At Playstation’s Paris Games Week, Sucker Punch finally revealed their rumored new IP, Ghost of Tsushima. With the official announcement, the studio of Sly Cooper and Infamous fame breaks their 3 year absence from the scene of major video game releases, following up their 2014 debuts of Infamous Second Son and Infamous First Light.
Ghost of Tsushima is an action/stealth adventure game that’s set in feudal Japan, in the year 1274 when an invading Mongol army rains devastation down upon the island of Tsushima, located about halfway between Japan and modern day South Korea.
According to the description that accompanied the stunning cinematic announcement trailer, the stage is set for you as the player to become a samurai, one of the last great defenders of Tsushima:
“The year is 1274. Samurai warriors are the legendary defenders of Japan–until the fearsome Mongol Empire invades the island of Tsushima, wreaking havoc and conquering the local population. As one of the last surviving samurai, you rise from the ashes to fight back. But, honorable tactics won’t lead you to victory. You must move beyond your samurai traditions to forge a new way of fighting–the way of the Ghost–as you wage an unconventional war for the freedom of Japan.”
So if becoming a stealth-infused samurai hero who fights off the Mongol invaders in 13th century Japan isn’t enough to have you already psyched for this new game, here’s a more in-depth look at what we know about Ghost of Tsushima so far.
Player Agency in an Open World Medieval Japan
One aspect that both the trailer and the developers seem to be emphasizing is a specific and ambitious vision for Ghost of Tsushima’s open world that’s driven by player choice. As Creative Director Nate Fox put it, “We wanted to stay open world because we’re giving authority, power to the player. We didn’t want to walk away from that; we think it’s integral to modern gaming that players are in charge.”
So – want to run around an expansive map of feudal Japan as a katana-toting samurai, in which you get to decide where to go and what to do in a potentially non-linear but story-driven experience? Then this will be a game to look forward to.
Even in just the few locations we were able to see in the announcement trailer – starting with a field of what looks like the famed susuki grass to a variety of watery habitats, villages, and sloping mountainsides – you can see that Sucker Punch’s new world will be expansive and full of diverse environments that could rival other recent open world games like Horizon Zero Dawn and Assassin’s Creed Origins.
To make Ghost of Tsushima’s world even more engaging and immersive, Creative/Art Director Jason Connell said, “We’re taking inspiration from the historical point in time where the Mongol army invaded the island of Tsushima.” What this tells me is that we can look forward to accurate historical elements in the game that make the experience that much more informative, realistic, and exciting.
Furthermore, what you see in the cinematic trailer in terms of the different areas may be more than just cut scene eye-candy – they may very well all be territories that you can explore once the game is released. Supporting this notion is this statement from Fox that followed the trailer’s unveiling: “All those locations are in-engine, they’re in the world. That’s the place that you’re gonna defend. A huge island, filled with a lot of different places, towns, people – there’s so much to learn, so much to see.”
So here’s my 3 takeaways about Ghost of Tsushima’s open world:
- It’s designed around your choices as a player
- It’s full of exotic, medieval Japanese landscapes
- It’s going to be massive
Build Your Legend as the Ghost
While the announcement trailer largely focused on the game’s world and some cinematic cut scenes, we did get a very brief look at what the combat could be. We know that Ghost of Tsushima will have you combining both action combat and stealth, but how exactly will it work, and what sorts of weapons will be available to you?
Well, there’s not a whole lot of details around this just yet, but the trailer does show the unnamed samurai protagonist performing a leaping stealth kill on an unsuspecting enemy with a lethal downward stab from a katana. It also shows him using explosive thrown projectiles to startle a horse and its rider (presumably a Mongol soldier, as Mongols were a largely an equestrian people).
Beyond that, we don’t know much about the game’s combat, other than that it looks like it’s built around a real-time action, single player-based experience.
However, from watching the trailer and the interview with Fox and Connell, Ghost of Tsushima’s combat looks like it plays further into the theme of player agency. You can probably determine how much you rely on stealth vs. how much you rely on more straightforward, tank-like tactics, much like you do in games like Horizon Zero Dawn. Essentially, you get to build your own reputation as the Ghost – a samurai who does what he has to in order to defend his homeland.
Not just another Nioh
Ok, so far we’ve established that Ghost of Tsushima takes place in feudal Japan, it’s an action/adventure game, and you play as a samurai. I know what some of you must be thinking – sounds familiar, right?
If you’re thinking that this new game from Sucker Punch sounds a lot like the 2017 RPG Nioh from Koei Tecmo and Team Ninja, then you’re not alone. The comparison immediately jumped to the front of my mind as soon as I saw the traditional samurai armor and weapons in the announcement trailer.
And to be fair, there’s a lot of parallels. Nioh takes place in medieval Japan, albeit some 300 hundred plus years later. In it, you play a male character that you can build to look and fight like a samurai in a game centered around real-time, active combat. There’s also historical elements woven into the game (although Nioh takes some artistic liberties to create a game that nearly verges on magical realism with its almost understated use of myth and fantasy).
That said, I don’t think we have anything to worry about when it comes to these two games being far too similar. Nioh has often been called a fusion of Ninja Gaiden and Dark Souls when referring to its combat that is brutally difficult, deep, and even cinematic. But Ghost of Tsushima’s combat will be differentiated by the incorporation of the aforementioned reliance on stealth tactics.
Also, from what we’ve seen of Ghost of Tsushima so far (and again, we’ve only had a roughly 2 minute trailer), it seems like this new game from Sucker Punch will have more of the historical fiction vibe than Nioh, which incorporates mythology and magic into its narrative with its many guardian spirits, mages, and demons.
Furthermore, Ghost of Tsushima will deliver a true open world experience, whereas Nioh is mission-based, and rather than traversing interconnecting areas in an open world, you select from these missions in a 6 region map of Japan.
Conclusion: A lot to look forward to
Even though we’re just getting the announcement trailer now, Ghost of Tsushima has already been in development for roughly three and a half years. While there was no hint at a release date in the trailer, I don’t think hopes for a 2019 release would be unfounded.
Looking toward early 2018, I wouldn’t be surprised if we got more information about the game’s story, world, and combat. But for now, what the developers have shown us is a potentially action-packed game with varied combat, massively explorable locations that are beautifully designed, and an ideology centered around player agency in an open world exploration that seeks to immerse gamers in a historically rich setting.
Personally, I can’t wait to find out what more Ghost of Tsushima has in store for us!