When awards are handed out this year for various games, Sucker Punch’s Ghost of Tsushima definitely deserves to be in the consideration for many a prize. It has style, it has a fantastic world, and it has hands-down the best swordplay ever seen in a video game since Kyle Katarn began slicing up Stormtroopers in Jedi Outcast.
That facet of gameplay right there, is where Ghost of Tsushima stood out from the sandbox pack. While you could be a sneaky bastard who ran across rooftops peppering the faces of Mongol invaders with shurikens, there was a pure thrill to any sequence that involved a clash of steel. Whether it was the tense showdown sequences that tested your reflexes or a mad scramble against enemies, the swordplay felt just right.
And it took SuckerPunch a lot of work to nail that sensation of deadly blades, soft flesh, and geysers of blood.
“When we did our early playtests we received very negative feedback that enemies felt like ‘sword sponges,'” senior combat designer Theodore Fishman explained on the PS Blog.
My favorite quote from players was ‘I felt like I was hitting enemies with a foam bat.’ Giving the enemy a form of hitpoints wasn’t working, so the team ended up integrating a “maximum hits to kill” system, whereby no standard enemy could withstand endless attacks.
Fishman and the rest of the team worked on creating a ‘lethality contract’, which gauged just how much damage an enemy could take against numerous other factors such as your in-game progression, weapon upgrades, and skill. Part of the combat system also involved staggering enemies, opening them up for deadly strikes that would take them out of a fight instantly.
For duels and boss fights, these contract rules had to be slightly ignored so that players could take on dangerous opponents in a more satisfying manner. While it would have been regularly un-fun to have cannon fodder opponent exist as sword sponges, for these high-level fights it made more sense. The end result is a game that feels like a samurai epic, and is an absolute sight to behold in action. Smooth, deadly, and precise, just as Sucker Punch intended.
If you’re planning to venture back to Tsushima, now is as good a time as any to try out the game’s recently added Legends mode, which turns the entire experience into an enjoyable multiplayer game.
Last Updated: November 26, 2020