Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut is out now, and it is, unsurprisingly, an excellent update of a great game. All of its visual, performance, and quality-of-life upgrades are, of course, appreciated, but the biggest way it adds to Sucker Punch’s open world epic is by adding even more content to it, in the form of the meaty new Iki Island expansion. And that chunk of content is a truly excellent addition, not only because it builds on Ghost of Tsushima’s strengths, but also because it has a few interesting new elements of its own. Here, we’re going to go over a few of the expansion’s biggest highlights, and how it expands upon Ghost of Tsushima in meaningful ways.
Let’s start off with the most obvious talking point- Iki Island itself, which is where the expansion is set. This newest chapter in Jin’s story takes us away from Tsushima and over to Iki itself, and just as Tsushima was in the base game, the expansion’s new map is a brilliantly designed one. Organic and diegetic exploration was where Ghost of Tsushima really excelled, and the Iki Island expansion continues to build on that. With in-world elements such as plumes of smokes or golden songbirds, or with distinctly designed natural landmarks that instantly grab attention, the expansion constantly keeps nudging players to keep exploring and finding new and exciting things. What’s more, it even pulls back to a great extent on how annoyingly frequent those songbird distractions could be in the base game. They’re not completely gone here, of course, but they don’t pop up once every couple of minutes either.
Beyond that, Iki Island is also a visually distinct place. In terms of its aesthetic and art design, it’s obviously following in the footsteps of Ghost of Tsushima itself, with similarly vibrant sights, gorgeous scenes of natural beauty, liberal use of oversaturated hues, and more, but at the same time, the island’s backstory helps it carve out its own identity. Iki is a lawless, untamed place that is not nearly as civilized as Tsushima is, and also still bears many haunting scars of the conflicts it saw a few years back. As such, while still maintaining the visual identity of the base game, the expansion’s map is able to take players to some locations that feel very unique from anything that can be found on Tsushima island.
NEW AND RETURNING ACTIVITIES
Of course, there’s plenty to do around Iki Island. This is a large expansion with around fifteen hours of content (if not more) if you decide to do more than just the main story quests, and as you’d expect, there’s a nice variety of optional activities on offer. There are, of course, several new side quests (which, by the way, boast much better design and quality than the side quests in the base game generally did), as well as a couple new Mythic Tales to take on, and clearing out Mongol forts, of course, is still an important (and addictive) side activity. Other returning activities are also here, including bamboo strike challenges, Shinto shrines, haiku spots, lighting light houses, and hot springs- though most of these aren’t nearly as numerous as they were in the base game.
Instead, the Iki Island expansion puts more of an emphasis on an entirely new set of open world activities. You can track down spots where animals have gathered and play your flute there to make it a sanctuary for them. You can participate in archery challenges scattered throughout the map and try to get bronze, silver, or gold rankings to improve a Concentration charm. The main Raider town also has a dueling arena, with plenty of challengers to take on in 1v1 fights for rewards. Better yet, most of the activities scattered throughout the map don’t just slavishly stick to their formulas. Instead, every so often, they put interesting little twists on them- like a light house that isn’t guarded by enemies, but instead serves as more of a platforming challenge; or a hot spring that has monkeys chilling around Jin while he soaks himself; or an animal sanctuary where Mongols have set up an ambush to take you by surprise. It certainly keeps things interesting, and keeps exploration from becoming too monotonous.
The Iki Island expansion isn’t a semi-sequel to Ghost of Tsushima like Miles Morales was to Spider-Man. Instead, it functions more as a side story taking place somewhere in the middle of the base game’s events, sort of like The Frozen Wilds and Horizon Zero Dawn. Even so, in spite of the fact that it doesn’t really hold many clues for what the story of the inevitable Ghost of Tsushima sequel might have in store, it still ends up feeling like a surprisingly essential part of Jin’s story.
The Eagle Tribe’s reign of terror over Iki Island is sold effectively (even though The Eagle herself is never really fleshed out properly as a villain), while new characters like Tenzo the Raider are great additions to the game’s cast. The biggest draw of the story, however, is that it ties in intricately with Jin’s own past. Iki Island was, after all, the place where his father died, and where samurais once led a bloody conquest in an effort to tame the island and end its lawless ways, before eventually failing. Watching Jin come to terms with the brutal actions of those samurai and his father years ago, and with his own inability to save his father while he was cut down in front of his eyes, makes for some fascinating narrative moments that add a great deal to Jin’s personal arc.
Combat was probably one of Ghost of Tsushima’s biggest strengths, which was surprising, because in the lead-up to the game’s launch last year, that was the one aspect that was looking the least convincing. Happily enough, combat continues to be a highlight in the Iki Island expansion as well. As you’d expect, it’s largely the same as the base game, so it retains all its mechanical strengths, but there are still enough new elements here to further improve the experience.
The biggest new addition is the shaman, a new enemy type. In 1v1 situations, the shaman functions like a regular spearman, but it’s his other abilities that make him such an interesting enemy to fight. The shaman, you see, likes to hang back while you’re getting swarmed by other enemies and chant, and his chants make all the other enemies much more vicious and brutal in their attacks. That lends some neat tactical depth to combat encounters, as you’re forced to pick between dealing with aggressive enemies around you or taking a gamble and killing the shaman first. Things get even more interesting where there are multiple shamans in the mix, which, of course, stands true for stealth situations as well- do you head into more heavily guarded areas of a camp to take out the shaman first, or slowly make your way inside form the fringes and risk being seen by him while you do it? Add to all of this a new charge ability for your horse, which makes horseback combat even more enjoyable, and combat in the expansion ends up feeling familiar enough while still introducing a couple of its own new ideas.
As a meaty new expansion bolted on top of the base game, you’d expect Iki Island to also add more new progression opportunities, and thankfully, it doesn’t disappoint in this area either. There are several new charms to collect, some of which can be upgraded even further by doing specific open world activities, like finding animal sanctuaries or completing archery challenges. The new Mythic Tales also bring new pieces of armour (which, of course, can be upgraded), while the aforementioned horseback charge is also upgradable with skill points.
Of course, there are also several new cosmetics to be found, such as headbands and sheaths for your katana and tanto. Crucially, the Iki Island expansion also has its own Legend progression with multiple tiers, so each activity you complete helps you grow your legend on the island from a clean slate, separate from your actions on Tsushima. All said, there’s more than enough here to keep you occupied for quite a long time.