Developer – Sucker Punch
Publisher – Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platform(s) – PlayStation 4 (reviewed)
MSRP – $59.99
Release Date – July 17th, 2020
Sucker Punch is a developer that I’ve loved for a long time. While the majority of people love their games and the studio, they never seem to be brought up when talking about tremendous developers such as Rockstar. I say this because as a whole, I feel Sucker Punch is one of the underrated developers in the industry today.
While I was never a big Sly Cooper player, the Infamous games are among some of my favorites in the last decade. Infamous 1, 2, Second Son, & First Light are among some of the most fun I’ve had with a title in terms of gameplay. The fun I had with Delsin, Fetch, and especially Cole left a lasting effect on me that solidified Sucker Punch as one of my most beloved developers.
Sucker Punch was quiet for a couple of years until the announcement of Ghost of Tsushima at PGW in 2017. One thing that struck me the second I saw the game was how different it looked compared to Sucker Punch’s previous outings. It had a more serious tone to it and that was something I was more than ready to delve into.
Set in 1274, Samurai Warrior, Jin Sakai leads a battle against a Mongol Invasion led by the fierce, Khotun Khan. Throughout the many battles between the Samurai, Mongols, and others who Jin meets along his journey, you experience storytelling, combat, and visuals that all go hand in hand together.
The tone is set with a title sequence that put a smile on my face for its sheer greatness as soon as it happened. I will start by saying Ghost of Tsushima is a slow burn after its first mission, a lot of the game at the start is getting to know the characters you’ll be with along the way. Ghost of Tsushima is set in 3 separate acts, as I’ve already gone over, Act 1 isn’t an “action-packed” chapter in the slightest. Act 2 & 3 has pacing that flows together nicely and doesn’t overstay its welcome. I will admit, the narrative is a bit cut and dry in terms of how you expect it to go, while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I wish there was a bit more unpredictability in some parts.
What this game does exceptionally well are its side characters. I knew Sucker Punch did a tremendous job with this aspect when my favorite character by the end of the game was Yuna (coming from someone who liked Jin). Most important side characters have their separate side quests that branch up to 9 missions. This decision helps give more depth to characters that would otherwise feel frivolous.
As with most open-world games you have side missions, but with Ghost of Tsushima, you have side missions and mythic tales. The side missions in this game can be hit or miss for the most part. There can be the occasional side mission that gives me an interesting plot point, but others can feel like a complete slog. There are tons of side missions and I feel it would’ve been better if the amount of them were cut down in and they made fewer side missions with more length to them. Mythic Tales on the other hand are tremendous. These tales start with an in-depth explanation of a certain legend that took place on the island of Tsushima. I don’t think there was a single Mythic Tale that I found boring, I was invested in each legend and the reward that came with completing it.
Sucker Punch is right up there with Insomniac Games with the developers that have never provided me with ho-hum gameplay experience and Ghost of Tsushima is no different. Combat wise, this game is the quality I come to expect from Sucker Punch, complete satisfaction. The controls, hit registration, sound design and so much more with this combat system are done wonderfully. You’ll have the option to choose from Samurai (Sword Approach) or Ghost (Stealth Approach) in a lot of situations.
Jin was taught to always approach his enemy as Samurai through his Uncle, but the way the Mongol Invasion is shaping up, you as the player has the choice to learn the ways of the Ghost. Sucker Punch knows their way around the gameplay department and along with games like Sekiro, they nail swordplay wonderfully. Along with your Bow, Kunai, Explosives, Smoke Bombs, there’s so much room for improvisation. Stealth mechanics are fine, they could be a bit more refined in that area. AI as a whole is decent, they range from somewhat competent to complete nonsensical behavior.
My one big complaint with the combat isn’t the combat itself, it’s how the combat fluctuates around the way the narrative plays out. One thing I loved about Infamous is how the direction you decided to take the narrative shaped your gameplay experience. Based on my first couple of hours with the game, I thought the way the narrative played out would be dependent on the way I chose to approach combat. After completion of the game, I was disappointed to find out this wasn’t the case. With the way, I thought Sucker Punch was promoting this game, I felt it would’ve been better to commit to a narrative that changes based on your gameplay style which I thought was the direction they were heading in based on Act 1. The story doesn’t change course in the slightest besides the very end of the game. Maybe, this issue comes from me being used to a certain narrative style that Sucker Punch goes for but I couldn’t help but feel it would’ve made the game more dynamic.
One thing this game managed to do well is detracting me from the main quest and branching me out to all of the open-world tasks. Along with a lot of other open-world games, Ghost of Tsushima follows the common format of doing the same task frequently such as clearing out enemy areas, fox dens, and composing haiku. This effect of me branching worked on me in Act 1 and a bit of Act 2 but I’ll admit they were wearing thin afterward. The only thing I never got tired of was the Bamboo Strikes because of how fun there were to do. After the 30th Fox Den or so, the process grew tiresome and the tasks just felt like filler instead of things I wanted to explore the island to go complete.
I hope based on the images you’ve seen in this review thus far, you realize how beautiful this game is. I’m not an avid photo mode user in video games for the most part but Ghost of Tsushima made me capture more than I’ve ever captured before. The game knows how gorgeous is it, every so often the game will do a wideout shot of the landscape of Tsushima just to let the player take in the world.
Sucker Punch needed to deliver a game that was worthy of ending the PlayStation 4 generation on a high note and they did that and then some. The support for this game isn’t done because as of this writing, Ghost of Tsushima: Legends (co-op multiplayer) is set to release tomorrow as a completely free update. Everything I’ve seen has left me no doubt that Sucker Punch will knock this out of the park.
Ghost of Tsushima is a perfect way to end the PlayStation 4 generation. Most of the issues I have didn’t hinder my experience significantly. The gameplay is top-notch as usual for Sucker Punch, the graphics are outstanding and you’d do yourself a disservice by doing too much fast travel and miss out on taking in the world. Who knows what’s next for Sucker Punch after this outing, maybe it’s a sequel to this game, a new Infamous, or a new IP. One thing is for sure, I’m almost certain I’ll enjoy whatever direction they decide to go in.
Rating - 9/10