It has been just over a year since Ghost of Tsushima was released on PS4 and the Director’s Cut has arrived as the “definitive” version of the 2020 masterpiece. For the most part, this version of the game is the best way to play the adventure thanks to its added features and of course, PS5 support. Not only does the Director’s Cut come with every piece of content and update released but players can now explore Iki Island and experience a very personal story of Jin Sakai. There’s also promise that the multiplayer mode, Legends will get new maps and a whole new PvEvP mode soon.
I can’t deny the fact that I absolutely loved Ghost of Tsushima. Back in 2020 I reviewed the game and instead of redoing the whole thing again, I have simply covered the new content here and the original review down below. It is also important to mention the PS5 upgrades and Iki Island content so you know what you’re getting when you buy the game.
Before we get into it I need to complain a bit. Ghost of Tsushima has one of the most annoying and confusing upgrade paths imaginable on PS5 at the moment. Firstly, if you own the PS4 version of the game you need to purchase the Director’s Cut. However, that does not enable any of the PS5 upgrades. That is a whole other purchase on it own. I found this to be quite frustrating. Without the Iki Island content, Ghost of Tsushima isn’t anything different compared to the 2020 release so this extra upgrade fee was blind robbery. This means that you can download the original PS4 version of Ghost of Tsushima onto your PS5 and play the game but you won’t get the 60FPS mode, DualSense support and faster load times. That costs you extra. You can then buy the Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut and also miss out on the fancy PS5 features. I just found the whole thing a bit cheeky considering everyone has offered free upgrades to games.
Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut packs the original game but the Iki Island expansion is what you probably came here for. Right after the first act in the game, you can head out to Iki Island to investigate a Mongol threat. Jin discovers that the island has been taken over by the Eagle Clan led by a crazed shaman called “The Eagle”. She poisons him with a hallucinogenic drug and he escapes before meeting the Raiders who are currently setting up a rebellion against the clan.
Iki Island is not only a gorgeous tropical land to explore but the location is a very sore spot for Jin. While he has intentions to take down the Eagle, this place is also where he lost his dad after the Sakai clan invaded the island and ruthlessly slaughters hundreds of people. Throughout the entire Iki Island expansion, the traumatic backstory of Jin takes the main stage and it is refreshing to see how it all went down. This is especially great for those who have played the main game to the end already as getting to know Jin from a personal level makes this content so much better.
Much of the story revolves around facing past demons and the Eagle twists Jin’s mind to her will thanks to the poison she gives him. Jin can clearly see memories from the past that shed light on his father and he often gets interrupted in combat with her loud cackles. It plays into the story quite nicely and it was great to see Jin take preference here when it came to the story and flow of the content.
The Iki Island content is not huge by any means. You can most likely sit through the entire story and side objectives over one weekend. The typical Ghost of Tsushima content returns such as hot springs, mythical tales and loads of collectables to find but there are some new fun things to do. Be it finding an animal sanctuary and playing your flute or shooting lanterns as fast as you can in an archery challenge. The side quests are also bigger now and take up multiple chapters.
If anything, Iki Island looks to expand the game’s inventory by adding content to the main game to help Jin later on. The gear is especially fantastic with a lot of charms focusing on archery. There’s also an outfit that completely mixes up the parry system by reducing the time window to perfect parry. It then adds an attack combo to a parry so I could continue swiping at an enemy after deflecting their attack.
Sucker Punch has also added in the Ghost of Tsushima Legends PlayStation outfits including the Bloodborne and God of War ones. There’s also a shrine to complete and a pretty cool horse armour to obtain. Speaking of the horse, it also becomes a moving weapon on Iki Island thanks to the bash ability. Jin can now charge it into enemies knocking them out of the way and often killing them.
I did enjoy my time on Iki Island. I got every trophy there was, completed every location and finished all the side objectives. I did wish the story was a bit longer. I blinked and it was over. The main mission only lasts a few objectives and can keep you busy for three hours. The PS5 upgrades are also a welcome addition to the game. The 60FPS mode makes everything feel so much better and goes a long way in improving the combat in the game. The loading times are also lightning fast. I load in and out of Legends and Story mode in seconds.
I do have to mention that the inventory is a bit sluggish though. Equipping gear and going through the outfit selection screen, I had to sit and wait for the outfit or sword skin to appear on the screen for a few seconds. Not sure why this is so slow when loading an entire area while fast travelling takes a split-second.
The paid upgrade also comes with DualSense support. Both adaptive trigger and haptic feedback are added into the game and it feels fantastic to experience. I could feel the cat purring in my hand when stroking it and my bowstring pulling back while shooting. I don’t think I will ever get tired of the DualSense. Then again, I don’t see why users had to pay for this when they already own the base game.
Ghost of Tsushima Iki Island Verdict
If you have played Ghost of Tsushima then you will enjoy the side expansion on Iki Island. It not only offers up new things to do but also we get to really know Jin and his past. The content is short but sweet. Of course, if you’re new to the game then you can experience the entire story now on PS5. This is with all the enhancements and DualSense support. As a package, it is one of Sony’s best titles. Again, I just wish PS4 owners didn’t have to pay to have the game run at 60FPS.
Ghost of Tsushima Review
The first Mongol invasion of Japan in 1274 marked one of the most gruesome and darkest times in Japanese history. The Mongols arrived at nightfall and landed on Komodahama beach on Tsushima Island and within hours they killed the Yuan fleet and began making their way inland. Ghost of Tsushima picks up during the events of the historic Komodahama beach invasion, or Azamo Bay in this case and retells the tale of the Mongol invasion led by the ruthless Khotun Khan.
If you did not know any better, you would say Ghost of Tsushima accurately portrays the people and events of late 13th century Japan. This is thanks to the pure genius of its storytelling, characters and cultural significance. Sucker Punch went leaps and bounds beyond to bring an authentic world to life with which is grounded in reality. Every death felt like a heroic sacrifice, every landscape was an opportunity to take a screenshot, every temple felt as if it took decades to craft and every character managed to find their place in my heart.
There’s so much going on in Ghost of Tsushima that tugs at your heartstrings. So many themes of betrayal, honour, love, hate and most important of all, how the people of Japan were led by belief. Even if it meant their ignorance would lead them to death by their own blade. Ghost of Tsushima is a huge game with so much to see and do. Sure, its gameplay is not perfect but its storytelling and authentic Japanese approach make it a breath of fresh air in a time where open-world games are just big for the sake of being big.
“We all face this constant battle of being true to ourselves and conforming to how society wants us to behave and live.”
Ghost of Tsushima follows Jin Sakai, a samurai warrior who lost his father a few years prior to the Mongol invasion. He was brought up and trained by his uncle Lord Shimura who is abducted by the ruthless Mongol leader Khotun Khan at the start of the game. Things happen and Jin sets off on a heroic quest to take back the island and save his uncle. He meets a cast of charming characters along the way such as Yuna, Masako and others. If anything, Ghost of Tsushima features some of the best cast members in an open-world video game to date. Even days after the end-game credits rolled, I thought about them and how they contributed to the game’s narrative.
It also helps that throughout the game Jin sets off on side quests tied into each of these character’s past. Yuna’s brother Taka had been locked up and forced to make weapons for the Mongols. Jin sets off to save him. Masako’s family were murdered and Jin helps her uncover how it happened and exact revenge. These quests play out throughout the game and tie into the overall progression quite nicely.
By the end, I felt fully invested in these characters thanks to the superb writing of each quest. Sucker Punch did not hold back on the lore too as every character and their story acted like a lesson in history class delving deeper into Japanese mythology and culture. I felt more enlightened than ever and even picked up on some Japanese language tricks by the end of the game. This was thanks to the ability to play the entire game with English subtitles and Japanese dub. It really helped bring the experience to life.
We then have lead roles. Jin Sakai does a terrific job throughout the game as he battles his inner demons of abandoning the Samurai way in favour of becoming the Ghost. The samurai believe in honour and facing their opponents head-on while Jin’s current situation forces him to become a silent ghost taking enemies down in the shadows while at the same time being brutal in face-offs and sieges. Throughout the game, Jin’s unique storyline becomes the game’s main focus and his struggle between his samurai past and saving the island by any means possible plays out brilliantly.
Again, these moments are pinnacle storytelling arcs for Sucker Punch are wonderful to witness first-hand. I became so invested in his journey that it was painful to see him suffer mentally. To some degree, Jin’s struggle can be relatable to many people in the real world. We all face this constant battle of being true to ourselves and conforming to how society wants us to behave and live. Let’s just 13th century Japan was not the era of open-mindedness.
We then have the ruthless Khotun Khan played by Patrick Gallagher. To say he sent chills down my spine is an understatement. He delivers this overwhelming dark presence on-screen at every scene. Every word he spoke shot fear into my mind and he managed to breathe life into this fictional character as if the history books carried his tale for hundreds of years.
But what is Ghost of Tsushima aside from the superb characters and story? Well, a gorgeous open world with a deep and challenging combat system and dozens of hours of things to see and do. Within the first hour of the game, I was set free to discover the island and damn, it is a beautiful place to explore. Sucker Punch wanted the world to feel alive at all times. They also wanted players to see something in the distance and be able to reach it. One can truly get lost in the world for hours as the rolling hills invite you to gallop through them on your horse and the towering mountains almost grab your hand and force you to climb them.
The island is divided into three mainlands. Each of them features unique landscapes and weather. Izuhara is filled with mountains to climb forests to explore and most of the time it is sunny with clear skies. Toyotama is flat with wet swamplands, overgrown jungle-like landscapes and it rains… a lot. Kamiagata is a winter wonderland with snowy hills and frozen lakes. Each of these three mainlands then delivers stunning biomes to discover. Combine this with the ever-blowing wind, plantation and weather and you have yourself one of the most unique open-worlds in gaming. Every scene is picturesque with leaves blowing across your screen, trees swaying in the distance and wildlife running around. It makes exploring the game such a joy and it never once felt dull even after fifty or so hours.
The world is also filled with things to do such as hot springs to relax in and increase Jin’s health bar. Fox Dens that saw me chase a fox into secret locations to pray at and unlock charm slots. Shrines paths that tasked me to complete lengthily parkour challenges to reach the top of a mountain or the middle of a maze. There are even fun little mini-games like a bamboo challenge where I had to tap a sequence of buttons in order to increase Jin’s resolve bar. Ghost of Tsushima is not short of its side activities and once you get into the game’s core, all of these will offer a fun break from the ruthless killing of Mongols.
Combat also feels great. Jin can take on any challenge as you see fit. This means sneaking into your objective or just going in with your sword out ready to slice and dice like a mad man. The “ghost” approach is very anti-samurai but works. You can sneak through bushes, over rooftops and around corners to plan your route and take down the invaders without being seen. The sneaking mechanics are not groundbreaking here by any means. An enemy spotted me and I quickly ducked back into the grass or around the corner before the bar filled up. If you have played any stealth game in the past few decades you will feel right at home here.
When it comes to combat, Ghost of Tsushima shines. It combines fast-paced combos with clever thinking and smart timing in order to come out of a fight alive. Jin has a range of stances to help him in combat and fight off specific enemies. Moon Stance is effective against brutes, Wind Stance is great against spear-wielding enemies, Water Stance for shieldman and Stone Stance for swords. Swapping stances is easy during combat as you juggle all the enemies. Knowing who you face and how to counter them is key survival. Jin can parry attacks and is forced to dodge others. Blocking at the right time also staggers enemies.
Ghost of Tsushima relies on a combination of using your bow, Ghost tools such as a smoke bomb or tossing a handful of Kunai at enemies and abilities like a powerful Heavenly Strike. While Jin has a range of unique attacks and tools, he is still squishy and can be killed with a few simple hits. It makes the combat in Ghost of Tsushima feel tough at all times you always need to watch your back and listen for bow enemies calling out before they shoot so you can quickly dodge the incoming arrow. Abilities also help which are unlocked as you earn technique points. Some weapons and attacks are locked behind awesome mythic tales making progression key to becoming a true combat master.
Even in later parts of the game where I had new weapons, attacks and a decent health bar, I had to still be very careful. Stealth is not always an option either as some enemies cannot be killed instantly for most of the game. No matter how powerful you feel, there’s always an enemy that can best you if are not careful. Sure, you can spam a heavy attack to stagger an enemy but there’s always one behind you ready to attack. The equipment also helps with combat. Throughout the game, Jin finds new gear which can be upgraded with supplies, leather and other lootable items. These change appearance as you level them up and unlock specific perks in the Ghost and Combat approach. There’s even an outfit to benefit exploration and finding collectables.
Apart from the usual combat, Ghost of Tsushima features a dual system too. These are “boss-like” fights where Jin and his opponent fight off in an arena. These were the best moments in the game for me and delivered intense one-on-one fights. I had to think fast, block where I could, watch my health bar, parry where possible and slice my opponent when I had the opportunity to do so. These fights were pinnacle moments for not only the game’s combat but for the story too. There was nothing more epic than facing off against a well-trained samurai or legendary fighter.
There’s a lot to love about Ghost of Tsushima. Even after I completed the main game I had Haikus to compile, gear to obtain and upgrade which improved by stats and abilities and much more. I had side quests to dive into and shrines to reach in the far distance. The game is an extraordinary combination of great storytelling and combat set in a remarkable world. We have not had an open-world Japanese-based game that allowed us to dive into the history and culture as much as this. There’s so much to enjoy here, so many characters to love and hate and a story you’ll never forget.
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