How Sony’s First-Party Games Inspired Key Aspects of Ghost of Tsushima

After six years of development and multiple delays, Sucker Punch’s next new IP is nearly ready for launch as Ghost of Tsushima aims to transport players back to 13th century Japan where samurai warriors defended the titular island from the invading Mongol Empire. As Jin Sakai, players must take advantage of their skills as an honorable samurai and become known as the Ghost to strike fear into those that threaten his homeland. Set to release next month, Ghost of Tsushima will almost certainly go down as the final first-party exclusive for the PS4, which is fitting considering Sucker Punch’s last released game, Infamous: Second Son, was the first post-launch PS4 exclusive when it released in March of 2014. With nearly a console generation’s worth of development time, the Seattle-based studio saw plenty of exciting releases debut from Sony’s library of first-party studios during that time, many of which drew plenty of praise from fans and critics alike. After seeing the lengthy Ghost of Tsushima gameplay demo that debuted as part of a State of Play last month, one can more easily point to some of the likely inspirations that influenced Sucker Punch’s design choices, several of which have appeared in Sony’s first-party offerings over the course of the PS4’s lifetime.

Two of the lengthier stretches of gameplay during the State of Play featured two wholly unique approaches to an enemy camp, as Ghost of Tsushima allows players to embrace the role of either a samurai or ghost. Each playstyle drastically alters how a given combat scenario will play out, with samurais relying more on different sword fighting stances and tactical energy usage to take down large groups of enemies out in the open, while ghosts will take advantage of smoke bombs and grappling hooks to stealthily infiltrate and eliminate the opposition from the shadows. This freedom of choice in how to tackle various objectives has become more and more prevalent in open world games this generation, with Guerilla’s Horizon Zero Dawn being a key example of this design choice. After starting off with only a staff and bow and arrow, Aloy gradually gains more weapons and abilities throughout her journey so she can more effectively handle larger foes, stealthily eliminate enemies from afar and even hack into some of the robotic creatures to have them fight alongside her. This sense of variety proved to be a welcome component of the game even after dozens of hours in its post-post-apocalyptic environments and could stand to benefit Ghost of Tsushima as it aims to keep players invested for lengthy gameplay sessions in its vast open world.

Although most of Ghost of Tsushima’s plot has been kept under wraps, the few glimpses we’ve seen have shown a strong dedication to the storytelling styles of classic samurai films, with the full game featuring options for a black-and-white presentation and Japanese voice acting to fully immerse players in Sucker Punch’s vision. Even in the first look at gameplay back at Sony’s final E3 appearance in 2018, the artistic cinematography and traditional music that play during Jin’s duel with a former friend exemplify a focus on cinematic storytelling that will likely remain prevalent throughout the full game. While 2018’s God of War wasn’t as directly inspired by a specific genre of film, the presentation of Kratos and Atreus’ adventure is impressive for its dedication to eliminating the vast majority of hard camera cuts. Coupled with a number of incredible cast performances and a grand soundtrack to match the epic scope, the latest God of War took great strides to keep the players invested both during and in between stretches of gameplay, and its strong reception will likely influence many games in the years to come, including Ghost of Tsushima’s approach to storytelling.

Towards the end of the State of Play gameplay demo, two key player expression elements were confirmed for the game at launch: in-depth customization for Jin and a photo mode that, among other features, includes the option to record and share short clips of Jin standing in an active environment. While neither of these features are arguably as essential to the overall game as mechanical variety or a strong presentation, they will appeal to specific players who could easily see themselves constantly changing Jin’s appearance and taking dozens of photos of the beautiful world of Tsushima. Although most first-party Sony games tend to include a photo mode of some sort, Insomniac’s Spider-Man took it a step further by including a selfie mode, various stickers and frames, and other features to help take the best Spider-Man photos around. Plus, both the main game and DLCs featured dozens of unlockable costumes, which in addition to having unique abilities, altered the web-slinging hero’s appearance in drastic ways, helping each player swing through New York in some of their favorite comic or movie-inspired suits. With such strong company to draw inspiration from, Sucker Punch’s second outing on the PS4 is lined up to be another ambitious first-party game when it launches on July 17.