Ghost of Tsushima: Gameplay First Impressions Analysis

Recently, we were given the opportunity to take a peek into half an hour of gameplay footage from one of the most anticipated games in 2020, Ghost of Tsushima. If you haven’t heard about Ghost of Tsushima before, then you’re in for something special, as the game is one of the most beautiful we’ve seen. The following is our impression of the game based off the the extended gameplay trailer.

Ghost of Tsushima: Gameplay Trailer Preview

Developed by Sucker Punch Productions, the creators of the highly-praised Infamous series, and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment for PlayStation 4 (and the upcoming PlayStation 5), Ghost of Tsushima is an action adventure, Samurai simulator, an open world RPG, with a heavy focus on Stealth and exploration elements.

Set during the Mongol invasion of Japan during the 13th century, and inspired by true events, there’s real history behind the settings, the locations, the religion, and the events of Ghost of Tsushima. The small Japanese island of Tsushima has fallen under the rule of Kublai Khan and his Mongol Empire, and as the Samurai Jin, you set to fight them off.

The trailer revealed so much about the open world gameplay, exploration, graphics, combat, and some of game’s mechanics. GoT has some similarities with proven and tested formulas; from games like Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, and Shadow of War to the Witcher 3. Then the game adds its unique Samurai mechanics, and of course the setting on Medieval Japan to build up something very interesting.

Vibrant Graphics and Audio

Sucker Punch Productions conjures stunning visuals and scenes of beautiful detail. Under the sunlight, the world is vibrant with colors, detailed foliage and dynamic particles.

Wind is a prominent presence on the island, and you can very much feel the air in every corner of the game. Clothes will flap, leaves will be swept away, and trees will shake and feel almost blown over. The grass will react to the wind, and you will feel smoke and mist touching your character and moving through the scene. The whole scenery is full of life, and feels very realistic. You can spend plenty of time just enjoying the environment, and it’s one of the most compelling qualities of the game, especially on PS5.

Night Scenery

Night is greatly illuminated, allowing you to move and strike without difficulty, and damn doesn’t it look amazing. You can navigate terrain safely, and make informed decisions about where to go and which paths to choose. With moonlight reflecting off of water, rock surfaces, character armor, and skin, the world of Ghost of Tsushima has a special appeal and charm at night.

Character models look as good as, if not better than the current generation. The quality of these models especially shows in melee combat, and during the close-up camera while Ghost executes enemies (or during the extensive photo mode). However, one thing I wish improved before launch, is the character visibility when it’s covered in big shadows, like mountain shadows during dusk or dawn. With no global illumination casting light directly on the character, and no nearby lights, the shadows  can feel a bit obscured and washed out.

Audio

We were not exposed to many soundtracks during the trailer, but what we did hear was all fantastic. Tracks fit the mood of the game perfectly, and you can definitely tell it’s medieval japan from the audio alone, rapidly being immersed in the vibrant background tones, music, and ambient sounds. It’s almost like the island is talking to you, guiding you towards discovering more about your inner self.

Character Customization

You play a predefined character, Jin, one of last few remaining Samurai on the island of Tsushima. But there is a lot to customize with Jin, like character armor for example. It’s exciting to know armor in Ghost of Tsushima is not just a stat stick, but that it has actual functional mechanics to differentiate between various playstyles. You can also gather dye flowers from the world to customize the colors of your armor.

In addition to armor, there are many Charms to provide different passive enhancements. They fall into various categories of charms, including defense, offense, stealth, and utility. Like releasing poison with the wind to inflict on enemies, or turning smoke bombs into healing smokes.

An then their are the Skills you will learn as well. Jin will earn Technique Points as he gains experience from defeating enemies and completing quests, that you can then spend to upgrade skills and customize him. This should provide just enough customization to satisfy most Action RPG gamers, and allow players to play Jin in their own manner.

Open world & Exploration

Sucker Punch Productions have put tremendous amounts of work in to depicting the the island of Tsushima as close to real life as possible. Travelling to Japan several times, making Sony Japan conduct deep research into the island, and consulting real Samurai about their history during the 13th century. And all of this effort shows in the vast open world of Ghost of Tsushima. Players will encounter all the various environments on the island, from countrysides, fields, shrines, ancient forests, villages, farms, mountains, and various landmarks, like the Pillar Of Honor on top of a hill.

Consistent with the theme of the game, exploration is led by different environmental aspects. Animals want to get your attention, and some birds will lead Jin to points of interest such as hidden locations, or you can follow smokestacks which indicates people in need of help. Or you might notice interesting or odd shaped trees, leading to special points of interest within the rich Island in ancient Japan.

In the trailer we see that you can explore abandoned buildings to collect rare resources. You can squeeze through narrow gaps in rocky mountains, or jump and climb on narrow ledges on the side of mountains to reach hidden locations or caves like Assassin’s Creed. And once you have visited a location, you will be able to return with fast travel, which saves a lot of time.

Shrines:

You can climb on top of a mountain, going through a string of torii gates, to find a Shinto shrine on the very summit. Or follow a fox in the forest towards another shrine dedicated to Inari, the protector of rice cultivation, the god of prosperity in Japan in this time period, which is depicted as a fox like the one that led you there. Shrines and Religion are a prominent feature of GoT, and paying respect to them helps player to unlock charm slots, so players will become more familiar with Japanese religion just by playing the game.

Mounts

While you can walk, run, and climb everywhere in the island, the game offers you the alternative faster travelling method on the back of horses. Mounts look pretty standard for an open world game with trotting, and the faster gallop. You can also gather resources while mounted, which is a great quality of life for any explorer. It’s not known if there will be some form of mounted combat like The Witcher 3 and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, or if it will be regulated to travelling-only mounts like Dragon Age: Inquisition.

Combat

Samurai style

Whether you go there for a quest, find one while exploring, or are led there by an environmental clue, you will find enemy camps around the island, and you will take them all down by yourself. Players have several ways to approach combat, and when approaching enemy camps, you get a prompt with the option to standoff, presumably to lure the camp leader and fight him 1 v 1. You can also go straight into full confrontation with camp guards, taking them one by one or as a group in a Samurai duel stylized melee.

Action here is deliberate. Moves are quick, precise, and deadly, but you have to hold your ground first, blocking, dodging, parrying, or deflecting enemy attacks and arrows, waiting for the right opening to deliver a deadly blow.  You deflect arrows with your Katana, and you parry enemies at the last possible moment to open them up for a riposte. The footage shows fluid battles that seems like an improved version of Assassin’s Creed’s latest entries.

There is also ranged combat with a bow, and you seem to have normal and special arrows, and you can bring down enemies with one arrow as well, which could be great to start a surprise attack. If this is all sounding a bit like AC:O, we understand.

Stances & Death

The game also offers Combat Stances which have a great effect on how to deal with various enemy types. The trailer showed three stances, one is Stone Stance, which is more defensive, with the sword close to body mass, ready to deflect and parry enemy attacks. Another is Water Stance, where you wield the sword overhead, ready to dodge, spin, and slash down on enemies in quick combos, and the player can attack multiple enemies with one charging attack if they are aligned close to each other.

Slain enemies don’t fall immediately to the ground, they struggle momentarily, trying to defy their doom. If you stare for too long or spend too much time wondering if they are dead or alive, you might be late to react to the next warrior charging at you, so you always have to be on your toes, especially if enemy AI turns out to be better than average. You can also pay respects to your dead enemies in the wake of each battle, however, it’s not shown if this has an effect on your character or reputation, but it’s a nice little touch fitting of the culture and setting.

Ghost Mode

This part of the trailer is what most of us were really waiting for, it’s in the game title and it’s the exciting stealth system that Ghost of Tsushima offers. You can sneak around corners, throw rocks or firecrackers to distract enemies, then sneak up behind them for a finisher. Move over ledges, swing with rope and grappling hook, and jump down with drop assassinations. Or you can hide behind wood pillars and shoot your arrows on unsuspecting Mongols, use Smoke bombs for easier dodging and performing critical attacks on tougher foes. The throwing knife is another tool in the arsenal of the ghost, and can be great way to dispatch more enemies at range quickly as well.

There is a detection interface similar to Assassin’s Creed, and you will always know how close you are to detection, allowing you to react in time by pulling away or hiding, or deciding to blow your cover and go full Samurai on the invading enemies. Killing enough enemies in brutal ways might strike fear in the hearts of your opponents, causing them to panic and flee. This can give you an easier time clearing larger camps, and the Ghost builds reputation on the island over the course of game, and Mongols learn to fear him.

Final Thoughts

Ghost of Tsushima is a game we’ve been waiting to see more of for a very long time, and having finally seen gameplay, we couldn’t be more excited for the game’s release on July 17th for Playstation 4 and later Playstation 5. It has everything we expected to see and more: dynamic stealth, engaging combat, exquisite visuals and immersion in spades. I don’t think we’ll be disappointed by GoT, even if it doesn’t reinvent the wheel.

The game reminds us of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey a lot, even down to the way the trees sort of shimmer while you ride by on horseback, allowing you to gather them while mounted. If you’re a fan of that game, or Assassin’s Creed: Origins, odds are you’ll enjoy Ghost of Tsushima. And, if you aren’t, be sure to drop by our stream as we’ll be live on Twitch with it at release and check the game out for yourself, and ask all the questions you want!


Ghost of Tsushima is a PlayStation exclusive, and will be released on July 17, 2020 for PS4, and later on PS5.

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Arab hardcore PC gamer, I'm from Egypt, and I've been gaming on PC and writing since 2003. I do Fan fiction, forums Role Playing, and guides for games. I joined Fextralife by Jan 2018, to share my views and ideas on the hobbit we all enjoy and love, Gaming. Favorite genres: RPG, ARPG, Third Person, Isometric, Hack&Slash, and Adventure. Occasionally I'd dip in MMOs, Simulation, or Strategy.

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