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access_time September 13, 2021 at 8:00 AM in Reviews by Daniel Ladiano

Review | Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut

Let’s cut to the chase. Ghost of Tsushima was my favorite game of 2020. Sucker Punch managed to create their magnum opus that transcended a lot of their previous works. The samurai tale of Jin Sakai was akin to a sword shined to perfection. However, the news of a Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut edition, in addition to a paid PS5 update, caught some people by surprise. Thankfully, in addition to the base content comes a new area to explore: Iki Island. While more of an excellent game is a good thing, the real question is how much of an improvement is the Director’s Cut?

The biggest component of Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut is the Iki Island story expansion. Jin decides to embark to the eponymous island after the mongols ravaged a peasant settlement. When Jin finds out that the attacks were ordered by “The Eagle,” a mongol leader that took over his father’s fort on Iki Island. However, due to the ravaging of Clan Sakai, Samurai are not welcome on the hostile shores. Alone on the island without his trusty steed, Jin is captured by The Eagle, who turns out to be a mystic shaman. The Eagle poisons Jin with a concoction that causes him to hallucinate throughout the adventure.

Now, Jin must not only defeat a new enemy, but his inner demons as well. Without spoiling story beats, Jin will find himself at his breaking point and hunted by vicious foes. Thanks to great pacing and storytelling, the Iki Island tale ranks high with some the main game’s best moments. Of course, if you haven’t experienced the story of how Jin defends his home from the Mongol army, the entire tale is still available to relive. For now, we’re going to focus on the new content.

The territory of Iki Island is roughly a third of the main game’s map. Due to the size, the activities aren’t as plentiful, but they are still entertaining. In fact, while the main story is still great, there’s also a variety of side content worth exploring. There’s a mythic tale that can reward Jin with an armor that might be more of a risk than a reward, and side missions may involve characters from the main story showing up unexpectedly. Not every mission hits a bullseye, but the majority of the content stands toe-to-toe with the original.

With a new area also comes new landmarks to explore. For example, there are animal sanctuaries where Jin can play a flute to soothe the local wildlife. PS5 users can even use the DualSense motion controls to adjust the pitch of the flute. Thankfully, the motion controls aren’t intrusive and easy to execute. In addition, there’s also a variety of archery challenges that require shooting lanterns under a time limit. Perhaps the best addition to the optional landmarks are the memories. When Jin discovers those areas, a flashback sequence occurs where he reminisces his time with his father. Memories are optional content but they are a wonderful reward to those who enjoy exploring. Lastly there are shrines with some Easter egg rewards that would definitely make longtime PlayStation fans happy.

There are also other minor additions to combat. Jin’s trusty steed gets a charge attack that is perfect for smashing through enemies in one fell swoop. The horse, however, drains the resolve meter fast and therefore charging has its limits. A new enemy type, the shamans, are also a new obstacle in Jin’s path. These enemies often situate themselves behind enemy lines and empower them by chanting. Dealing with buffed opponents and struggling to find the shaman adds a new challenge to combat. The adventure on Iki Island alone is much more challenging, which is definitely appreciated.

Probably the only minor drawback in terms of additions are some of the grappling hook puzzles. Most of the time, Jin would use his hook to attach to a bamboo wall, and holding the other trigger for a few seconds to break it apart. Considering the hook was one of the best traversal mechanics in the main game, it’s a shame it’s wasn’t utilized as well here. Thankfully, these segments don’t impede the adventure often. At the very least, the haptic feedback on the DualSense does make those moment feel tactile.

This brings us to the more technical analysis of this review: The PlayStation 5 factor. As a swan song game for the PS4, Ghost of Tsushima pushed the envelope in many aspects. Shortly after the launch of the PS5, the game received a dedicated update that doubled the game’s performance. The update managed to make an already stunning game become smoother thanks to the 60fps boost. Sucker Punch even introduced the amazing Legends multiplayer that allowed up to four players to band together in a variety of challenges. Best of all, this content was free for all players.

This is why people felt sucker punched, for a lack of a better term, that the Director’s Cut content is $19.99. In addition to Iki Island, players can also receive the Legends co-op mode, developers’ commentary, and other in-game items. However, for an additional $10, players can get the native PS5 version of the Director’s Cut. The PS5 version offers two graphical modes: “higher resolution” has the game run at 4K resolution while hovering under 60fps, whereas “better frame rate” has the game run at 1800p while performing at a more steady 60fps. For most, both modes would be a major improvement than any of the PS4 models.

Running the PS4 version on PS5, however, proves to be just a minor boost. Since the PS4 version can now hit 60fps on PS5, albeit on a lower resolution, the graphical difference may not be enough to warrant the upgrade. There are some other benefits like the aforementioned DualSense features, faster loading times, and fully lip-synced Japanese dialogue. Those additions are small in the grand scheme of things, especially since the load times in the original weren’t very long, but are still welcome.

Whether you are a squire or a samurai lord, Ghost of Tsushima is still as excellent as it was a year ago. If you haven’t played the game before and are debating if to pick up the PS5 version at full price, I’d still recommended it. The sheer amount of content from the main game, the expansion island, and the fantastic multiplayer make it a worthwhile purchase. For previous owners, I can see why the PS5 upgrade price of $29.99 is a tall order. The graphical upgrade isn’t major, the adventure isn’t very long, and the other haptics are more gimmicks than anything. For those who hesitate, maybe wait for a discount. If the upgrade asking price was a bit cheaper, I’d argue that Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut contains one of the best add-ons in recent memory.

Final Score: 9.5 out of 10

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