Open world blah map items blah blah repetitive side quests yada yada blah.
Sure, yeah, okay, no wheels were reinvented for Ghost of Tsushima
. I've written elsewhere on this very family of sites that a thing doesn't have to be revolutionary to be good, so I'm not going to hold the game's done-beforeness against it. Everything I can hold against it can be held against it internally. That sounds gross and weird and I barely know what I meant by it. I forgot to take my sleep meds last night, and I've decided to review a game I played well over a month ago. Hi. I'm struggling right now.
Okay, you're a samurai who got his ass handed to him by an invading Mongol horde. These guys don't give a fuck, toss, shit, or rat's ass about this whole honor
thing you hold so dear, and their brutal methods of conquest force you to abandon your code of honor and become something not unlike my white, western-ass's understanding of a ninja (they never say the word ninja
in the game, so I don't know, man). This creates an interesting story: sacrificing an ancient structure that isn't helping anymore, for the lives of your people. Cool. Neat.
I take no umbrage with linear stories like this, in games. Pull a BioShock
and literally force my hand to do something I'd rather not, for all I care; just give me a good story. So, herein lies my biggest issue with Ghost of Tsushima
: it has a very linear storyline with things it wants the player to do along the way, but it leaves its levels/areas open for you do to things however you want.
Here's how my playthrough went. After the introductory levels, I explored the island and tussled with Mongols. Along the way I really took to the combat. It's fun. Taking different stances to fight different types of enemies, not having the luxury of other similar games where the enemies all kinda wait their turn... You have to think a little bit when you stumble upon a Mongol patrol and they all come at you. It feels natural, and very satisfying when you win.
And it doesn't just stop there. The game prompts you to initiate a showdown when you approach a Mongol base that the game also wants you to go all ninja on. Once you get a handle on the combat (which isn't hard; take it from me, a just-okay
gamer when it comes to skill), you can very well take a base without sneaking.
Then you have actual big battle missions where stealth isn't even an option. You get a cinematic, then boom
, twelve Mongols bearing down on you at the start of a long virtual corridor where you will be doing the same thing for fifteen more minutes.
Then you get into the menus, where you can spend ability points on either stealth or combat. There's a flaw in this as well, because when you have all the ability points the game has to offer, you can be maxed out in both combat and
So my question is, if the game presents you with the combat pathand
the stealth path, why is the story so linearly focused on the stealth path?
There could have been very fun ways to force you to do ninja shit, just as Jin Sakai was forced to do in the story. Even on normal mode, make open combat fucking hard
. Raise the stakes. If the consequence of getting spotted is dead hostages, kill those hostages immediately if I get spotted. Don't reset the level; just put up some text saying, 'Come back and try later.' Dock me points on some kind of progress tracker when that happens.
Or, make it so the story changes depending on how samurai
I am. That little morality slider that feels so vestigial on games like Red Dead Redemption
would have been very welcome here, if swinging to either side granted cool but different benefits etc.
The most frustrated I get with anything—games, film, music—is wasted potential. Ghost of Tsushima
has the bones for something that could've been truly great.
All of that said, there are things the game did do well. Lots of people laud the visuals, and I'll confirm that it's pretty. As mentioned above, I rather enjoyed the open combat. The voice-acting was pretty great as well. Overall I enjoyed it for what it was, and will likely play it again someday. But when I do, I'll be thinking about what could have been.