Ghost of Tsushima — From Samurai to Legend

Avinash Bangera
5 min readSep 26, 2021
Photo by Totte Annerbrink on Unsplash

Spoilers Ahead!

Sucker Punch Productions’ Infamous Series is loved by many PlayStation players. It may come as a surprise to you that it is a company with only 150 employees. It took around six years for Sucker Punch to roll out Ghost of Tsushima. And boy, did they create a masterpiece!

Image courtesy Sony

Set in the backdrop of Feudal Japan being overrun by the Mongolian empire, the game starts spectacularly amid an ongoing battle. I was reminded of the first few minutes of Assassin’s Creed Odessey where the game starts similarly in an in-progress battle. This sets up the mood nicely and is an enticing appetizer for the three-course meal yet to come. While Ghost of Tsushima takes place on the small island of Tsushima (no prizes for guessing), the map size is fairly decent for an open-world RPG.

Before I started playing, I had the impression that this would be a very Sekiro-like game. Yes, Ghost of Tsushima shares many similarities with Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. But this is far from a Souls-like game.

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Jin of clan Sakai is the protagonist of Ghost of Tsushima. We are shown how his father is killed right in front of his eyes when he was just a child. The murder of his father leaves an indelible mark in Jin’s psyche and he lives a life of regret because he couldn’t do anything to help his father. His uncle Lord Shimura raises Jin as his ward and teaches him the way of Samurai. With Katana swinging lessons, Lord Shimura educates Jin about the Samurai honor. Things like looking your enemy in the eye while executing them, you know?

The antagonist in Ghost of Tsushima is gruesome and cruel Khotun Khan. He defeats Lord Shimura in battle and takes Castle Kaneda. Shimura is taken prisoner and during and Jin is grievously injured. Khotun Khan is far from a cardboard cut-out villain. We see him as ruthless yet humane as he talks with Shimura showing us Khan’s side of the story. With the help of a few allies, we rescue Shimura, and over three acts kill Khotun Khan.

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Every NPC is designed such that they leave a mark in the story and with their side quest chain. Yuna is a thief who rescues Jin from Battle and nurses him back to health. Taka is Yuna’s brother and a great blacksmith. His sudden death at the hands of Khan haunts me to date. The warrior Lady Masako Adachi’s entire family gets killed by her sister. The relationship between the archer sensei Ishikawa and his best student Tomoe takes numerous twists and turns. The mischievous Kenji provides comic relief while the warrior monk Norio helps us get a first-hand experience of the devastation caused by the Khan’s Mongol invasion. The leader of the infamous straw hat Ronin, Ryuzo was Jin’s childhood friend who betrays him and switches sides to join Khan.

The part of the story that gripped me the most was how Jin has to go against his uncle’s teaching of Samurai honor to rescue him. Since Jin has to use Guerrilla tactics, which is the opposite of being a Samurai, to bring down the Mongol influence in Tsushima, word begins to spread about a ghost who is fighting for the people against the Mongols. Every little victory adds to the ghost’s narrative and stature. Slowly, through the main missions, the legend of the Ghost grows and Jin transforms into the Ghost of Tsushima.

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I love the Katana combat with a few Ghost Weapon modifications that are thrown in to spice things up a bit. Boss fights as duels are also fun where the difficulty and the sense of achievement combine beautifully. I played the game on medium settings and never did I feel that the game is difficult. Yes, the combat and standoffs do take some time to get used to but once you get the rhythm, you can master fighting in Ghost of Tsushima.

What sets this game apart? First, the gorgeous visuals. I have taken so many screenshots of picturesque sunsets, mountain views, forests, rivers, and beaches. The thousands of petals falling slowly convert any scene into a cinematically directed movie shot. Second, smart use of the Playstation controller’s touchpad. Flicks of the touchpad can make Jin bow respectfully, play a soothing melody on his flute, sheath and unsheath his Katana, and call a gust of wind to show the way around. Third, attention to detail on little things like letting you compose Haikus which adds so much calmness to a game based on swinging the Katana. Who can forget the adorable foxes and golden birds showing you the way to shrines and important places on the map?

Image courtesy Sony

Ghost of Tsushima is an allrounder. With a very thoughtfully written story, cinematic visuals, horse riding in an open world, almost perfect gameplay & skill mechanics, it is undoubtedly one of the best games made in the last few years.

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Avinash Bangera

Product Manager by day; Gaming and Technology Enthusiast by night.