Why Ghost of Tsushima is this summer's most exciting game

By Heidi Nicholas,
Sony’s latest State of Play episode gave us the longest look at Ghost of Tsushima we’ve yet had. Since the game’s announcement back in 2017, we’ve had the occasional drop of information or new detail, all of which we’ve gathered up into our Ghost of Tsushima roundup. This latest stream gave us our biggest look yet, however, with a lot of new details packed into it. We thought we’d go through the most interesting of these, and talk about everything we’re excited to see when Ghost of Tsushima releases on July 17th.

Ghost of Tsushima

We’d heard already that the game would be set on the Isle of Tsushima during the Mongol Invasion, but the most recent story trailer gave the first look at protagonist Jin Sakai’s personal history. It introduced Jin’s uncle Shimura, who Sucker Punch describes asthe “jito”, or lord, of Tsushima, and a “father figure” who has “trained Jin since childhood in the traditional ways of the samurai”. This makes Jin a member of Tsushima’s nobility, and an important figure on the island. Sucker Punch had also described how Shimura “grows increasingly concerned by the tactics Jin starts to adopt as he abandons his teachings and becomes the Ghost”, and Sony’s latest State of Play episode gave us the first look at how this would be reflected in the gameplay.

Ghost of Tsushima

When Jin approached enemies as the samurai, he walked up to enemy encampments by day, in plain sight, and challenged the guards to a standoff and one-on-one combat. He used different stances — such as the stone stance or water stance — to combat different enemy types. He wore heavy armour, and attacked carefully, conserving energy. When Jin approached the enemy camp as the Ghost, he crept in at night, in dark armour. He relied on the “dishonourable” way of the Ghost, using fear, distractions, smoke bombs, firecrackers, assassinations, slaughter, and the cover of shadows to take out his enemies. in’s division between samurai teachings and the way of the Ghost will seemingly be a hugely personal dilemma. It was his uncle who trained him, but by the game’s start, Jin is one of the few samurai left on the island, the others having been killed when the Mongol forces reached Tsushima. Whether this includes Jin’s uncle or not isn’t clear, but either way, Jin is left with more than enough of a cause for vengeance. Perhaps this vengeful anger is what drives him to adopt the way of the Ghost.

Ghost of Tsushima

Jin’s armour looks to be highly customisable. We saw a huge range of armour during the gameplay footage, but Jin will also have the option to find certain flowers hidden throughout the world to dye his armour and customise it still further. Resource gathering looks to be fairly important: although Sucker Punch didn’t show us what they’ll be used for, we did see Jin gathering bamboo, iron, yew wood, and, as a rarer resource, linen. Some of these were rewards for exploring enemy camps or points of interest, and this leads on to another highly interesting detail: the growing legend around Jin. The Yagata Farmstead showed up on the map as Mongol territory, with two rewards: iron and a minor Legend increase. On the top right of the map, Jin’s outline was shown with “Legend of the Ghost”. The outline was only filled in a little at the bottom, as was the meter above it, and below this, Jin was described as “The Wandering Samurai”. From this, it looks as though Jin’s legend will be monitored and updated throughout the game, based on your deeds. We’d heard before that Jin’s legend would grow, and the Mongols would learn to fear him, but until now it wasn’t clear how this might manifest in the game. It could have just been in background dialogue or the reactions of enemies, but now it looks as though players will be able to check their Legend constantly, to see how Jin is viewed by his enemies.

Ghost of Tsushima

It also looks as though this Legend meter will reflect his transition from samurai to the Ghost. It seems as though he’ll start out as this Wandering Samurai, but since the legend feature is titled “Legend of the Ghost”, it’s likely that by the time the outline is filled in completely, Jin’s Legend will be set entirely, with him fully becoming the Ghost. Perhaps this change from his samurai training to a feared legend will add to the story as some sort of personal crisis; a “he might come close to beating them, but what has he become while doing it” sort of thing.

One thing I really like from the gameplay footage is how intricate the exploration looks. Games are often described as having rewarding exploration, but in some cases, the world to be explored can start to feel a little empty. In Ghost of Tsushima, it really looks as though it’ll be exploration in a stronger sense of the word. Every part of the game world looks ripe with possibility, with dense forests and open fields and mountains containing any number of secrets, even if it’s just a hidden, beautiful landscape. It also looks as though the game’s hints and navigation features are as unobtrusive as possible: when placing a pin on the map, you’ll have a guiding wind ready to show the right direction, and even then only if you ask for it. This plays right into Ghost of Tsushima’s rustling, windswept landscape, leaving the exploration experience undisturbed. It appears it’s up to the player how they want to explore. The signs will be there: smoke columns to show people who need help, “odd-shaped trees” denoting a place of interest, and animals ready to lead the way to hidden locations, but all unobtrusively blended into the landscape. This also leads on to one of the most adorable parts of the gameplay footage: Jin’s fox friends. They skip about him and lead him to hidden shrines, and he, in return, can take a break from samurai obligations to pet them.

Ghost of Tsushima

It’s uncertain if there’ll be a central hub for Jin to return to. He has a horse, which might reflect his status as nobility and as a samurai, and a grappling hook with which to traverse the island, but it’s likely that any home or village he belonged to might have been destroyed in the invasion. Plus, since he seems to be living on the tail of the Mongol army, it’s also probable that he needs to move around a lot. The gameplay footage didn’t show us this aspect of Jin’s life, so for now it’s speculation: perhaps he’ll have the option to camp, as in Red Dead Redemption 2, or to meditate throughout the night, like The Witcher 3 and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Or perhaps he’ll just keep going, like Kassandra and Alexios in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. We see Jin honouring shrines, and although a lot of Tsushima’s settlements seem to be destroyed, we also caught glimpses of people still setting up camp throughout the game, so there are some suggestions of permanency. The gameplay also shows a boar — which seemed to flash up on Jin’s radar as an aggressive animal — and a couple of deer, so perhaps there might be some hunting in the game, or at least resource gathering, as Jin travels through the environment.

Sucker Punch highlights Ghost of Tsushima’s stunning world with the in-game photo mode, as well as the black and white gameplay mode inspired by samurai cinema. The photo mode lets you choose everything from wind strength and direction, to Jin’s expression, to whether you want fireflies or flower petals scattered in the background. You can even choose music from the soundtrack more suited to a photo or video.

Ghost of Tsushima

Tsushima looks gorgeous, with diverse regions and what promises to be a sizeable map. We’ve speculated before about whether the game will take place entirely on Tsushima, or whether Jin might end up following Khotun Khan and the Mongols to mainland Japan. Either way, Tsushima looks massive: the map features bamboo forests, villages, mountains, castles, ancient forests, open fields, hidden shrines, and coastlines. There were glimpses of the map throughout the footage; never enough to give an idea of the size, but we saw some of the areas, such as the Golden Forest, as well as several character icons scattered across it, suggesting possible side quests.

Ghost of Tsushima will be out in a couple of months on July 17th, as one of the parting gifts of the PlayStation 4 before the next generation begins in the holiday period. It’s been a long wait for the game, but from what we’ve seen so far, it looks as though it will be worth it.
Heidi Nicholas
Written by Heidi Nicholas
Hey, I'm Heidi! I've just finished studying a Masters in English Literature, but I've been obsessed with gaming since long before then. I began on the PS2 with Spyro, before graduating to the Xbox 360 and disappearing into Skyrim. I'm now a loyal RPG fan, but I still like to explore other genres — when I'm not playing Assassin's Creed Odyssey, or being lured back into Red Dead Redemption 2 or The Witcher 3!