It’s 2014, and Sucker Punch has just dropped InFAMOUS: Second Son onto the nascent PlayStation 4. It looked marvellous, it played even better and its press kit was a godsend for gaming blog writers looking to use maroon beanies as their fashion signature. Hi mom! So what was next for the studio? After turning in a sandbox that would establish the Sony first-party direction for years to come, where would they go next?
To an older era in mankind’s history, one where wars were won with the strength of the blade in your hand, tenacity and brutal cunning. That game would eventually become Ghost of Tsushima, a rollicking dive into an age of samurai and honour, but for a time Sucker Punch almost went in a completely different direction. Heck, Japan was just one of the destinations that they had on their developer travel itinerary. “Early on, we concluded that we wanted to build a large, open world experience — and one that featured melee combat,” Sucker Punch co-founder Brian Fleming wrote on the PS Blog.
But beyond that we were uncertain. Pirates? Rob Roy? The Three Musketeers? All these were considered — but we kept coming back to feudal Japan and telling the story of a samurai warrior. Then one fateful fall afternoon we found a historical account of the Mongol invasion of Tsushima in 1274, and the entire vision clicked into place.
In the years that Sucker Punch would devote to Ghost of Tsushima, the primary drive to shine a light on the samurai in a way that had never been done before and tell a good story at the same time, is what kept the studio on track through many changes and challenges. “In the end, what pulled us through this six (!!!) year project? I think the key was the clarity of the original vision,” Fleming added.
Unlike any project I’ve previously worked on, Ghost of Tsushima’s topline vision stayed almost entirely unchanged throughout years of development. The story evolved, the combat went through countless iterations, but the vision was clear from the first presentation to today: “A lone Samurai survives the Mongol invasion of Tsushima, and is forced to reinvent himself to save his island home.”
It may have been a gamble, but Ghost of Tsushima is a game that rises above its average sandbox nature by slashing through that world with intense combat, a subtle story of emotional conflict and the most drop-dead world of this generation. A fitting epilogue, for the PlayStation 4, that’s a cut above the rest.
Last Updated: July 20, 2020