Have you ever felt guilty for actions that most would consider nice? I have.
Yesterday, I was at my local Gamestop with a recently refilled stash of cash. I had intentions to expand my PS5 library with inexpensive PS4 games (For those curious, I bought Tekken 7, WipEout Omega Collection, and Metal Wolf Chaos XD) when I ran into a couple who probably had the same intentions as I. This couple included a man who’s appearance lacked so many distinctive features I could only describe him as “white”. He picked up a new copy of Sucker Punch’s 2020 game Ghost of Tsushima. I could tell the man was somewhat interested, but was wary. The only copy GameStop was carrying was one new copy of the PS4 version of the Directors Cut, and this man was probably looking for a better deal. However, I felt the need to do a little bit of trolling.
Days prior to this Gamestop event, the new Among Us update had come out. I felt the need to be delightfully devilish that night, and I had a surprise prepared for my unsuspecting friends.
I now present, the host of the 2021 Game Awards:
I had unlocked this mask through a somewhat complicated series of tasks involving watching the entirety of one of the off events that are hosted on the Game Awards twitch channel, and then connecting my Twitch account to the game itself. I had one goal that night, and that was to channel my inner Geoff Keighley and do some pro bono advertising of the next game awards. My strategy was simple: I just join lobbies, introduce myself erroneously as “Geoff Kneighly” without an extra E in his last name, and advertise a game that I thought would be a contender for Game of the Year 2021. According to myself, that game ended up being Sucker Punch’s Ghost of Tsushima, a game who’s release disqualifies itself from winning game of the year for 2021 by coming out a year too early. I didn’t know that!. I had only gotten my PlayStation 5 this year, and I was #TeamXbox the console generation prior. However, this error on my part still left results of the hilarious variety.
But now, days after my 2021 Game Awards Advertising, I was in a GameStop. White dude with Ghost of Tsushima in hand, I felt a divine obligation to shill this game. I told him “The game rocks dude, and the director’s cut comes with the Iki Island expansion” he responded with “I don’t know if I’ll do the Iki Island expansion” I retorted “You can start it as soon as you get to the second act!”
With a big smile on his face, he and his girlfriend went to the register, and went home with what I considered to be the best game of the year. This is where guilt finally settled in. You see, as much as I love Ghost of Tsushima, I definitely have some issues with the game and its design. I wasn’t being honest with myself by telling that white man that “The game rocks” without mentioning how much this game didn’t rock. That white man probably went home, and will now have to install Ghost of Tsushima on his PlayStation 4 only to be met with a game that I honestly think some people will only consider “okay”, and maybe even that it’s not a Game of the Year contender. To this, I felt the need to write this article. The purpose of these upcoming tips is to help players who have just started or have yet to play Ghost of Tsushima, although they might benefit you if you are not acting like a garbage collector and not exploring every inch of the in-game map, or if maybe you just don’t like some aspects of this game. I should also clarify that some of these tips will have detailed explanations, and I’m going to ask that you open your mind and let me explain my thoughts through this artistic medium. With that out of the way, let’s begin.
1. Don’t pick your horse while Kurosawa Mode is enabled.
In the opening sections of the game before you’re free to explore Tsushima Island, you have to choose a Horse who’s assigned to be your buddy. This horse can be teleported to you from anywhere in the world by harnessing the magic of Dr. Watson. You get to choose from 3 varieties of horses. But by having the Director’s Cut edition, the game rewards you for owning an elusive PlayStation 5 by giving you what I like to call “Pre-order goodies”. This includes a set of armor, an exclusive saddle color, and most importantly for this tip, an extra horse option to choose at the beginning of the game. However, there is a very big issue if you were to start this game with Kurosawa Mode enabled.
When starting Ghost of Tsushima, you are met with some options that can be toggled on or off. These include:
- Japanese Audio
- Kurosawa Mode
Kurosawa Mode is a mode dedicated to the film director Akira Kurosawa. In this mode, all wind effects are cranked to the max, Japanese Subtitles are turned on, the game audio feels like it is being played out of your grandfather’s old television with the twisty dials, and most importantly: the game is displayed in Black and White with a film grain filter. This means when you choose your horse, instead of being able to choose from Brown, White, Black, and the exclusive Director’s Cut color, you get light grey, grey, dark grey, and black. Now, I thought it was quite humorous to have to choose a horse color when I was essentially color blind, but I went with a safe option and attempted to choose the black horse.
This was when the game yelled at me. An in-game text box popped up, asking “Are you sure you want the black horse? You bought the director’s cut, why not choose the director’s cut exclusive horse color?”. Much like that white man from GameStop, I caved in and selected what the game called “Golden Buckskin” only because someone else told me to do it. Still entertained by the silly situation this was, I was enjoying my Kurosawa Mode playthrough. You know who wasn’t enjoying my Kurosawa Mode playthrough? My best friend Nick. He could not stand the audio quality from having Kurosawa Mode enabled. I didn’t want to torture him and his irreplaceable eardrums, so I told him I would switch to regular color mode once the game title appeared. I timed this moment just right, quickly pausing and switching the color mode back right as the name of the game I was playing popped up. But while I had meant for this to be an epic moment, it was quickly brought down by the true nature of my horse’s color.
Now, I know what you might be saying. “This horse looks just normal!”, “What’s wrong with the horse?” or maybe even “That looks like the horse from Spirit”. I understand where you’re coming from but I’m sorry, I don’t like it. It looks sickly, and I felt bad for riding on it. And now I’m stuck with the knowledge that my horse will look like this throughout the rest of my adventure. Even if I were to turn Kurosawa mode back on, I would still remember how my horse looks like a potato with legs, and I really didn’t want to restart the story just to get a second chance of renaming my horse. You theoretically can take someone elses horse and just ride that, but eventually your actual horse will find you. It always does.
If you like this horse color, that is fine! But what I wanted for you to understand from this tip is that you should always go on with life while making informed decisions. Do not be like me and only make decisions that others tell you without doing your own research and forming your own opinions. That, or maybe just be smart and look at what color horse you want in color mode, and then turn Kurosawa mode back on like I should have done. Or if you are color blind, disregard this tip in its entirety, although I would still ask you to take to heart my lesson on informed decisions. It’s a good life tip, as well as the first tip to start playing Ghosts of Tsushima.
2. Play the Game with English Audio.
I know there are some people out there who enjoy Japanese media such as anime with the original Japanese audio. I understand if you have issues with English dub actors or you just prefer the performances of certain Japanese voice actors. However, I want to make the case that you should play this game with English subtitles on for your first playthrough. Ghost of Tsushima has a very good story that’s driven by it’s characters, but the difference between watching an anime subtitled while playing a game subtitled is very similar to the difference between texting while sitting and texting while driving.
Ghost of Tsushima is a very pretty game, but it’s also an open world game where you are going to be walking and driving around with other characters, and there are going to be many times where characters will talk to you while you are moving in game. Since you are wandering around on dangerous Mongolian controlled roads, you’re gonna have to focus on the road at hand most of the time. You shouldn’t text and drive, you shouldn’t drive a mountain bike made of meat called a horse while texting either. I know you think you can do it, but it’s better for you and the people around you if you don’t.
I should clarify that I’m not saying you shouldn’t enjoy all video games with Japanese audio and English subtitles. I want to specifically make the case that Ghost of Tsushima’s gameplay involving riding along its large environment might lead the player to missing out on character conversations that happen while on horseback. The developers of the game put a lot of different distractions that the player will have to notice while on a horse, from Mongolians to golden eagles and even your travelers attire bugging you with a firefly infecting your controller vibration. I just think Ghost of Tsushima’s story and character dialog is quite enjoyable, and I don’t want the player to miss out on anything.
Also, this is a game developed in America first and foremost, and this is most evident by the fact that the Japanese audio isn’t synced to the English acting if you play this game on PS4 (Although just because you own a PS5 doesn’t mean you’re allowed to text and drive either). If you truly want to hear the Japanese cast of Ghost of Tsushima shine, I’d recommend doing so on a second playthrough. Or you could just learn Japanese! It’s helpful if you want to expand your palette for Japanese Media. It can’t be that hard right?
3. Turn On Armor Loadouts.
In Ghost of Tsushima, you will unlock a variety of different armors, each providing their own benefits. However, I will be honest and say that I’m not a really big fan of how armor was implemented into this game. While each set of armor is specialized in one aspect, there really isn’t one set of armor that works for every situation. I found myself entering battles wearing one armor, then quickly switching to another set once the situation changed. This could be switching from a set of stealth armor to a set of armor that allows you to kill 3 extra people in a stand-off. It’s honestly quite annoying, and I wish that the game would either let me quickly switch between armor without having to pause, or have armor be cosmetic and come with modular buffs that can be applied separately from charms. Either way, the game is what it is, and you’re most likely going to play in a similar fashion to myself, switching constantly from different armor sets to best match the situation you need.
However, to make the best of this, you should take a trip down to the settings and find the toggle for armor loadouts. With this option enabled, you can assign all of the charms you have found throughout your journey to specific armors, meaning that you can create armor sets that excel in their aspects. For example, there’s an armor set in game that’s made to stagger enemies, opening them up to being damaged. You can assign charms that directly affect how much damage you can do to an opponent’s guard meter, and charms that’ll give you unique effects such as making your attacks uninterruptible for 6 seconds after staggering an opponent. Because of how often you’ll be switching up your style in this game, you should take full advantage of this loadout feature in the settings menu.
4. Don’t Start Playing Dragon Quest 11 while playing Ghost of Tsushima.
While playing Ghost of Tsushima, I had simultaneously started another game called Dragon Quest 11S: Echoes of an Elusive Age. In that game, you have a horse. It’s mostly useless, the player character in that game can run very fast with his buddies following behind him. I guess if you really want to go somewhere quickly, the horse is an option but from someone who has just started playing the game, I don’t find much reason to use the horse (Follow me on Twitter @GojiraMikey if this is an epic Doge moment!).
However, there is a reason I bring this up while writing a Ghost of Tsushima article. In Dragon Quest 11S, you interact with NPCs by walking up to them and pressing the triangle button. This is also how you mount your horse in that game.
In Ghost of Tsushima, the Triangle button is the Heavy Slash button.
I gasped in horror the first time I thought I accidentally killed my horse. Sure I’ve felt bad about accidentally making too large a jump with my horse and making it stumble, but accidentally slitting its throat feels so much worse. Luckily for you, your horse is made out of a strong material called invincible and will not take damage from your own attacks. It will run away, but you can recall it back by whistling again. This is probably why the interact button in Ghost of Tsushima is the right trigger instead of the heavy slash button, the developers probably didn’t want me accidentally chopping up innocent civilians trying to talk to them. If you are already playing Dragon Quest 11S, I’m so sorry for your horse. My only advice is to not name it Nobu (Trust) during the beginning of the game. You can no longer be trusted to harm your horse.
5 and 6. Find the Charm of Inari as soon as possible. (And Defeat all the Strongholds).
Do you remember in the opening of this article where I said this task might benefit those who haven’t been playing this game like a garbage collector? I feel the need to elaborate on that sentence, as I think it deserves some explanation.
Ghost of Tsushima is a big open world game, and scattered throughout the world are places such as vanity items, power-up spots like Hot Springs, Bamboo Strikes, and Fox Dens, shops, and optional side quest locations. However, the map is mostly obscured by a big fog of war that is only uncovered by exploring. This isn’t really like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild either where you can find tall vantage points and scout for locations that you haven’t been before. You’re gonna have to manually explore most of the map yourself, and if you’re like me this might dissuade you from wanting to find all of the collectables.
However, this could mean that you miss out on charms that would greatly benefit you throughout your journey. Specifically, the Charm of Inari is one of the best charms out of all the charms in the base game that can be found within the first act of the story. The charm of Inari in game effect reads “Increases supplies, predator hides, bamboo, and yew wood gained from collecting.”. This message is honestly a bit of an understatement, as this charm is essentially a Buy One Get One free coupon on all materials. The game will double up every instance of the player gathering supplies and predator hides, so finding one sack of 5x Supplies will be followed up with another sack of 4-7x supplies. When I found this charm, I will be honest and say that I was holding off on completing all the Shrines in the game until near the end of the base game, and I felt like a big idiot when I found this charm in the starting map from Act 1.
I cannot understate that this charm is so good, that it’s making me consider playing the game with it again just to see how effective it is when you have it from the start. If you want to avoid similar situations to this, I also recommend that you clear out stronghold/Mongol Camps as soon as you find one. Clearing Mongol Camps will clear a big circle out of the fog and will reveal nearby undiscovered places such as shrines. Clearing all of the Camps/Strongholds in one of 3 main areas will actually lift the fog from the entirety of that section of the map, and will show everything that you have yet to discover. I recommend you do this if you enjoy the perk in Fallout New Vegas that shows every unique location on your map, it definitely made exploring more digestible to me.
7. Complete some of the Iki Island content as soon as you can. (But don’t complete it).
I have to preface this tip with the following: I waited until after I completed the main story to do the Iki Island content. My reasoning for doing so was that I didn’t feel right to just leave Tsushima in the middle of the story to help a different island. I felt the same way about having Batman in the Justice League honestly, like man you should focus on Gotham City and it’s crime, you don’t need to save the rest of the world as well.
Back on topic, I sorta regret not doing at least some of the content of Iki before moving onto the second act, as the new content you get from this DLC is honestly quite great. There’s some really damn good charms and bonuses that carry over to the base game such as the ability to charge into enemies with your horse. However, some of the enemies in the expansion are very hard. On Iki, you’ll be fighting a variety of enemies from different acts (Tiered by Plain, Red, Blue, Yellow, Green) as well as a new type of enemy (purple). The yellow, green, and purple goons are very tough, and I’m not sure if Iki island content scales with the player’s power level. Also, the story for Iki really does feel like you’re meant to play it after you’ve completed the main story, so there’s good reason to hold it off until then. After doing a couple of quests in Iki, you’re able to fast travel freely between the two islands, so I think it should be safe to dabble in a little bit of Iki and move back into the story.
DM the Story Arc Twitter if I am completely wrong about this!
“Oh wait, you can’t”
8. Don’t eat all of your Pizza in one sitting (This game is long!).
This is some good health advice as well as good advice for playing Ghost of Tsushima. According to my save files, Ghost of Tsushima took me about 53 hours to complete, taking only 43 in order to complete the base game. During this time, I completed all of the side quests, found all of the fox dens, pillars of honor, haiku spots, hot springs, and completed all of the shrines. I did not find all of the banners, records, or Mongol artifacts in both the base game and the Iki Island expansion. Now, let’s split my Ghost of Tsushima sessions into days. It took me 2 days and 5 hours to complete Ghost of Tsushima. However, since I am not a robot, but a human that really loves to sleep a lot, let’s just split my playtime into 5 hour gaming sessions. That means it took me about 11 days to beat Ghost of Tsushima.
Now, I know there are some gamers reading this article and I have to say, if you’re a pizza connoisseur like me, you really oughta restrain yourself. I won’t lie and say I don’t guzzle the occasional whole pizza every once in a while but you really oughta watch yourself man. One pizza can theoretically feed you in small amounts 8 different times. If you buy yourself a pizza, let’s say the Mix and Match deal from Domino’s that can have 2 pizzas for $5.99 each, that’s 16 meals that can sustain you for your Ghost of Tsushima experience, or 8 meals if you eat 2 slices at once. It’s better for you to divide that pizza up, I don’t care if you’re not full, eat an apple if you’re still hungry! Your future self will thank you, if you haven’t killed him from pepperoni overdose.
Like I have.
With that, I am all out of the advice I have to give for Ghost of Tsushima. If that white guy from GameStop is reading this, I hope this will help you along your journey, and that you don’t feel like you wasted $60 bucks at GameStop just for me. Special thanks to Geoff Kneighley, for using divine intervention to help me create this article.
If you’re interested in more of my opinions, you can follow me on twitter.com/GojiraMikey. I’m very much into game dev and visual design, and I’m a big fan of Japanese franchises such as Gundam and Yu-Gi-Oh!.