Ghost of Tsushima turned out to be a much bigger deal than anyone – even Sony or Sucker Punch – could have anticipated. Though not the hyper-polished and technically astounding game that one usually expects flagship first party PlayStation titles to be, the open world samurai epic wowed audiences with its gorgeous world, its empowering stealth, its spectacular combat, and more. Now, a year later, Sucker Punch has come out with an extended cut of the game, improving upon the base experience with technical and visual enhancements and quality-of-life upgrades, but most notably, also adding a meaty new piece of content to Jin’s already lengthy story with the Iki Island expansion. And to no one’s surprise, Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut is an unequivocally excellent package.
The biggest draw here, of course, is the new content on offer. The Iki Island expansion is set during the events of the base game, accessible as soon as you’re done with Act 1, which means Jin’s journey to Iki takes place while the Mongol invasion of Tsushima itself is yet to be dealt with. Even so, though the expansion might not act as a bridge between Ghost of Tsushima and its inevitable sequel the way, say, last year’s Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales did between its predecessor and eventual successor, it still feels like an important part of the larger story being told here.
"To no one’s surprise, Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut is an unequivocally excellent package."
Iki Island, a wild and lawless place as it is, has been taken over by a new Mongol faction calling themselves the Eagle Tribe, who’re led by a woman known as, well, the Eagle., and under their iron grip, the island’s become an even more dangerous place. The biggest threat being faced by its inhabitants is a new kind of poison being used by the Eagle Tribe, which, in essence, renders its victims insane and completely dismantles their minds. Knowing full well how dire the situation could get when the Eagle Tribe eventually makes its way to Tsushima, Jin decides to travel to Iki to deal with the problem before it can spread any further.
The story told here is a very personal one that dives deeper into Jin’s past, and further fleshes out plot points that were only briefly touched upon in the base game. Throughout the expansion, we see Jin having to deal with his past traumas and inner demons, lending greater depth to his character. On top of that, being a samurai on Iki Island is a complicated situation in and of itself as well. Years ago, samurais led by Jin’s father tried and failed to quell the lawless ways of the island and establish proper law and order, and their struggle against the raiders and natives of Iki ultimately ended in the death of Jin’s father.
The people of Iki, as such, don’t really hold the samurai in high regard, and that leads to some interesting, complicated relationships and dynamics between Jin and new characters, as he’s forced to forge alliances with people he would once have considered his enemies, so that they can now take down a common foe. Learning of the conflict that took place on the island and being shown the perspectives of everyone involved makes for a rich setting with an excellent sense of place and a history of its own, while watching the repercussions of that old conflict on the problems Jin is facing now makes for some fascinating plot moments.
"Just like Tsushima in the base game, Iki is a gorgeous, masterfully designed open world map brimming with excellent sights and engaging activities. The new map is about a third of Tsushima in terms of size, and the expansion uses that real estate to great effect, with environments dominated by the same brilliant, oversaturated, colourful, and vibrant hues that have now become so crucial to Ghost of Tsushima’s visual identity."
Of course, Iki Island excels not just as a narrative backdrop, but also as a wonderful new playground where players can lose themselves. Just like Tsushima in the base game, Iki is a gorgeous, masterfully designed open world map brimming with excellent sights and engaging activities. The new map is about a third of Tsushima in terms of size, and the expansion uses that real estate to great effect, with environments dominated by the same brilliant, oversaturated, colourful, and vibrant hues that have now become so crucial to Ghost of Tsushima’s visual identity. It’s also a location that differentiates itself from Tsushima quite well. As an untamed and lawless island, Iki is much less civilized, which allows it to be populated by quite a few locations and environments that are unlike anything found in the base game, from an old and abandoned village now covered entirely by overgrown foliage and greenery to stunning coasts with white cliffs shining brightly under the sun.
Wanting to see the next stunning sight keeps you constantly motivated to keep exploring Iki, but there’s plenty else going on in the open world as well. Various activities from the base game make a return, such as bamboo cutting challenges, haiku spots, new Mythic Tales, Shinto shrine platforming challenges, and more. Meanwhile, a number of new activities have been added as well, like participating in archery challenges, or finding animal sanctuaries, or a new dueling arena in the main raider settlement. There are, of course, a number of side quests as well, which deserve special praise. They consistently tie into the expansion’s main plot in some very interesting ways, and are, by and large, much better and more consistently designed than the side quests of the base game, which could often range between excellent and downright pedestrian.
Combat, too, has seen a new wrinkle being introduced in the shape of a new enemy type. The new spear-wielding shaman tends to hang back and chant loudly, and as long as he chants, all other foes around you get a significant boost and become much faster, stronger, and more aggressive. Meanwhile, you can now also charge at your enemies while riding on horseback. The action costs Resolve, but it’s always a blast galloping right through large crowds of enemies and seeing them fly in all directions. Overall, there’s definitely enough going on here to keep things from feeling too similar to the base game, especially with new charms, headbands, gear, skills, and what have you. All in all, Iki Island is quite a meaty new piece of content. It can take roughly 10 hours to get through its main story, but given all the additional content that is on offer here, I wouldn’t be surprised if players ended up doubling that number, if not more.
"There’s really no reason not to get Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut."
Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut makes other, relatively smaller changes as well, on top of offering a major new expansion. On a technical level, the game now runs at 4K and 60 FPS, which means its stunning world and slick action are now able to stand out even more, thanks to the improved resolution and performance. Meanwhile, the DualSense’s haptic feedback and adaptive triggers are also put to use, while other smaller quality-of-life changes (such as being able to hide your bow and quiver, for instance) have also been added. Most of these aren’t major headlining additions, of course, but collectively they do add up and make for a better, smoother experience.
All of which is to say is that there’s really no reason not to get Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut. Of course, it bears mentioning that Sony’s pricing policy with this release has been disappointing, to say the least, and definitely deserves to be called out. Judged on the merits of its content though, there’s a lot to love here. For those who have already played the base game, Iki Island is a meaty and excellent new piece of content, which builds on the main game’s strengths in all the right ways and introduces just enough of its own new ideas as well. For newcomers, on the other hand, this is easily the best way to experience the game for the first time for a number of reasons. At the end of the day, what we have here is the definitive version of what is probably Sucker Punch’s best game in years, if not ever, and yet more assurance that the future for them looks even brighter.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 5.
Iki Island is a huge and wonderful new expansion; Iki is a gorgeous place that's a constant joy to explore; Performance and resolution boost; Quality-of-life improvements make for a smoother experience.
Cynical pricing; Some issues with the base game's design obviously still exist.