Or: So I’ve Been Playing: Ghost of Tsushima.
I like open world games. Some of my favourite video games are of the open-world variety (The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Xenoblade Chronicles X). But even so, it is impossible to argue that despite their ambitious, sandboxy design… they can kinda start to feel a little samey after a while. Travel around to points of interest, liberate dozens of effectively identical forts from enemy occupation, manage your skill trees, fast travel a whole bunch. At the end of the day, if there isn’t something absolutely definitive about your game, it’ll just end up part of the generic open-world blob.
Sadly, Ghost of Tsushima has, so far, not done anything that stands out as particularly special to me. Therefore, as I play, I can’t help but feel like I’m just going through the motions. Which makes me sad, because there was clearly plenty of love poured into making this video game! I think that it’s a very good game in a lot of ways (the story is engaging, the world is gorgeous, the quality of life features are bountiful), but I’m just a little too desensitized to this style of game to enjoy the “game” part of it as much as I would like to.
But I’d rather not dump on Ghost of Tsushima. No, instead, I’d like to point out my very favourite thing about it.
Most open world games allow you to go to the map and choose a destination that you’d like to travel to. The game then puts a big glowy thing in the world at the spot you marked, and usually gives you an arrow or something to follow to make sure you’re always going the right way. Ghost of Tsushima does none of that. What it does instead is change the way that the wind is blowing so that it’s always guiding you to your goal. So instead of a big ol’ arrow on the HUD or a line on the ground that you follow, you’re watching blades of grass, leaves, smoke, embers, and so forth dance on the wind, and going along with them.
It’s a nice alternative that blends seamlessly into the game world, and I very much appreciate it. There’s also a secondary feature where following yellow birds and foxes will lead you to fun secrets. Being resourceful and respecting nature are pretty important themes of the game, and as such, replacing HUD elements with more natural means of guidance fits it to a tee. Ghost of Tsushima doesn’t even have an on-screen compass! While that does admittedly irk me once in a while, I still appreciate Sucker Punch’s devotion to keeping the HUD as minimal as possible. It’s truly for the best in a game that’s meant to emulate old-timey samurai films.