Ghost of Tsushima: 4 Things to Know Before Playing

Going into this year, Ghost of Tsushima has been one of my most anticipated games. Directly inspired by the samurai films I shouldn’t have been watching but loved as a kid, this game has all the makings of a Game of the Year contender for me. We’ve talked about some aspects of it in the past, but with its release looming over us, let’s take a quick look at what you need to know going into Ghost of Tsushima.

Inspired by History but Not Bound By It

Developer Sucker Punch, creator of the Infamous series of games, has taken some cues from real places and events for Ghost of Tsushima. The story centres on the first Mongol Invasion of Japan in 1274, which started with the invading army tearing through the Island of Tsushima and decimating the local forces.

At this point, however, Sucker Punch seems to be taking an alternative view to history with this game. Jin, the samurai that players will be taking control of during this game, is the last of his clan and leads a spirited but singular defence of the island to prevent the invaders from reaching the mainland. In reality, the Yuan forces continued on to invade other islands under Japanese control before turning back and losing almost half their forces to storms.

Becoming the Ghost of Tsushima

The game’s mechanics will be fairly familiar to fans of Sucker Punch’s previous games. An open world game with an over-the-shoulder third person view, Ghost of Tsushima seems likely to send players out into the world to explore, disrupting the Mongol forces by any means. Considering how interesting and vibrant the world of Infamous was, I’m really excited to see their take on a real place with a real history.

Don’t expect to see historical figures, however. Though that might have been the original intention, Director Nat Fox has said that the idea was scrapped upon the advice of sensitivity consultants who suggested that an American company depicting Japanese figures would not be the best look. Even Jin himself is a fictional character with no basis in real history, so there is a broad scope for them to have fun with the setting and the themes of classic samurai stories.

It’s a Love Letter to Kurosawa

Ghost of Tsushima's Jin

Akira Kurosawa films are some of the best known and loved samurai films of all time, so it is no surprise that this game is expected to be filled with nods to the legendary Japanese filmmaker, including a black and white mode that aims to mimic the look and feel of Kurosawa’s work. Expect stylised shots, a stirring soundtrack, and a master-student relationship that is explored and strained in the context of the samurai way of life.

I’m particularly eager for the music and sound, especially since the sound team appears to have spent some time in Japan getting the sounds from the local birds and wildlife. Its little touches that will hopefully lend an amount of authenticity to the game that will take if from a world based on Japan to something at feels like a living world.

It Could Be Controversial

Like I said before, this is an American company creating a game and story rooted deeply in another culture. Unlike Infamous, which gave us fake versions of real cities like Seattle and New Orleans, Tsushima is a real place with real history. How they handle it will be key to how much controversy it causes, but I expect that it will be looked at very closely in the coming weeks by people with a lot more knowledge and experience of this time period than myself.

Sucker Punch have brought in a team of experts on this part of history to help steer them in the right direction and have employed a historical sword-fighting expert to ensure that the combat stays grounded in the techniques of the day, but even all of this doesn’t guarantee that they won’t stumble in places.

Even with these concerns, Ghost of Tsushima represents something exciting in gaming that I’ve been looking forward to since it was first revealed. It is a setting that is rich in potential and a story that, while familiar to those who have encountered the films that inspired it, is always enthralling.

Ghost of Tsushima is available 17 July, 2020 exclusively for the PlayStation 4.

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