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Ghost of Tsushima is Sony’s last big exclusive for the PlayStation 4, debuting July 17. It’s a complicated open world game, so we’ve provided our best tips and tricks that can keep you on the right path.
Ghost of Tsushima is a samurai action-adventure game from Seattle’s Sucker Punch Studios, the developer that made other PlayStation exclusives like the Sly Cooper and Infamous series. I find the easiest way to describe it is that it’s like stepping into an Akira Kurosawa samurai film (like the Seven Samurai or Ran).
It’s set in 1274 in Japan during the first Mongol invasion. You play as Jin Sakai, a samurai lord who eventually becomes known as the Ghost. Sucker Punch previously made Infamous: Second Son, one of the earliest exclusives on the PS4 in 2014.
I’ve kept this story as free of spoilers as possible, but the advice still holds for a lot of situations. I played it on normal. Jin Sakai is one of the defenders of Tsushima Island during the invasion. He joins Lord Shimura in the disastrous samurai charge at Komodo Beach, where the Mongols hopelessly outnumber the Japanese. The Mongols led by Khotun Khan win and subjugate the island. Jin survives as he is rescued by a thief named Yuna, but Lord Shimura is captured. The main objective of the first act of the game is to retake Castle Kaneda, the main castle in southern Tsushima. Then there are two more acts, all in the name of expunging the Mongols from Tsushima. Here are our tips and tricks on how to play the game.
There are some spoilers, but we’ve tried to minimize those –Ed.
Master the combat
Ghosts of Tsushima is far more forgiving in combat than Souls games like Sekiro. But you should remember how to fight each type of enemy, including brutes, sword-fighters, armored shield bearers, and lance/spear fighters. When a spear fighter lunges at you and an orange light flashes, you can’t block that attack, unless you’ve picked up a skill much later in the game. You have to dodge with the Circle button or try to jump out of the way with the X button. You can use a quick attack to counter with the Square button, or launch a heavy sword attack with the Triangle button. These buttons won’t work for you every time, as you have to get your timing right in blocking attacks or lunging at enemies.
As you level up, you can learn new combos that will help you. If you defeat the boss Yasuhira Koga, you can access the Heavenly Strike attack by hitting the Triangle and Circle buttons simultaneously. This uses some of your Resolve, but it also unleashes an unblockable attack that will come in handy in fights with later bosses such as Ryuzo.
P.S.: Don’t use the Triangle button to try to mount your horse, as you will take a swing at it. Use the right trigger (R2) instead.
Pick up resources
Always remember to scrounge for resources like supplies, consumable weapons such as Kunai throwing blades, bamboo (which you can grab while still riding your horse), animal skins, and other things that you can trade. You can use these to upgrade your armor, your blades, your vanity clothes, and many other things. Enemies often give up useful resources once you’ve killed them. Always go to the top of guard towers and inside buildings and other unexpected corners to find the goodies. You can use flowers to buy clothes and other vanity gear.
Play the map
Mike Minotti, who reviewed Ghost of Tsushima for GamesBeat, found the game resembled the open worlds of Ubisoft titles like Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. If you’re ever unsure of what to do next, you’ll see tasks to do on the map. You can zoom in or zoom out to see strategic objectives more easily using the right stick. It’s always best to pursue the missions on as straight a path as possible, but there are a wide variety of smaller objectives or side quests you can pursue that are almost as fulfilling as the main missions. Masako’s tale, for instance, has nine missions, and it gets particularly heated when she and Jin have their differences.
Follow the Divine Wind
The Divine Wind, or kamikaze, was revered in Japan for saving the country from the Mongols. Sucker Punch has woven that myth into the game as the spirit of Jin Sakai’s father. Whenever you have a mission to head toward on the map, the wind will appear and blow in the correct direction that you must go. It’s like having a minimap guide without the minimap, and it’s one of the fine design points of Ghost of Tsushima. The only problem is the wind will sometimes blow right in the direction of an impossible mountain or waterfall. The Divine Wind, of course, came to be controversial in later Japanese history during World War II, with the advent of kamikaze attacks. But there’s nothing evil about it in this game.
Use fast travel
You’ll find that many places where you’ve already trodden will open up to you via fast travel. While Tsushima’s landscapes are beautiful, you won’t enjoy riding your horse over and over through some areas. So if you need to cross the whole map, it’s easier to find a place you can visit on fast travel and then vastly shorten that trip to your final destination.
Find the story’s missing threads
Sometimes you’ll see story beats disappear from the map, like the next side quest in Masako’s multi-part tale or the monk’s tale. As a result, I didn’t finish all of those missions until after I finished the main campaign for Jin. But they are easy to find if you look at the menu for story missions once in a while, as you can connect to those missions directly from that menu.
Leave difficult tasks for later
If you’re expecting a big challenge in taking over castles or confronting Mongol leaders in the big campaign, you can make your character stronger by tackling a lot of the side quests. The game is good about giving you bite-sized missions that give you resources, experience, and better combat effectiveness over time. The big challenges are taking over Castle Kaneda, Castle Shimura, and the final push at the end.
Combat gets easier
At first, I had trouble fighting bosses like Kaga, or even the routine spear enemies or brutes with giant maces. But as I leveled up my character and got the right sword stances to take them on properly, the fighting got much easier. You just have to make sure you level up your weapons as much as possible and always remember to take out leaders of the Mongols so you can advance. You can learn various deflection techniques. If you do a “perfect parry,” you may be able to inflict Terrify on enemies, making them panic, drop their weapons, or just run away. You can also pick up techniques such as deflecting arrows with your sword or parrying an unblockable attack.
Always use your Kunai knives
The best of the Ghost weapons are your Kunai blades, which are small knives you can throw like darts. You can use them in stealth to bring down multiple guards at once or just stun enemies so you can close in on them with finishing blows. These are great ways to tilt a big melee with multiple enemies in your favor. They’re also great for stealth missions where it’s hard to sneak up on an enemy unseen. You can replenish the knives by making sure you’re always picking up supplies. It’s great to level up this capability so you can throw as many as five knives at once.
Use your Ghost weapons
I’ve already mentioned the Kunai. But you can earn a number of other Ghost stealth weapons over time. The most valuable of these is the Wind Chime, which you toss in order to distract an enemy to investigate the spot where you throw the chime. It helps you take out guards in stealth, particularly when there are multiple guards together. You can also get smoke bombs, firecracker distractions, small grenades dubbed black powder bombs, and sticky bombs. This makes your character more like a ninja than a samurai, but that’s part of the storyline.
Equip your charms
The Omamori charms are accessories that can gain you special abilities in battle or in searching for things on the world map. You can find them at Shinto shrines but they are scattered throughout the map. You can unlock more charm slots for your swords if you follow foxes to the Inari shrines hidden in the map. These charms give you better health, weapons, or the chance to strike fear in your enemies. Sadly, there aren’t enough slots to use many of the charms.
Improve your resolve
Resolve is a measure of your skill in combat. It captures your reserve of willpower that you’re able to tap in order to defeat your enemies. You start small, but add levels as you gain experience from fighting. It measures how much damage you can take and still stay standing to fight. It appears in combat as yellow circles. You can spend Resolve to gain health, but you only get a few chances to do that. You gain resolve by successfully killing enemies or parrying their attacks. You can gain Resolve in standoffs, where you square off in a duel against one enemy (or later in the game). If you win the duel, you gain Resolve.
Use your samurai stance
If you’re leveling up, you should always make sure to take down Mongol leaders. When you do, you get points toward unlocking a new stance, which gives you the ability to penetrate the defenses of specific targets. The Moon Stance is effective against big brutes. This means that if you launch a heavy attack with the triangle, odds are good that you’ll bust through the defenses of the enemy.
Practice bamboo strikes
I found that striking the bamboo, or chopping through multiple stalks in a single strike, to be really difficult. At first, you have to press three buttons to cut through three bamboo stalks. But then it goes to five stalks and five button pushes, and you have to get the button pushes in the right order. Finally, you have to cut seven stalks, which requires a mastery of the controller that I rarely had patience for. I managed to cut seven stalks just once in the game. But that gave me an extra resolve point, which was critical in helping Jin survive difficult boss battles.
Find the Fox Dens
You need all of the help you can get early on. You can add to your capabilities with charms. And to unlock more charm slots, you can visit Fox Den areas and follow the cute fox to an Inari shrine. If you do that enough, you can unlock a new charm slot.
Speaking of collectibles, there are lots of things that you can collect, including records, banners, Mongol artifacts, vanity gear, and the list goes on as the virtual world of Tsushima feels endless.
Take a break in an onsen
If you find a hot springs pool, you can go into it and expand Jin’s health bar by a small amount. You also get to see Jin naked from the back side, sort of. (Some people might get excited about this, as it’s the only naked thing you’ll find in the game).
You’ll eventually want to find ways to divert yourself in the game. Haiku spots are one way to do that. You can go to these spots and find a little peace. You can look around the landscape and pick a line presented to you as a piece of a short haiku poem. Once you’re done, Jin reads the haiku aloud.
Level up for standoffs
Standoffs are the honorable way that a samurai approaches an enemy camp. You challenge their best fighter to a duel, and if you win, you can strike fear into the hearts of the remaining enemies. You have to be able to release your blade (holding down triangle) before your enemy does. You can’t fall for their false lunges or you lose. There really isn’t a consequence for losing this standoff. But if you win, you can take out one, two, or even three enemies with very little effort. But as noted, you can level up your standoffs over time.
Try out Kurosawa mode
This is a dramatic black-and-white mode that reminds us of Akira Kurosawa’s films such as The Seven Samurai. It’s the same game, played in black-and-white. All those beautiful colors disappear, but you’ll feel like you’re in a movie. Just note that it becomes harder to find some icons in the world, such as the icons that tell you what part of the story is coming next. The wind effects are also more severe.
Chains are good
You can level up to chain kills in standoffs, chain assassinations, and chain kills in battle. Don’t forget this can be a big help in crowds, and it can strike fear in witnesses.
You can change the difficulty mode from Easy to Normal to Hard at any time. It affects only combat. If you’re in a tough boss fight with a swordmaster, you can lower the difficulty for just that fight. I played it on normal and had to do that with one of the boss fights. But later on, it felt like the fighting got too easy when I was more powerful.
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