Aug 30, 2021

NextGen Take: Ghost of Tsushima Director's Cut

Three things I like about this game, and two I don't

Ghost of Tsushima Director's Cut

By Paul Hunter

Last summer was an absolute treat for PlayStation gamers: Sony gave us The Last of Us Part II and Ghost of Tsushima back to back in June/July. And while the debate over which GOTY-worthy title is better rages on (I vote TLOU2) I think most of us can agree that both games are top-quality gaming experiences.

This summer, Sucker Punch is elevating Ghost of Tsushima with a Director's Cut version offering substantial new story content, and on PS5, plenty of exclusive features. This enhanced edition also includes the full original game, plus the free Legends online multiplayer DLC. With all that in mind, it's time to set sail for Iki Island to discuss PlayStation Studio's latest offering—here are three things I liked about the game...and two I didn't.



Liked: The Animal Sanctuaries


Ghost of Tsushima's biggest draw, at least in my opinion, is simply being in this breathtaking world. From the incredibly vibrant sunsets to the Shinto shrines, pampas grass and cherry blossoms, few games can even come close to Tsushima's beauty. Nature plays such an important component that Sucker Punch's Environment Art Lead, Joanna Wang, even said they consider it a "living character".

New in Ghost of Tsushima Director's Cut are animal sanctuaries, and for me, they were the best new addition and deepened my immersion in the stunning new Iki Island. You can find three sanctuaries each for monkeys, deer and cats all scattered around the island. Once discovered you'll need to play soothing flute music to charm and tame the animals, and this is done using the PS5 DualSense motion controls.
Rivalling the superb implementations in Returnal and Astro's Playroom, Sucker Punch went all out with among the most immersive DualSense feature uses yet on PS5.
It's a simple, thoughtful minigame and as a reward you'll be able to pet and feed the animals anytime you wish. Perhaps it's because I'm so used to our hectic, tech-heavy lives, but I found these tender and touching animal moments to remind me just how disconnected we can be from nature. No matter what kind of day I've had, petting a monkey or cat is one of those "aww..." moments we all need. If you're a photo mode user you're in for an even greater treat since you can capture the cutest interactions like softly petting a deer's fur or having a cat snuggle up and lick Jin's arm. It's so fun!

Liked: The PS5 DualSense Integration


As much as I love my PS5 console, the DualSense controller is even better. When developers fully embrace the controller's unique features like the haptic feedback and adaptive triggers, magic happens. And that's exactly what you'll find in the Director's Cut.

Rivalling the superb implementations in Returnal and Astro's Playroom, Sucker Punch went all out with among the most immersive DualSense feature uses yet on PS5. My favourite is how Jin's guiding wind (performed by swiping up on the touch pad) literally blows straight through your controller. And the air gust sensation perfectly replicates the wind movement on-screen: If your target location is eastward you'll feel a rumble sensation moving from left to right (i.e. west to east) straight through the controller.

The wind gusts are just the beginning, too. Every action can be felt through the controller from the clashes of samurai blades, to Jin's steady footsteps and the intense gallops while riding his horse. You can even feel the flute music I mentioned earlier while calming your new pets.

The adaptive triggers are used to amazing effect too, especially the resistance felt as you draw back Jin's bow. The longer your press the trigger the more resistance is felt, which again serves to draw you deeper into the combat experience. My favourite use of the adaptive triggers though is when you use your grappling hook to latch onto barricades and rip them down. The triggers lock up up as you pull, flawlessly mimicking Jin's increasing muscle tension. It's just so incredible in your hands and reconfirms that the DualSense is the real next-gen.

Liked: Exploring this Beautiful World


Dare I say that Iki Island is even more gorgeous than the main Tsushima setting? It's true, at least in my eyes. Perhaps it's because the team at Sucker Punch has had an extra year to hone their craft creating environments within the Tsushima world or maybe it's the power of the PS5 that draws out the better visuals. Regardless, the Director's Cut looks absolutely pristine and Iki Island in particular is simply breathtaking to behold.

Above and beyond the visuals, Iki is such a dense island ripe for exploration. There's everything you like from the main campaign—more hot springs, Shinto shrines, lighthouses, bamboo strikes and haikus—plus new activities to partake in.

The best addition is the Bokken Tournaments where you dual against four fighters, one at a time, using wooden katanas. Anything goes in these matches too, so you can kick or shove your opponents and one enemy devilishly loves kicking up sand in your face. What's cool about these tournament matches is each fighter has a weakness you must discover and exploit, like one swordsman where dodge strikes work best and another where you need to time perfect parries.

I also really enjoy the new Archery Challenges that has you shoot down a number of far-away targets in a matter of seconds. They're extremely difficult to beat—at least at first—but eventually you'll gain armour and a charm that improves your concentration, allowing you to slow down time while you strike targets. It's another showcase of the PS5 DualSense since you'll need to pay close attention to the trigger resistance in order to fire arrows at the correct strength and hit targets of varying distances. Getting a gold result in these challenges (done by hitting all targets under 8 seconds) is so satisfying!


Didn't Like: The Frequent Hallucinations (minor spoiler warning!)


Ghost of Tsushima Director's Cut main draw for most players will obviously be the new story content—who wouldn't want to explore more of Jin's tale? This time, you'll face a new antagonist called The Eagle who's a master of hallucinogenic drinks, of which Jin unfortunately falls victim too.

You'll spend the rest of your time on Iki having increasingly lucid nightmares that show up during predefined cutscenes as well as organically while you're simply exploring the island. It's the latter that I found interupted the game flow at times—you could be scaling a picturesque cliffside or galloping on horse through a valley of flowers only to have these visually impressive sequence somewhat ruined when Jin has a twisted delusion of memories past.

In defense of the sinister illusions, I will say narratively they're effective. You get the sense Jin is suffering and the spontaneous nature of the hallucinations means you're never truly safe. They effectively propel the story on Iki Island and give you a sense of urgency to find a cure. Ultimately, it's not that I hated the dark illusions, it's just I found they took away from the island's beauty at times. But hey, at least the hallucinations looked cool with their black and purple palette and they brought the Legends multiplayer vibe into the main game.

Didn't Like: The Story Length


All considered, the Iki Island expansion takes at least 10 hours to complete, if not reaching towards the 12-hour mark. But unfortunately, the story component is only about 3-4 hours of that time spanning eight main missions. It's a good story though, and particularly important for fans that want to dig deeper into Jin's past. And for a DLC expansion, three hours is fairly common so I can't really knock it too much in that regard—but selfishly I still wanted more.

I suppose my desire for more story content stems from just how engaged I got with Iki's new characters, like Tenzo the raider and his leader Fune. There's also the Mongol shaman Eagle who is interesting with her evil mind games, making for a great villain. However, by the time I was really invested in these characters the story was already wrapping up.

When it comes down to it, I would have preferred to have some of the exploration elements scaled back for even another hour or so of story content. For instance, there's quite a few side quests where you help regular Iki civilians, and while they're heartwarming, I would have easily given up most of them for even one or two more main missions. I guess I'm just a huge fan of this franchise and never want the story moments to end!

The Verdict


Ghost of Tsushima is a must-play title, so if you missed it last year then nothing should stop you from picking up the enhanced Director's Cut. For fans of the original, you'll absolutely want to revisit this incredible game world to see all the new content. Sucker Punch is such a quality developer and you can tell every inch of Iki Island was created with love and authenticity.

The Director's Cut is so incredible it's a shame DLC typically is never considered for end of the year awards. Because this expansion is easily making my list of best game experiences of the year, it's that good. PlayStation fans are used to getting a steady flow of quality titles, but even by Sony's high standards, Ghost of Tsushima Director's Cut ranks among their best of all time.


Final Score: 9.5/10 - Amazing


Ghost of Tsushima Director's Cut details


Platform: PS5, PS4
Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Genre: Action-adventure
Modes: Single-player, multiplayer
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)


A code for the game was provided by the publisher.