E3 2018: Ghost of Tsushima is a Stunning Breakthrough for Sucker Punch

PlayStation’s focus on a handful of games for E3 2018 was well-known weeks before they held their press conference. With rumors swirling about a potential PlayStation 5 on the horizon, it was apparent that the platform holder would focus on its current crop of announced titles. The Last of Us Part II and Spider-Man are proven winners, and Death Standing continued to intrigue. Ghost of Tsushima, however, was perhaps the most interesting title. A far cry from Sucker Punch’s previous work, Ghost of Tsushima made its presence known at the show and stunned in its debut.

We got to sit down with Sucker Punch Productions to see Ghost of Tsushima up close. Though it was the same demo shown at the conference, we did learn important new details. The game takes place in 1274 during the Mongols’ invasions of the island of Tsushima. You play as Jin Sekai, the last living samurai on the island. Having lost everything to the Mongols, Jin now fights for the common people as he tries to stave off the invasion.

Authenticity to the period and setting were one of Sucker Punch’s key objectives when building the game. The team traveled to Japan to study the environment and architecture of the time and took that knowledge to develop a stunning game. From the thick forests to the lush moss growing on rocks to the fields of wheat that blow in the wind, Ghost of Tsushima is a gorgeous game to behold. To add additional authenticity to the world, the demo was played with Japanese audio, an option that will be available players at launch.

The private demo allowed Sucker Punch to highlight many of the little details that make the game feel real. Mud splashes about when stepped through, wheat parts as you race by and leaves move across the floor realistically as characters fight. It’s all an impressive sight.

From a gameplay perspective, Ghost of Tsushima is a departure from the Infamous franchise. While those games were all about continuously moving around the battlefield, Ghost of Tsushima is more about studying enemy movement, parrying and attacking when finding an opening. Melee combat becomes more nuanced when fighting 1v1, as shown in the final fight with his fallen comrade, Masako. Sucker Punch commented that they’re pulling heavily from Japanese cinema like Yojimbo for the combat. Unfortunately, the HUD was turned making it difficult to determine how exactly the game plays. When confronted, Sucker Punch didn’t explicitly compare combat to any other game on the market but did admit it has elements similar to the Batman Arkham and Middle-earth games.

Ghost of Tsushima does share some DNA with Sly Cooper’s stealth sections. Jin can attack enemies outright or stalk them from the shadows and stealthily take them out. While this is out of character for a samurai, Sucker Punch did confirm that the narrative motivates the use of stealth. All of Jin’s samurai allies were killed fighting like samurai. To beat back the Mongols, Jin needs to vary up his tactics, even if it goes against everything he knows.

There’s no doubt that Sucker Punch Productions is a talented developer having previously delivered two stellar franchises. To see them do something so different and pull it off as well as they have, however, is masterful. Beautiful and deadly, Ghost of Tsushima is shaping up to be a real showcase for the PS4 and the studio. We still have a ways off before the game finally launches, but we’re excited to see what else Ghost of Tsushima has in store for us.

Ghost of Tsushima is out sometime in the near future on PS4.