Ghost of Tsushima: Director's Cut review

By Kes Eylers-Stephenson,
Ghost of Tsushima: Director's Cut is like dipping yourself back into the hot bath after a long day at work: you know exactly what it'll be like, how good it'll be when you're in it, and that you'll slip in and out of a relaxing daydream. Just because this new and improved version of Sucker Punch's 2020 superb PlayStation exclusive doesn't change up the old formula for its new content, that doesn't mean it doesn't keep the fantastic samurai action coming. The major addition to the Director's Cut is Iki Island, which contains an emotional epilogue to the main campaign while giving you a small mound of blissfully rugged open-world to explore. The highest praise you can offer the technical additions on PS5 — 3D audio, haptic feedback, Japanese lip-sync, higher resolutions and frame rates — is that the game looks and feels like it was made to be played this way, though the cost of that upgrade remains a cause for a raised eyebrow. Regardless, Ghost of Tsushima: Director's Cut is now the only way that the game should be played.

ghost of tsushima directors cut review

The Old

Very briefly, the content of the base game remains unchanged from the original 2020 release. It is a fantastic experience, with a unique and compelling story at its heart. The game's combat is a glory, requiring you to switch between "stances" to match yourself against a variety of enemy types. Likewise, the stealth is brutal and mechanically solid. The use of the wind and smoke trails to guide the player through optional collectables added depths to the normal open-world fare. We had issues with the length of the game, which could have been significantly shorter, and believe issues with falling back into open-world tropes of aimless discovery were a negative result of that artificial lengthening. Otherwise, the game was a top PlayStation exclusive experience. We would have awarded it an 8 out of 10: a great game.

ghost of tsushima

The New

Let's start with the Director's Cut addition that is shared between PS4 and PS5: Iki Island. This introduces an extra 12-hour section of the game that is isolated to the significantly smaller island of Ikishima, just off of the coast of Tsushima. In size, it is supposedly the same scope as the first area of the main game, though I would place it as even smaller than that. Don't worry! That is a great thing, as it gives you a dense and compact version of the Ghost of Tsushima experience that is perfect for players (like myself) that have already put 60 hours into the main game. If you need to get that time spent back, then the save file port to PS5 is seriously simple. Download the cloud save and hit import from the main menu. Done.

Indeed, you really should be playing this after you have finished the main story, though it unlocks at the end of Act II. Our protagonist, Jin, recalls the events of that Tsushima in ways that would be spoilerific if not yet completed. To me, there is a larger reason to hold off on heading to Iki: in terms of thematic and emotional weight, this is absolutely an epilogue to Jin's experiences on Tsushima.

Jin's reality is constantly blurred between the past and present thanks to the introduction of a new Mongolian oppressor, called The Eagle. You learn early on that the old crone is giving out hallucinogenic poison to the local populous and Jin has taken it upon himself to stop her. Unfortunately, Jin's heroics take a bit of a turn as he is poisoned himself and struggles to find his way on an island that hates his family name, for a reason I will not spoil. This narrative thread is really compelling and the writers constantly find ways to attach the player to the deeply repressed emotions of Jin's past. What you watch unfold is a version of Jin trying to reconcile with what he has become in the face of what came before. It never feels cheap or forced, giving you a sense of important character development that some additional story DLC packs have skimped on in favour of side missions or non-cannon diversions. Iki Island's story even retroactively gives Tsushima more emotional weight, while still holding up as a seminal moment in Jin's life.

ghost of tsushima directors cut review

There are a few missteps outside of the central Jin arc. The Eagle is ultimately a really weak villain, only there to serve a rogue nefarious purpose with her poison. The nasty stuff sends Jin into a time morphing trip every now and again, and it seems to have killed some "lesser" island inhabitants. The conceit is frankly fairly tired — Far Cry 3 anyone? — and the Eagle's true motivations pop up really late and make little sense. Jin is constantly faced with the past in tangible and obvious ways anyway, and that would have worked well enough for him to imagine the playable sequences without the enforced poisoning. The characters that Jin meets along the way to defeating the Eagle have got much more zest to them, often reflecting or morphing aspects of Jin's character in ways that give the player plenty to think on. Sometimes, though, it feels like the narrative has missed a few beats, to the point where it literally tells you emotional stakes between two characters to save time instead of showing it more subtly. Other than that, every small tale on offer in Tsushima is a solid offering.

The Eagle's mystic ways offer up a suitably themed additional enemy called the Shaman. These weak baddies can hype up the enemies around him to make them more powerful. This makes fights much more difficult, as there is little point in fighting the buffed speed and power of the traditional enemy archetypes when the Shamans are beating their drums, singing, and generally vibing with the battling allies. Now, you have to think about dealing with them before you take on anyone else. The distraction has changed the flow of combat and it is a fun mix up of the old encounters. There are also additional Mythic tales that unlock various armours, and there is a new skill that allows your horse to charge. All are welcome additions, though they aren't used much with your short time on Iki, let alone if you are not heading back to the main island.

ghost of tsushima directors cut review

Activities wise, there are now animal sanctuaries that offer you a chance to play the flute to stroke a cute animal (look at that fur!); some initially difficult archery challenges, smaller hidden tales, along with a few returning collectables from the base game. All of these tie back into the main progression systems or the story in some way, so nothing feels useless or boring. The exception is the Iki statues with riddles attached. In my many hours with the game and the expansion, I still have no idea how to even begin the activity, what I'll get, or what I am looking for. It was a strange bit of bad signposting in a game where developer Sucker Punch has mastered non-intrusive player guidance. It is also possible I am an idiot... let's go with the second one.

The biggest reason that you'll want to do these small activities is to explore the staggering beauty of Iki Island. Tsushima was a colourful and fresh showcase of natural open-world scapes, but just wait until you see the wild isle of Iki. There are long shores whipping up sand restlessly before the rugged coastal rock. Looking out at the swelling tides of the sea, there is always a crackle of thunder on the horizon. Then you taper inwards towards the greenery, where there are squat palm trees bending with the ever-present howls of wind. Here, little monkeys scurry around as birds sing. Every now and again, you come across a green-leafed desolation where a former burned village stood, glimpsing the hanging pink bands of flowers from exotic trees. Some of the climbing you end up doing — over shipwrecks and through twisting ruins — will leave you smiling in the same way Uncharted games have done in the past. Every moment is a screenshot, truly. This really is a stunning bit of world design. Congratulations to the Sucker Punch environmental artists and level designers.

For all players who loved Ghost of Tsushima, this expansion is a perfect way to reenter the world of the samurai under siege by a foreign invader. The Director's Cut upgrade is certainly worth it just for this bit of expanded content to one of the PS4's most beloved exclusive games.

It is worth calling out the online co-op Legends mode. The dark aesthetic with floating bits of otherworldly architecture is not to my personal taste, but the bitesize campaigns are good fun. It's a great way to extend Ghost of Tsushima into a sociable and friendly experience, and plenty of players have spent hours upon hours playing free of charge. With additional support coming in September that will gift a competitive game mode called Rivals, this is a generous way for Sucker Punch to keep players hooked on that Ghost sake.

ghost of tsushima directors cut review

This brings us to the PS5 upgrades of the Director's Cut, which cost a few extra pennies on top of the initial Director's Cut upgrade. Feeding back into the environmental design are the enhanced colour palette and lighting. It was already a pretty game, but whatever Sucker Punch has done with the textures and soft dappled light is extraordinary. Maybe it was nothing at all and it is just the 4K breathing life into the environments, but rarely do I spend time walking around in-game trees to see how the light flickered with the change in foliage.

The same goes for the smoothness of the katana blade slicing and dicing in the optional 60 FPS: a small, but definitive, delight. I would get myself back into the fantastic Ghost of Tsushima combat scenarios just for the glee of its crisp flow and decisive final strikes. The Japanese lip-sync is a god-send for full immersion. As someone who played the main game in Japanese with the obligatory English lip-sync, I still wonder at how the game was ever allowed to ship without the feature — considering the game is set in Japan, 1274 — though the developers keep reiterating that this is only possible on PS5 because it is all being rendered in real-time. I'm still, probably unduly, sceptical.

ghost of Tsushima directors cut review

The haptic feedback support is just another reason to love that bit of white (or red or blue) plastic between your fingers. Feeling tension as you pull back a bow, or the gallop of your horse, or just walking around, is low-key immersive. Moving back to life without it makes games feel strangely dead. The 3D audio is not the world-beater I thought it would be, but it serves the purpose of giving you just a little bit of bonus unobtrusive directionality.

Ultimately, though, you have to question the extra cost of these features to the consumer. They no doubt make the experience better on PS5 in terms of performance, graphical fidelity, smoothness, and immersion. But, when games like Metro: Exodus and Wreckfest are doing an outstanding job of giving players next-gen upgrades in the same fields that the Director's Cut does for free, the decision to charge players extra on top of the value of buying the Director's Cut in the first place is baffling.

There is a stacked trophy list for the Director's Cut version, but with PS4 save porting to either generation of the game, you are looking at an easy second platinum if you are upgrading your existing game. There are DLC pack trophies in the Director's Cut for New Game+ and a tough set for the co-op expansion Legends as well as another group ready for Legends' Rivals mode coming in September. Now, in strange but not surprising news, Iki Island is rocking two separate DLC lists because of the trophy restrictions. There is one for the story and one for exploration, with seven and six trophies, respectively. Nothing is tricky here, though there are three or four for unmarked story content — as well as those riddles I couldn't solve — that I didn't have time to unlock. It's a solid, if not innovative, list.

ghost of Tsushima directors cut review


Summary

There is no other way to put it: this is now the definitive way to experience Ghost of Tsushima. The base game is looking at a level beyond reasonable with all of the extra PS5 knobs turned to 11. Likewise, things like combat and climbing are given extra crispness with the higher framerates. The haptics and lip-sync are really grabbing ways to keep you immersed in Sucker Punch's stylistically strong open world with its classic narrative. We enjoyed the luxury of these additions, but struggle to justify the additional cost. Iki Island, though, is the real star of the show that boosts the game up the scale. With more of everything Tsushima tied up in a nice and manageable bundle, this is a fantastic epilogue. Jin's personal story is mature and heavy, alongside a fresh cast of side characters to enjoy. The island is arguably more characterful than Tsushima and brings new energy to the game with the bristlingly harsh coasts and unique spaces. The side quests are fun twists on the old. The only missteps are the occasionally shallow narrative that contextualises Jin's personal journey, and a lack of signposting. Otherwise, Iki is the dream conclusion to Ghost of Tsushima. If you liked the base game, then this version will improve your experience, if you've never played it before: then now is the time! If all the Director's Cuts of Sony's games are this good, it might be worth waiting the extra months for them.
9 / 10
Ghost of Tsushima
Ethics
Kes spent around 12 hours tripping on some homebrew poison, and unlocked ten of the game's 13 Iki Island trophies in the process. He also spent an hour bumbling around Tsushima saying hello to old friends and getting an auto-popped Platinum. He played an hour of Legends. A review copy was provided by Sony.
Kes Eylers-Stephenson
Written by Kes Eylers-Stephenson
Associate Editor Kes is our resident expert in PlayStation news. He writes about upcoming exclusives like The Last of Us and God of War, PS Plus and PS Studios news, and his favourite games — The Witcher 3, Assassin’s Creed, and The Outer Wilds — before an evening swim.