Playstation’s release of the 1.05 update marks the advent of the brand new Lethal difficulty in Ghost Tsushima. Since the game’s July 17th release, fans of the samurai power fantasy, Ghost of Tsushima, may likely have finished their first playthrough. Some particularly satisfied gamers may have already embarked on their second run, perhaps trying an alternate playstyle to the one that dominated their initial dive into the game.
So why then should players be excited for yet another adventure through Sucker Punch’s rendition of Tsushima? Further details regarding the patch can be read in this Lethal difficulty update.
NECESSITATING THE GHOST
The Game’s Intent
Without heavily spoiling the plot, players familiar with the narrative will be aware of the significance of the game’s title. The protagonist, Jin Sakai, will embark upon an adventure in which he undergoes a metamorphosis into a new persona, the Ghost. Emphasising stealth and subterfuge, the Ghost playstyle relies on quiet assassinations and tools to dishonourably but effectively dispatch the Mongols. The game allows the player the freedom of selecting their own approach, adapting as they see fit or roleplaying either a samurai or the Ghost. Whilst the choice is a welcome option for players, the narrative as a whole is not one of choice. The Ghost’s methods are eventually forced upon the player at particular turning points in the story. This risks a jarring dissonance between the player and the game’s story, as some players will eventually find their roleplaying discarded by the narrative.
Ultimately, Sucker Punch has a very particular narrative thread they wished the players to follow. The sense of being overwhelmed by the vast Mongol invasion is supposed to encourage players, alongside Jin, to accept the necessity of evolving warfare tactics. It is determined that Jin must do what is required in order to protect Tsushima from its invaders. While Jin acknowledges this, players themselves might be less convinced due to the samurai power fantasy the game provides. The satisfying and brutal combat, once mastered, can allow Jin to cut his way through entire camps of Mongols effortlessly. Perfect parries, dodges and alternating sword stances, will eventually make the player feel unstoppable. Consequently, the need to deviate from direct combat might not register in quite the same way.
The Optimal Playstyle
Lethal difficulty in Ghost of Tsushima means a single blow can be lethal, and this works for both Jin and his enemies. Although one-hit kills are not guaranteed, the room for error has been severely narrowed in this mode, requiring near perfection from the player to dominate their foes. With open combat now so devastatingly risky, players will experience the same sense of desperation that compels Jin’s own transformation into the Ghost. Striking from the shadows, using your environment to your advantage in addition to all of the Ghost’s tools, will feel more justified in this difficulty.
BECOME TSUSHIMA’S ULTIMATE SWORDSMAN
The Dark Souls Challenge
However, whilst stealth become more appealing under these new lethal conditions, it also lets players test their mettle as warriors. Prior to the game’s release, rumours began to circulate regarding the supposed difficulty of the experience. Some were already beginning to compare it to games by FromSoftware, the team behind Dark Souls and Bloodborne. This was ultimately an exaggeration, much to the relief of some players and the disappointment of others. However, the lethal difficulty in Ghost of Tsushima brings the experience closer to the rage-inducing challenges of similar samurai games, such as Sekiro and Nioh. However, unlike those games, Ghost of Tsushima will not have such a difficult barrier of entry. The experience garnered through lower difficulties will transfer over into this harsher experience. The player’s mastery of the game’s mechanics will help them rise to the challenge without the frustration of spending the first few hours repeatedly failing.
The Challenge Of Perfection
For seekers of death-defying combat, Lethal difficulty will inject a sense of realism into the encounters. It has become commonplace within video games that the damage a player can receive is drastically unrealistic. Ghost of Tsushima, while less forgiving than most, still affords players many blows from the enemy’s weapons. Providing they possess enough focus to heal themselves, mistakes are rarely dire. Such systems can result in the players taking more liberties with the precision of their moves, knowing they can afford a poorly timed dodge or parry. By contrast, Lethal difficulty will require true mastery and button discipline. Players will understand that every encounter requires the utmost focus and precision to get out alive. A certain character eventually declares Jin the best swordsman on the island. In Lethal difficulty, you can be assured that this declaration is indeed true, taking immense pride in your title.
THE VALUE IN EXPLORATION
A Journey of Self-Improvement
The open world of Tsushima hides away an abundance of exploration opportunities. Hot springs and shrines promise charms and improved health; bamboo stands and Mongol camps offer improvements to focus and experience. Simply put, no point of interest comes without a reward. While easier difficulties don’t require you to engage with many side activities, Lethal difficulty will make those rewards more appealing. Essentially, the player will have to embark on a journey of training and growth to endure the Mongol invasion. Every charm, every health increase, each technique point, none of it will go to waste. Furthermore, the need to improve gear will become apparent, and so each bag of supplies will become a delightful find. Players will need to find every charm to be as prepared as they can be.
Dressing For Every Trial
The experience will also place value in changing gear and charms, allowing Jin to prepare himself for the challenges ahead. Seasoned players will know the story occasionally thrusts you into combat without a chance for stealth tactics, or vice versa. Sometimes the story will telegraph what to expect, signalling the approach of drawn out battles and assaults. With the expectation of a long, drawn out siege against countless Mongols in open combat, wise players will thoroughly prepare. Players will appreciate the importance of sharpening their blade, whilst donning upgraded battle armour. Charms will be switched out to suit the obstacles, providing a much-needed gravitas to the roleplay behind Jin’s tactical mind. After all, Jin’s story is all about the willingness to adapt, something that will be reflected in the gameplay.
So, what are you waiting for? Now is the perfect time for another adventure through Tsushima. Be warned, the journey ahead is perilous and humbling. However, emerge victorious and take pride in knowing you are truly a legend befitting of the title of Ghost.