The release of Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut introduced players to Jin Sakai’s latest adventure in the Iki Island DLC. However, it’s not so much a continuation as it is an extra unseen story inserted into the existing narrative. Perhaps the greatest difficulty facing the DLC is the player’s choice of when to play it. While only unlocked at the beginning of Act 2, the game leaves the timing of it up to the player. It’s deliberately written vaguely enough to seem appropriate no matter when players choose to embark for the island. But is this actually the case? Here are the factors that I believe should influence your decision on when to start the Iki Island DLC.
One factor that the game is upfront about is the spike in difficulty the DLC presents. Before journeying to the island, players are given an on-screen warning to anticipate stronger foes on Iki. The island is filled with new enemy types, as well as some locations more heavily guarded than those on Tsushima. Add on to that the seeming increase to the enemies’ damage and health, and suddenly the challenge becomes apparent. While by no means overly difficult, it could catch players unaware, especially on Lethal Difficulty.
This is an aspect of the DLC that somewhat contradicts its initial placement in the game. Having the DLC be just as difficult as the endgame is rather drastic for Act 2. While understandable that the game did not wish to lock out veteran players until after Act 3, it feels premature. The game actively encourages players to accumulate more upgrades and gear before advancing. At the very least, it seems more tailor-made for the player’s likely strength near the end of Act 2.
Nearing Act 2’s conclusion is my personal recommendation on when to start the Iki Island DLC when factoring in difficulty. However, this is with the caveat that players should also engage in a fair amount of side content. While the main story will unlock the Ghost Stance, it will do little else to fully upgrade the player. Access to better armour, upgrading your weapons, and unlocking new skills will require plenty of prior exploration.
The optimal placement for the DLC within the game’s story is a rather subjective decision. It’s written in such a way as to sidestep a definitive answer. From any point after the beginning of Act 2, Jin can access the questline that leads to Iki. But much as with the difficulty spike, the soonest possible entry point isn’t necessarily the most ideal. Act 2 begins by presenting a few new narrative threads that feel like they would take precedence. A sudden journey to an entirely different island doesn’t exactly feel like something Jin should be doing. While not entirely unrelated to the Mongol invasion of Tsushima, it feels like a far-off threat by comparison.
The DLC’s story is primarily used as a character study of Jin Sakai. The hallucinogenic experience forces him to confront his journey during the main story and his personal history prior. It specifically delves into his relationship with his father, a hinted at piece of lore in the base-game. The issue is that the closure Jin finds in the DLC can contradict the content on Tsushima. The first thing that happened to me when I returned happened at a hot spring. Jin reflected on his father and expressed guilt over his death, despite overcoming that being the core of the DLC.
I personally recommend you start the Iki Island DLC no sooner than just prior to the Siege of Shimura Castle. This gives Jin a chance to bring at least some stability to the fight against the Tsushima invaders before leaving. Players should also clear the Yuriko side quests too, as they provide more insight into Kazumasa Sakai. I’d actually suggest the best time for the story is after the main story, at least in terms of narrative cohesion.
Leaving Time For Your Rewards
Another important point of consideration is the rewards on offer throughout Iki. Much like on Tsushima, Jin can encounter a variety of new dyes, charms, and legendary gearsets, including some horse armour. This extends to new abilities on offer, such as the ability to trample enemies under the charge of your horse. While nothing is an essential pickup in order to complete the main game, they certainly expand the experience greatly.
However, as with the content on Tsushima, it feels pointless leaving all the rewards for the endgame. Unlocking the best armour will do you little good with only an hour or so left of your playthrough. In order to reap the benefits of these rewards, you’ll want to leave ample time to enjoy them. This means either ensuring you have content to return to on Tsushima, or you should acquire them early on Iki. This means immediately hunting down the Sarugami Armour and Sakai Horse Armour after meeting the Eagle.
So when considering when to start the Iki Island DLC, you need to do so before exhausting Tsushima of content. This once again could align with my suggestion of late Act 2. However, this can also cause a slight conflict with prior suggestions. The difficulty spike will have prompted you to do Tsushima’s side content for the upgrades. Also, if you return just before the raid on Shimura Castle, the following Act 3 is very short. While there will still be enough to enjoy, it’s worth considering an alternative. You should use the Act 1 zone to accumulate as many upgrades as you can. This should leave much of Act 2’s content available to enjoy your Iki rewards.
Considering all of the above, my personal recommendation is somewhere in the middle of Act 2. In terms of story, you will want to stabilize the resistance against the Mongols first. Saving Yawikawa and helping your Uncle send a message to the mainland would be ideal. Additionally, Yuriko’s story will be more poignant prior to the DLC. So long as you engage with much of the content in Izuhara, you can leave the other two zones. This will ensure you return to plenty of content post-DLC, allowing you to exploit your new gear. The timing will also have allowed you to evolve both the samurai and The Ghost playstyles. This will allow you to enter Iki at your best without being limited to a single method of confrontation.