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E3 2018 Preview: Ghost of Tsushima is a Playable Samurai Film, Respects the Blade

Ghost of Tsushima might seem like quite the departure for Sucker Punch. The studio is known for games like Sly Cooper and inFamous, neither of which seem to have anything to do with an open-world samurai game. On closer inspection, the studio’s history is deeply embedded into everything that Ghost of Tsushima is shaping up to be, from the stealth traversal of the buildings to the sprawling open worlds that tell deep stories about the people living in them. If you’ve seen the gameplay demo, you’re all set to take a walk with me through the Ghost of Tsushima details.

When Sucker Punch took us behind closed doors to check out the game, they ended up showing us the same gameplay that we saw at the Sony showcase, however they slowed down and took the time to walk us through a number of things they wanted to make sure we noticed. Set during 1274 in feudal Japan during the Mongol invasion, Ghost of Tsushima casts the terror of this invasive force against the bright beauty of the Japanese environment. This is a game that is based within this period in history, but in order to pay respect to the many people that lost their lives there, Sucker Punch is telling a wholly fictional story featuring fictional characters.

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After the public presentation, many people asked about Japanese localized audio, so for our demo, they had the Japanese audio turned on. The entire game will feature a Japanese language audio track with English subtitles if you choose, and the invaders will still speak Mongolian to maintain the “unknown threat” that they pose to the Japanese people. In fact, Sony actually released a Japanese trailer for the game to highlight this feature.

Respecting the Blade

As one of the developers played through the demo, they would periodically stop and spin the camera around the action while they talked about various features in the game. This was later confirmed to be photo mode, already up and running. The photo mode allowed them to show off things like the realistic blood physics, actual splashes of blood that were tracked to the arc of the sword. Realistic wounds appeared on the enemies exactly where they were slashed, as opposed to generic damage that occurs to clothes and armor.

Sucker Punch said that they wanted to respect the blade. Your sword isn’t another throwaway item in Ghost of Tsushima, it’s almost a character itself. The damage to enemies, dynamic blood spatter, and all around lethal precision of the blade had to be honed in order to make combat feel gritty and intimate. Mud, blood, and steel are Sucker Punch’s pillars for Ghost of Tsushima, and it makes the whole thing feel like a playable samurai film. This isn’t a hack and slash game. You can easily and quickly get overwhelmed. But you can also demonstrate the deadliness of the samurai and his blade in precise and close-quarters combat.

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Battles really show off the showdown between two people. The final battle of the demo against the woman reminded me a lot of the final showdown in Metal Gear Solid 3 against the Boss. It’s a fight you don’t want to have against someone you’d actually call your friend, set against the beauty of the landscape around you. Ghost of Tsushima is all about people trying to survive during the Mongol invasion, which means we see good people doing bad things. Sucker Punch revealed that the mission we saw is actually a side mission and not even part of the main questline for the game. With the kinds of emotional beats this demo held, I can’t imagine the kinds of dark places the full game will take us.

Our demo only showed us a tiny slice of the open world, but the area seems vast and expansive, with tons to explore and discover. Sucker Punch talked about organic discovery of side missions and other stories scattered throughout the game that will feel like a natural part of the world. This is a world with many stories to tell. The player will also find a natural progression of abilities throughout the game. It was confirmed that Ghost of Tsushima does not feature anything supernatural or super powered (don’t expect this to turn into inFamous: Feudal Japan), but the lead character will develop and grow over time.

Seeing a new IP from a known studio is always a mixed bag. While I would have loved to get more from either the Sly Cooper or inFamous franchises, I’m also happy to say that Sucker Punch’s foray into something different is shaping up to be yet another Sony-exclusive hit. Sometimes it just takes getting over that hill and seeing what they have coming. When I crested the ridge and saw a single man with a sword standing against an army of Mongols, Sucker Punch immediately had my support. With Ghost of Tsushima, Sony is proving that they don’t need to rely on the shoulders of established brands in order to make a great exclusive game that people can get really excited for.

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