We analyze the work of the creators of Infamous, Sucker Punch, in what will be the foreseeable end point of PS4 games
Sucker Punch was the spearhead of the current generation with Infamous Second Son, one of the first PS4 exclusives and a game that was touted as one of the faces of what the machine could do. The title had brilliant graphic detail and was effective in illustrating some facets of the current generation, but it generated mixed reviews. A world too big for its content, lack of variety and life on stage, too long for its own benefit and a protagonist who made some people want to beat up on some occasions were some of their crosses. Interestingly, the studio subsequently released Last Light, a standalone expansion that worked significantly better than the original game thanks to more focused content and a protagonist that was easier to connect with. From there, silence until the official announcement of Ghost of Tsushima in late 2017 in Paris, which has kept him in the limelight for just over two years, including a major presence at E3 2018.
It has been a considerable time between projects, leaving Sucker Punch with the curious privilege of almost releasing this generation and dismissing it as its two brands in it, but it is evident that it is a time that has been dedicated to creating a work that raises the level of I study from love for Japan and samurai movies. From the hand of Suhei Yoshida, who played a key role in bringing the project to life before he left his position as head of world studies and with huge resources that are evident in the production values of the work in his All in all, the Washington studio completes its most ambitious bet, a title that is spectacular in some ways but also fails to achieve the excellence that the studio so desperately seeks.
Kamikaze, the wind of the gods
The game takes place on the island of Tsushima, a group of Japanese islands straddling Korea and Japan that were protagonists in the unsuccessful attempt at the Mongol invasion in 1274, one of the most decisive moments in Japan as a nation and the origin of the term “Kamikaze ”, The wind of the gods that helped sink the invading fleet and thus repel the then unstoppable hosts of Kublai Khan, who have just turned Korea into a vassal kingdom and aspired to complete their expansion to the east by conquering the land of the rising sun. From this historical reality they shape the figure of Jin Sakai, a samurai who is the last descendant of his clan who receives a blow of reality when he finds what it is to face an army not only superior in number and endowed with unknown war technology, but also one that is not governed by the honor codes of Japanese feudal warriors.
Starting from a teaching paid in blood, Jin little by little is getting rid of the chains with which he has grown up and thanks to which he has become the person he is. If the enemy is savage and uses the samurai way of fighting against him, he cannot afford to die “with honor” while enslaving his people and rampaging his birthplace, at any cost. Reluctantly but unstoppably he abandons the precepts of honor as he understands them to become the sinister figure of the “ghost” and inspire terror in his rivals based on effective but not at all honorable strategies based on rapid, unexpected and brutal attack. This duality between the samurai and the ghost will be one of the plot keys of the game, although not of the game mechanics.
There is no ying or yang
Despite this marked plot line between fighting as a samurai and as the ghost, at the moment of truth there is not such a substantial reality when it comes to fighting. It could be thought watching some of the previous videos that the evolution of the character is divided between both sensibilities, but the truth is that we can access the entire arsenal of Sakai without limitations or distinctions, only limited to our will for what we want to do at all times. . If we want to fight like a samurai, always from the front and announcing ourselves to the enemy, without executing from behind, equipped with heavy armor and without tricks, we can do it. If we want to stealth, using all the tricks we have, attacking from behind and other niceties, we can also do it, because throughout our adventure we can access all the points and all the necessary tools to develop both facets and do it at Will.
Perhaps from the logic of an RPG it would have been pertinent if there were a distinction between both styles, that we could only develop in one sense at the expense of the other or some reaction from the world around us, but it is clear that Ghost of Tsushima is presented as a game of action and does not limit the range of options of our character or what he can or cannot do depending on the “role” we want to give him. There is also no negative consequence in wearing one armor or the other – you might think that taking certain jumps that take the game is more difficult with full armor than with cloth clothing, but this is not the case here; the protagonist can move comfortably using any outfit and just pay attention to the kind of bonus offered by each outfit – and in the end you can even do without those extras for the sake of wearing the outfit you prefer. It is not a criticism, since the title is sold as an action adventure in the open world and it does not have to attend to these more specific considerations of the role, but it is a detail that is worth commenting to take into account.
The way of the sword
One way to define Ghost of Tsushima’s distinctly Japanese personality is in combat. It is a game that owes its maximum influences from samurai movies and therefore it is not worth that the protagonist dress as one and carry a katana. The way of fighting with it has its own aesthetic and mechanical connotations and that is something that is appreciated from the very beginning. It is remarkable the effort that has been put into recreating combat with this weapon, the animations, the way of moving and how the whole body accompanies the movements according to the weapon we are facing. The katana is the foundation stone of the action, here there is no variety of weapons to carry or anything similar, everything is centered around the legendary Japanese steel.
To ensure single-weapon combat is rich enough to support the entire game, the katana combat system is elaborate and features a tactical touch that keeps it interesting and varied throughout the game. As we play and eliminate or observe Mongol leaders, we unlock the four positions from which to deliver our blows, each with a variety of combinations and, most importantly, each particularly effective against certain types of enemies. It is not that you cannot defeat an enemy if you do not use the correct position, but it makes things easier to do so since you can break their defenses more quickly and since a quick change is used in real time -with the convenient slowdown-, we will achieve Better results if we change on the fly depending on the weapon and the type of enemy we have in front of each moment.
All this has its zenith in moments of individual duels, one-on-one combat against renowned enemies in which we will not be able to run away or use any of the tricks of Jin’s arsenal. A pure and hard combat of skill and reflexes in which some of the virtues of the proposed system are evident, such as the importance of measuring well the moment to block the rival attack, to be able to carry out a powerful counterattack, or the skill to avoid the rival At just the right moment, an attempt is made to reflect at different times the tension of handling a weapon known for its speed and lethality, in which a fight can be decided in moments.
The path of the ghost
On the pillar of the katana rest Jin’s other alternatives, who will add a varied arsenal of weapons and utensils that will make him more adaptable to the circumstances he will face. This companion arsenal is limited but easily replaceable and extremely useful in facilitating combat. The kunai, throwable blades, will allow to quickly end the annoying Mongolian dogs and can unbalance any enemy no matter how armored they are, allowing us to temporarily cancel their attacks and open a window of opportunity to launch a wave of attacks; the smoke bomb will allow us to hide again under the noses of the enemies, especially powerful if we expand our murder capacity to three enemies together. We also have a sticky bomb that can do significant damage to a host of enemies and a utensil that will catch the guards’ attention so that we can go the other way if we are looking for more pure infiltration. To all this we must add the use of the arch and a couple of other elements that will give us many options when planting in the Mongolian lands.
In practice, on normal difficulty it is difficult to face a large group of enemies head-on, although it is perfectly possible. Attack patterns are designed so that if you focus too much on one enemy, others attack you from the blind spot, while several enemies can launch almost simultaneous attacks, which ends up making it recommended that you use the mentioned tricks to avoid having multiple enemies Surrounding you – more than four is not usually a good idea and can put you on the spot unless you are well equipped to endure punishment. The other key is the “will”, which is what allows such important things as healing and also using special skills in the form of master techniques that significantly lower the general difficulty of the confrontations if you face the necessary missions to obtain them.
The will works based on your actions: add if you perfectly block the attack of an enemy, if you execute a Mongolian soldier to “end his suffering”, if you defeat enemies and other circumstances. With a complete unit we will be able to heal ourselves in the middle of combat, so it is important to stay on our feet, but it also allows us to use the master blows, which is surely our most powerful weapon: difficult or impossible to stop special blows that can destroy rivals complicated or leave them significantly weakened to finish them off. They are four and spectacular in their own measure, but the problem is that their power and the frequency and ease with which we can execute them ends up lowering the difficulty of the game. Before obtaining one, direct combat can be somewhat more complicated and tense, something that changes radically once you have a couple of master shots in your hands.
In general, the progression of the difficulty is somewhat rare, since at the beginning it is more complicated and as you play, despite the incorporation of more difficult varieties of enemies, the combat becomes easier after you use all the tools to your disposition, to the point that we remember more exciting battles at the beginning than at the end, a whole paradox in the default difficulty mode and something that should be somewhat toned down in a higher difficulty mode. In any case, we can confirm that it is not Sekiro either by requirement or by general difficulty, which surely will not surprise anyone.
Ghost of Tsushima is an open-ended game, leaving us complete freedom to march through Tsushima, although blocking some sections until completing certain key missions, which in turn depend on different preconditions. It is a clear structure, perhaps too much, in which the game is condensed into concrete narrative blocks that as a whole do not cover the breadth of the territory nor the average duration of the game. We are missing a bit more history, perhaps some secondary characters, more or more missions that have interesting content to give more packaging to the set. What is there is not bad, Jin is an interesting character in his contradictions and the stories with which he is surrounded are well carried -although there are moments of inconsistencies and gaps, in addition to not being a paragon of originality or having an overwhelming charisma like protagonist-, but the story of the game cannot sustain Tsushima’s open structure and size.
Given this fact, there is a whole series of missions scattered throughout the map that are basically reduced to going to a location, cleaning the area of Mongols or bandits and something else. This is perhaps one of the most relevant problems when it comes to separating the game from excellence: the lack of originality when it comes to setting up missions, be they primary or secondary. The vast majority are completely focused on combat, and those who try to offer something different also end up repeating their structure. Reaching an area to look for clues about what has happened in order to follow a trail of footprints on the ground, in a detective plan, provides something different between combat and combat. But at the tenth time that you repeat the same approach – which is not conceptually a bomb of diversion either – the truth is that it is already boring. The “detective mode” is already a trend that, unless it is done in a more ambitious and creative way, is something that should seriously start to be rethought (Arkham Asylum has already passed the decade of its launch, we can say that the freshness of the idea has expired).
Of course, Ghost of Tsushima includes a large number of collectibles, which will support a long game in search of Platinum for those who enjoy that facet, and it is also something in which the studio has put documentary work, since a collection are from Mongolian objects, which will appear on our menu perfectly modeled and with an explanation of their usefulness, so that we can better understand the culture and way of life of one of the most powerful empires in human history. Another collection are documents in which we are allowed to know more about relevant or anonymous characters distributed among all Tsushima, in which we also find interesting things -that perhaps they would have contributed more if they were more integrated into the story itself, but of course, it is cheaper to present it in the form of text.
Apart from this there are other minor activities: following some yellow birds will lead us to possible points of interest; rescuing imprisoned villagers from the Mongols will allow us to know some points and events on the map; Following the foxes will lead us to small altars dedicated to Inari that will allow us to equip ourselves with more medallions to achieve combat bonuses; There are also various bamboo stalls that will allow us to train with our sword and increase our will. And there are also temples in places of difficult access that we can find. There is not a wide range of activities, but among the multiple fixed points of conflict, the enemies that we meet randomly on the roads and these activities, there will always be something to do, even if we miss something more variety.
Following the wind
It is welcome to highlight the work that Sucker Punch has done around the interface, minimizing artificial indicators and leaving all the prominence to the beautiful world that they have recreated. It is not that it is revolutionary, and it is clear that the current trend, fortunately, aims to reduce HUD to a minimum, but it highlights the naturalness with which the study has raised the wind as a guide element. We will be able to look at the map to indicate points to go to, and once in the game we will only have to slide our finger up on the panel so that a powerful gust of wind blows to show us the direction we want to go. The wind is a permanent element in the islands and is a natural part of the landscape at all times, so it is not that it only blows when we ask it, but that it will do so in a certain way, so it is perfectly integrated and which increases our immersion in the Japanese islands. If we add it to the guide of foxes and yellow birds, as well as the fact that a flock of birds in the distance can mark sites with scenic interest, we have a good variety of natural guides perfectly integrated into the game that mark the way to follow so that our experiences are as natural and immersive as possible.
One of the most beautiful games of the generation
It is good that the effort has been made to minimize the HUD, as Sucker Punch has put together an exquisite recreation of the primeval natural beauty of these islands. It is a crowning achievement of the capabilities of the (still) present generation at the service of dream landscapes, with its lush and varied vegetation or its volcanic terrain always ready to offer contrasts. It is a work very focused on producing natural environments, with little presence of humans or structures, leaving the PS4’s capabilities to highlight the visual impact of its endless landscapes, the explosion of colors of flower meadows, or the effect of sunset on the gentle waters of the pond.
In fact, one of the best “secondary” activities in the game is searching for the most photogenic corners of the islands. The four seasons meet on the islands and the mapping is the perfect size to accommodate all kinds of locations without being excessively expansive. The visual impact played on a PS4 Pro is very remarkable, especially when combined with certain ambient lights in the day and night. In addition, it is a landscape always in motion thanks to the constant wind that rocks the vegetation and fauna always present on stage. Some of the most captivating moments of the game are finding certain locations at certain times of the day, which will invite us to be captivated by how far the video game is going in terms of visual fidelity -and the room for improvement that it still has.
Sucker Punch is perfectly aware that they have done a remarkable job in this area and have looked for ways to emphasize it. On the one hand, they have included a very complete photo mode that will delight lovers of a facet that increasingly has a greater and deserved prominence in the video game. You can get authentic delights in this way and we will surely see reports of great impact from the community itself. On the other hand, there is an activity that we had not mentioned before and in which is a part of the soul of Ghost of Tsushima: the composition of haikus. Under the excuse that samurai must be educated and have a calm mind to be prepared in battle, we can go to certain points of the map of special beauty to compose haikus, using natural elements to reflect on life, death, loss or the ephemeral of life. Operation is very simple but effective, asking us to select between nine landscape details to shape the famous 17-syllable structure at 5-7-5 whose fame has transcended the borders of the land of the rising sun. It is a good detail that will allow us to appreciate even more the digital show that the team has prepared.
Of course, although the natural environment of Tsushima is among the highlights of the generation, this does not imply that the entire game is at a similar level. The work in cinematics and modeling of characters or facial expressions is clearly off the hook compared to what we have seen in other recent games. What’s more, all of the Washington studio’s effort has gone to open environments, while the few interiors we visit have a worrying lack of variety and detail. It is true that we will hardly step inside, but we cannot say that this is precisely a virtue. Perhaps we have found the limits of the current generation when it comes to presenting large open worlds with houses that we can enter and without loads, in which case, the arrival of the new generation and its SSD solid disks should constitute a foundation stone to elevate the way in which these digital territories are constructed.
Zoro Ronoa and Kurosawa
There are certain details of a game that indicate that it has been invested in and the details have been taken care of. They are non-essential things that nevertheless say a lot about the affection that has been put into the project, and the influences that feed it. On the one hand there is the so-called “Kurosawa Mode”, a black and white display mode with artifacts that tries to reproduce the sensations of some of the most iconic films by the great Japanese film director, for which of course they have had the blessing of the foundation that takes care of its enormous cultural legacy. The effect is curious, although to reproduce the aesthetics of the Seven Samurai it takes more than just well-placed filters and the contrast between digital and the classic aesthetics of those films collides a bit – although great moments can be captured playing a little with photo mode-.
The other detail is that the game arrives perfectly dubbed into several languages, including Spanish – in a perfectly decent job. But all that is overshadowed when we have available no more and no less than the legendary Kazuya Nakai giving voice to Jin, which will make many fans of One Piece or anime in general put that dubbing by default. The voice of Zoro Ronoa or Mugen of Samurai Champloo, among many others of his distinguished career, is a more than powerful claim that it is difficult for us to see Jin speak in any way other than with that characteristic voice. Nakai changes the record here a bit for the needs of a character who is not as rude and fearless as some of his most emblematic roles may be, but he is still him and that gives Jin a strength that many times he does not own dialogues. The rest of the voices in the Japanese dub are also at the highest level, in a clear attempt that although it is not a locally developed game, it awakens the attention of the users there – not to miss the great Japanese trailer created in the likeness of the promotions of the old movies there, another detail that indicates the degree of attention that is being paid.
Ghost of Tsushima is a careful production in which it is clear that Sucker Punch and SIE have put a lot of interest in that it is at a remarkable level, which it is. Audiovisual is an exquisite production, among the best of the generation in some respects; the combat system is always entertaining even if the difficulty curve fails a little in the final stretch due to having too powerful abilities; and the general care that has been put into it is remarkable and satisfactory. But some of the weaknesses of the creators of Infamous and Sly Cooper are still present. The team needs to raise the bar when it comes to telling stories or creating characters to achieve excellence, and they also need to expand their team of mission designers if they want to make open games at the height of the best in the middle of 2020. Make it a game fundamentally Action doesn’t exempt you from criticism about repetitive mission designs that are bland in the first place and forces us to rethink the question of whether it really is necessary for so many games today to have open worlds; in the case of Tsushima we can justify it as the way to create a varied and singularly beautiful world, but the game as a whole, its variety of missions, enemies and the density of the story are not enough to justify all that terrain.
The bar for open world games today is higher and developers have to be aware that it will be increasingly difficult to live up to the most outstanding titles in this division. With everything and making this clear, Ghost of Tsushima is a great title, full of visual moments to remember and with a well-planned combat system that more than worthily fulfills its role of great production, also dismissing a PS4 in style that except for surprise he has received his last great exclusive game, one that takes advantage of the machine and that makes us look hopeful at what Sony’s global studios are cooking for PS5.
- One of the most beautiful games of the generation
- A varied and entertaining combat system
- Good approach to minimize HUD
- Details like Kurosawa Mode and historical documentation
- Kazuya Nakai as the voice of Jin in the Japanese dub
- Hand to hand duels
- A photo mode that will delight fans
- Mission structure replay
- A difficulty curve that flattens out at the end
- Not enough general content to justify map size and freedom
- “Detective” missions need a deep rethink, in particular and in general
Game with a remarkable finish that we will enjoy and remember. A good purchase, highly recommended for lovers of the genre. It is well cared for at all levels.