With all the hype surrounding the upcoming launches of Sony and Microsoft’s next consoles as well as the litany of launch games for said consoles, you couldn’t be blamed too much for overlooking Sucker Punch’s upcoming historical epic Ghost of Tsushima from time to time. Despite looking amazing the game has fallen victim to not being able to cut through the noise very much since its announcement a couple of years ago.
Part of this is just them being a casualty of circumstances, but it’s also fair to say they haven’t really been advertising it much outside of putting out a few admittedly glorious trailers, which make everybody say “Oh yeah! That game! Looks cool!” then back to silence. This is a bit of an odd tactic for a game that is supposedly just a couple months away from launch as of the writing and recording of this piece. That said, despite playing things close to the vest, Ghost of Tsushima is shaping up to be one of the biggest if not the biggest game of 2020 for several reasons.
First and foremost, Ghost of Tsushima will be a realistic breath of fresh air. While samurai Sengoku games have been popping up here and there more than normal with titles like Nioh, Nioh 2, and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, that’s not exactly what Ghost of Tsushima appears to be going for. Where Nioh and Sekiro veer off the rails of realism into the world of fantasy and whimsical fabrications inspired by the Sengoku era, Ghost of Tsushima is taking a far more realistic, grounded approach to the setting. So much so that it’s actually taking place during the very real Mongol invasion of Japan that went down during the later years of the 13th century. Game director Nate Fox has elaborated on this by saying to GameInformer:
“This is a game that is entirely grounded in reality… We’re trying hard to transport people to 1274 Japan. We’re inspired by history, but we’re not building it back stone by stone. We’re not trying to rebuild Tsushima island. Our protagonist is a work of fiction. We actually thought about using some historical figures, and we asked some people who are more culturally aware than us and they said that it would be insensitive, so we didn’t do it.”
So, Sucker Punch is going all-in with historical accuracy here, which is a nice change from games of this sort always being riddled with magical spells, mythological demons, and over the top action that no human could ever actually do.
As a result, this will make the game feel far more impactful during battles, exploration, and major story developments. There are lots of emotions that a game like Ninja Gaiden miss out on by having massive monsters being fought by a magical ninja who’s bouncing off the walls that Ghost will be far more well-positioned to capture. Characters will matter because they will feel real. Every attack in a fight will have a lasting impact as the enemies will feel more formidable and authentic.
The story will be relatable as Jin will face things that the Samurai actually did face as a result of the invasion. Jin’s painful decision to cast away the training he had received for years in favor of less conventional means for the good of his homeland will instantly strike a chord with anyone who has had to break the rules for the greater good in their lives. Having a mostly authentically Japanese voice cast will also help drive home the reality of the story through them understanding various intimate subtleties of the dialect and the period. This is also taken to a wonderful extent with Sucker Punch reportedly including a fully Japanese version of the dialogue from beginning to end if you want that ultimate realism, which I certainly do.
Along with the story and characters having a more realistic tone, the gameplay will follow suit by respecting the source of the material with realistic landscapes to explore, a minimal HUD, and authentic samurai fighting techniques. The landscapes will feature lots of rolling hills, vegetation, and other characteristics that are unique to that part of the world, making the simple act of walking around an incredibly engrossing experience. Sucker Punch even went so far as to record bird songs from the actual region to include in the game’s ambience. On top of that, a minimal amount of on-screen notifications will also aid the immersion.
While it might make plenty of sense for other action adventure games to display a wealth of information on your screen at all times to keep you informed, Ghost of Tsushima is going to forsake the majority of that and fill you in on the location of your next objective with story context and good design that gently guides you to your next objective with subtle visual cues of suggestion. As such, this might cause some players to shrug the game off. It certainly isn’t going to be the type of game you should play with the sound off and a podcast playing in the background.
No, Ghost of Tsushima demands your full attention, and that’s exactly the type of experience gaming needs right now; something that you really need to sit down, clear your mind, and focus on. By doing so, you’ll be rewarded in the long run with a much more satisfying experience. In addition to that, the swordplay seems to also fit right in with everything else with no magical enchantments or ridiculous limit breaks. This is just good old-fashioned combat where momentum, timing, and skill win the day.
The various stances and move sets that will be displayed here are as authentic as it gets. Sucker Punch painstakingly learned every inch of technique they could under the guidance of several prestigious masters of shinkage samurai combat. One institution they studied under specializes in spear and chain sickle combat as well as sword, so one could surmise that other weapon types could be in the game, but we’ll have to wait and see on that one.
The long and short of it is that Ghost of Tsushima is going to be a huge deal. Whether it’s outstanding to those who have been waiting for something like this for a long time or for a much wider audience of gamers who didn’t even know they wanted it remains to be seen, but it will certainly be a sight for sore eyes.
Furthermore, the game will be an outstanding experience not just because it’s being developed by one of Sony’s top first-party studios that have shown they know their way around making fun open world games, but also because the style, setting, and approach that are at play here are going to be that real concrete realism that many gamers have been craving for a long time and rarely get.
Especially in the way of Sengoku-era games where history and realism are often treated as a backdrop for more fantastical embellishments. Here, that realistic backdrop is coming to the foreground. And that is something to be excited about whether you’ve been longing for it or not.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.