Ghost of Tsushima: Directors Cut is a game that encourages you to take your time. Perhaps this is why it’s so beautiful, forcing you to stop every now and again just to listen to wind playing through the trees, or some wildlife padding around the countryside.
I skipped Ghost of Tsushima first time around. This was a mistake. If, like me, you didn’t catch Sony’s Samurai-’em-up, here’s the deal. This is the story of Jin Sakai – voiced in English by Daisuke Tsuji, who is excellent – a samurai left for dead after the Mongols invade Tsushima. He becomes the legendary ghost, freeing the island from occupation and becoming the titular Ghost.
If you’ve ever played an Assassin’s Creed or Far Cry game, how you do this will feel obvious: You hack up bad guys, you do some quests, you knock over a few outposts. You can forgive developers Sucker Punch for cribbing here though, because Ghost of Tsushima feels different, almost meditative, a game that is more about the journey than the destination.
Cliche alert, but the way in which you slowly liberate parts of Tsushima, bettering yourself and exploring this beautiful island, feels a million miles away from Ubisoft’s all-you-can-eat action buffet. Winning a simple fight in the early game feels like a real achievement, and death will come with regularity as you get used to the combat mechanics.
Slowly, very slowly, you’ll get to grips with the core loop that underpins fights, but you’ll also start unlocking a drip feed of upgrades: Kunai to stun enemies at range, or new stances that will help you better fend off shield users – or an angry Mongol with a spear. While many games indulge you with power fantasy as you level, here your only real reward is to suck a bit less – even unlocking the mythical Heavenly Strike rewards you with nothing more than a quick unblockable strike to ease the pressure in a tough fight.
Greatness in Tsushima isn’t really on the table here. But I’m not really trying to feel mighty. I’m just trying to relax. In our original NME review, Jordan Oloman describes Ghost of Tsushima as a serene samurai simulator and describes plowing through a series of podcasts while playing the game. It feels familiar, I play Tsushima quite passively, plodding down roads on my horse or exploring the hillside looking for a stat-boosting soak in a hot spring, or a fox to pet.
Most of this has touched on the base game – the core Ghost of Tsushima experience. It’s honestly really solid. I love the standoff mechanic that sees you calling out your strongest enemy for a duel, letting you trade a stealthy advantage for taking their strongest piece off the board at the start of a fight. I also enjoy the fact your special meter can be used for special abilities or healing creates a nice risk and reward dynamic.
But mostly, I just love the feeling of authenticity that Tsushima provides. During longer sessions, I felt totally immersed in a different culture, and while I can’t speak for how authentic it really is, but it is a great time if you’re happy to spend a bit of time soaking in the atmosphere.
Now, let’s talk about what Ghost of Tsushima: Director’s Cut actually offers, shall we?
First, there’s the 60FPS 4K supercharge for users on PS5. This makes the action feel more fluid and if you have a nice TV, the already stunning game will look even better. I’m generally not too fussed about visuals – I want something interesting in a game, and the visuals are just a nice bonus. Still, Tsushima has fantastic art direction, and if you’re one of the chosen few to actually have a PlayStation 5, why not take it all in in 4K?
The main addition to the game is Iki Island which offers you another great-looking island to explore, but also a series of Archery Challenges, two new Mythic Tales – with one exploring the Sakai legacy – and even visit monkey sanctuaries, giving you the opportunity to play the flute for monkeys, deer and cats. You can, of course, pet the animals. Narratively, there’s a whole new campaign that examines the island – and like the Mythic Tale above also examines the Sakai legacy in depth.
Then, due to some narrative conventions i’m not keen to spoil, you’ll have to start building your legend again from scratch, albeit with more skills at your disposal. There aren’t many new skills or items added, and what has been chucked in is somewhat underwhelming, but you can almost forgive it because of the astoundingly fun Horse Charge ability, which burns your special meter in exchange for letting your horse rocket around the place felling foes with ease. I can forgive the new offerings just for the Horse Charge, because it really isn’t a game about getting or feeling powerful, until you plow through a crowd of enemies sat atop your noble steed.
That’s a decent wedge of content, and if you’re a keen devotee of the base game, there seems to be more than enough here to sink your teeth into. However, the narrative – which is weak in the base game at the best of times – doesn’t really spark here. You’re more likely to have fun battering people with wooden training swords – referred to as Bokken – or making your own fun tracking down side quests and the shopping list of extra locations.
Ghost of Tsushima’s re-release has ended up being the perfect palette cleanser for me before the end of the year arrives, stuffed to the gills with shooters demanding my attention. I likely won’t come back to Tshushima after my visit, but I appreciated the trip.
Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut is available now on PS5 and PS4, but this review is for the PS5 version.
Ghost of Tsushima: Directors Cut builds on the entire Tsushima experience, good and bad. While the slower pacing and drip fed rewards work for me, some will find the pace sluggish and find their attention wandering elsewhere. Still, this is probably the best chance of living inside a Akira Kurosawa movie you’ll ever get. It’s an opportunity worth taking.
- Beautiful art direction
- Excellent sword fights
- Director’s Cut adds a wealth of content for new players
- Sluggish pace
- You’re stuck with swords, sadly