average. They are okay, they didn’t make me hate them and I followed the story lines of Jin, his uncle, Masako-san and Yuna with interest but that can’t change the fact that the plot is not super deep. Speaking of the main quest, for some time I frankly expected that the uncle would team up with the Mongols and end up being a stereotypical villain but no, everything turned out to be pretty logical and believable. Side quests in the game are short and surprisingly dark. I mean, because they are pretty ordinary in terms of what you’re doing during them (go and fight off some bandits, or go and find someone, etc) it’s easy to just run from one waypoint to another without reading what’s going on — and missing out on stories like a story of a man who had two sons and when the Mongols came they made him to pick one whom they’d hang. The other son is taken prisoner, Jin is looking for him and later, when our samurai returns to the father, it turns out that he couldn’t bear the guilt anymore and committed suicide. Or there’s a story of a wealthy man who paid smugglers to transport his wife and son to the mainland, only for Jin to discover later that the smugglers took the money and simply killed the family. So yeah, the side quests are filled with rainbows and unicorns.
Ah, the difficulty of the game also was a pleasant surprise. I’m not a hardcore gamer but because I played slowly and, hmm, thoroughly, I had a fear that Jin would become overpowered already by the end of the first chapter — but no, the difficulty was quite adequate during the entire game, not too hard yet still challenging.
I completed the game, got the platinum and still don’t want do delete it =) Partially because I still haven’t checked out the multiplayer mode Sucker Punch added in the first big update. And partially because.. who knows, maybe I will give up and return to this beautiful video game island =)