We’re well and truly delving into the next generation of video game consoles. It’s theoretically possible to purchase a PlayStation 5 or an Xbox Series X now, for instance, and you might not even have to meet up with a shady character in a dark parking garage to do it. That means that it’s a little more safe for publishers to release games on those consoles knowing that people will be able to play them; it also means that games that came out around the end of the last cycle of consoles can get a little bit more love if necessary.
Ghost of Tsushima was a solid open-world stealth adventure that hit the PS4 a little too late – but now we’ve got Ghost of Tsushima: Director’s Cut, which takes the power of the PS5 and runs with it.
Hundreds of years ago, the island of Tsushima in Japan came under attack by the invading forces of the Mongols. Noble samurai Jin Sakai was part of the group fighting to stop them, but their cunning foe annihilates them and the invasion proceeds apace. Barely surviving, Jin has to strike back and save the day, but doing so might result in taking measures that might not jive with the rigid honor code of the samurai. Is saving Tsushima worth the price Jin will have to pay?
As in our review of the original game, let’s take a second to talk about presentation a little bit earlier than usual. Ghost of Tsushima looked great, sounded great and suffered a bit from the performance issues associated with being one of the last big releases on its home console. Well, no more: the Director’s Cut puts the PS5 to work, resulting in this Japanese adventure looking and sounding absolutely stellar. I’d call this one a system-seller if only for how fantastic everything about its presentation is. Note that you can play this version of the game on PS4 as well if you want the new content, but it’s clear that a big part of this new release is PS5 support and the power boost that comes with it.
Oh, and there’s haptics. If we used a numerical score system I might be inclined to give PS5 games an extra point or two if they put haptics and adaptive triggers to good use. That’s definitely the case here; in particular, horseback riding and archery both feel great as you feel the hoofbeats through your controller and tangibly pull back against the bow’s string.
For all its dedication to pushing the limits visually, though, Ghost of Tsushima’s gameplay is pretty standard for its genre. It’s basically a Japanese take on the more recent Assassin’s Creed games, Origins and Odyssey in particular. You’ll complete quests that largely revolve around riding your horse to a specific area and killing all the baddies present in whatever way you see fit. Sometimes you’ll have to rescue or talk to NPCs after doing so, sometimes you’ll have to do so stealthily and sometimes you’ll have to do so while not being detected under pain of restarting from a checkpoint, but this is mostly what you’ll be doing.
There’s the odd obstacle course and boss fight here and there to mix things up, but these are the exception rather than the rule. The most memorable missions tend to be the periodic one-on-one duels that serve as boss and miniboss fights, and these are pretty exciting.
From a non-murder perspective you’ve got a minor degree of character customization, allowing you to choose gear, upgrades and cosmetics to turn Jin into the samurai of your dreams. These are largely focused on particular playstyles, boiling down to melee combat, ranged combat and stealth. There’s also a simple skill tree and a selection of Ghost gadgets to equip that can help make your life a little easier. Note that while the plot does focus quite heavily on the dichotomy between Jin’s samurai honor and the necessity of underhanded tactics to survive, there’s no morality meter or anything stopping you from playing however you choose.
The mundanity of most of the content isn’t necessarily a game-killer, but it does mean that if you come into Ghost of Tsushima expecting a revolutionary experience you’re probably going to be disappointed. I really hoped that the menu would stop explaining the “Damage” stat by stating that it lets you “kill enemies faster” but, well, I guess the director was fine with that staying in this cut.
Kidding aside, innovation and smart design are bonuses rather than necessary elements for an enjoyable experience. Ghost of Tsushima might be comprised almost entirely of fundamentals, but it does execute those fundamentals well. Combat is fast and fluid, with mistakes being punished a little more than one might expect, so you’re encouraged to improve. Meanwhile, digging around for crafting materials has been old hat since it became common around 2011 or so, but at least the environments are well-designed, interesting to explore and a pleasure to look at.
There’s a couple of new chunks of content in this release compared to the original Ghost of Tsushima. For instance, the Legends multiplayer content, originally a free update for the PS4 version, is present and accounted for. This is a passable addition to the game, offering tons of additional Ghost of Tsushima combat if that’s what you’re into as well as the opportunity to be frustrated by inept random players. Ah, online gaming.
The Director’s Cut adds its own additional goodness with a content expansion set on Iki Island. It’s about 20 hours long all by itself, which is fantastic, and the same high quality of the original game shines through here as well. The Iki Island content is a bit more Far Cry than the rest of the game, focused a bit more on Jin himself as opposed to Tsushima as a whole, but it’s all good stuff – particularly if you weren’t bothered by the Standard Open-World Game nature of the original content.
As before, your enjoyment with Ghost of Tsushima will likely come down to how you feel about the modern open-world collectathon genre. If you played through Assassin’s Creed Origins and Odyssey, the various Far Cry games and the many other similar titles floating around out there, you may or may not want more. If you do, then Jin Sakai’s epic quest through feudal Japan will embrace you with open arms and a knife ready to give you a shankin’.
On the other hand, if you’re over the trend and crave something else, there’s not a Ghost of a chance Ghost of Tsushima: Director’s Cut is going to change your mind. It sure is pretty though, and it’s even prettier now that it’s found a newer, more comfortable home.