Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut review

  • General

As soon as the PlayStation Studios and Sucker Punch logo appeared on screen, the DualSense controller did its futuristic haptic feedback dance (it never gets old). At that point, I knew the developers of the PS4’s parting gift before the PS5 launched went the extra mile to further immerse newcomers and veteran ghosts alike into Tsushima’s jaw-dropping landscape.

The Director’s Cut does Ghost of Tsushima justice by giving players more landscapes to ogle at, an engaging story that cleverly weaves Jin’s horrifying childhood with a new Mongol threat, and even extra animals to pet (you’ve got enough scratches, foxes of Tsushima). The Iki Island expansion alone is more than enough reason for players to unsheathe Jin’s katana once again.

Since Ghost of Tsushima’s initial launch in 2020, the game has had several big updates, including the free multiplayer Legends mode. These tweaks and improvements are all included in the Director’s Cut, with the PS5 update only further enhancing the main game with support for haptic feedback and greater graphical detail.

For a better look at our thoughts on the main game, check out our Ghost of Tsushima review. As for the Director’s Cut, read on to find out why this PS4 title is now one of the best PS5 games, even with new and returning hiccups.

A new home on PS5

The PS5’s next-gen power brings quality of life improvements, including instantaneous fast travel, speedy load ups, and mesmerizing particle details. The 60 frames per second boost is a welcome upgrade, too. The ebb and flow of the guiding wind effect and the way leaves fall across the screen are further evidence that the PS5 brings out the best in Ghost of Tsushima.

From the subtle bumps of Jin’s horse galloping across grass to harder thumps when riding across a wooden bridge, the haptic feedback also improved the gameplay experience. The touchpad felt more responsive when swiping to sheathe Jin’s katana after a bloody massacre, while the adaptive triggers tightening when drawing both the short and longbows were a nice effect.

I was blown away by the level of detail and beautiful landscapes the PS5 brings to the table. Don’t get me wrong, the PS4 version I played in 2020 was stunning, but I found myself spending more time fooling around in Photo Mode. You’re a photogenic samurai, Jin Sakai.

On Iki Island, the DualSense’s capabilities were put to better use thanks to new archery challenges and a flute mini-game. Although, one mechanic using the grappling hook felt more like a forced, one-trick pony most of the time. Still, it was nice to see Sucker Punch incorporate more of the PS5’s capabilities rather than improving only the visuals. Did I mention how beautiful everything looked?

In our first review, Laptop Mag’s Editor-in-Chief Sherri L. Smith talked about the impressive weather mechanics. While there wasn’t much to improve on that front, the Director’s Cut on PS5 can make the weather transitions appear even more striking, smoothly going from dense fog with bright moonlight shining to fierce storms with epic lightning striking down.

As a side note, I found that transferring save data from PS4 to PS5 is a breeze; it took as little as 12 minutes.

Journey to Iki

Tales of Iki starts off with a mystery (as with most quests in Ghost of Tsushima) that revolves around a small village turned mad by the Eagle of the Great Mongolian Nation, Ankhsar Khatun. Right off the bat, players are introduced to a new enemy: the Shamans. These guys buff their allies like a white mage in a traditional role-playing game, which adds new strategies on how to engage enemies.

Since the people of Iki Island have no idea about any progress gamers make in Tsushima, they have to build their reputation as the Ghost again. I’m a fan of the semi-reset, giving returning players new gameplay progression as opposed to just a fresh story. I’ll gladly take the lowly title of “Heir to Infamy” to build up Jin’s reputation once again. Although, after shipping off to the creepy shores of Iki Island, I soon realized everyone on Iki hates samurai, especially the Sakai clan. The “Jin from Yarikawa” identity lets you conceal your presence but this doesn’t last long.

The tale of Iki Island delves into Jin’s past, and the events in the story set up intriguing character development. While the main campaign shows us Jin’s journey starting with him breaking away from traditions to becoming the famed Ghost of Tsushima, Tales of Iki shows us what makes Jin who he is. The Mongol threat has always been Jin’s top priority, but our protagonist has good reason not to help the people of Iki. This brings an interesting dynamic to Jin’s sense of justice, which he struggles with when the Eagle whispers murmurings of doubt throughout the story.

The formula is a trope we’ve seen time again, with the Eagle haunting us with bizarre trips into Jin’s psyche thanks to a poison. From the open map to the hallucinations, it reminded me of the Joker popping up to annoy the caped crusader in Batman: Arkham Knight or Far Cry 5’s Faith Seed section. It’s a formula that works, especially with Jin in centre stage.

What’s more, the dream sequences on Iki Island can happen at any time, shifting the landscape immediately with an eerie, hallucinogenic effect. It reminded me of jumping into rift tears in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, and it’s especially impressive to see in an open world title.

The additional mythic tales in Tales of Iki were also a highlight; unique environments stole the show to build a supernatural aspect to the otherwise semi-grounded realism of the main story. The rewards are worth the journey, especially if you enjoy kitting yourself out in badass samurai apparel. One of the upgrades even changed my play style. No spoilers, but beware of monkeys.

Overall, the main story in the Tales of Iki expansion lasts about three hours. I wish this was more drawn out, especially because of Jin’s engaging character development and the intriguing new characters including the Eagle and new pirate-buddy Tenzo. That said, my playtime doesn’t include exploration, side quests, and added activities, which prolongs the whole experience. In fact, there was plenty of Iki Island left untouched once I finished the main tale, and I was hyped to explore all the enigmas scattered throughout the map. The Tales of Iki expansion acts as a natural progression in Jin’s overall tale, with the map now adding a fourth section to the game.

Monkeys! Snakes! Cats!

There are new animal sanctuaries, archery challenges, and memory locations to find and explore specific to Iki Island, but you’ll also find more bamboo strike challenges and hot springs to increase your Resolve and maximum health.  Each additional point of interest is engaging, especially the animal sanctuaries that were probably added so players could pet more cuddly animals. They’re all easy enough to find, thanks to the forever-present golden bird side-tracking me every time I took one step in the direction of the main quest.

Speaking of animals, prepare for Jin’s horse. My horse’s name is Kage, and he is now more battle-hardened than ever before. A new ability allows you to bash your way through groups of enemies like dominos. It’s hugely satisfying to charge through foes like bowling pins, but I rarely used it outside of Iki Island’s main story. Enemies conveniently formed in clusters during these sections, and it didn’t take too many lightbulbs to switch on before realizing what button I needed to press.

While Sucker Punch adds several new points of interest and side quests — some I wish I had seen back on Tsushima — it sprinkles familiar activities throughout Iki Island’s map.

The enemy occupied-territories Jin needs to liberate in order to reveal more of the map don’t do much to mix up the formula on Iki Island. That formula is simply: Infiltrate, pull off the bonus task, wipe out enemies. This time around, it felt more like clean-up duty. After completing the game, Jin is a beast, meaning enemies struggle to keep up with his arsenal of techniques and Ghost tools.

Sucker Punch nailed the samurai showdowns in the main game, pitting Jin against legendary combatants. If you’re a fan of duels, you’ll be happy to know Iki island has duelling tournaments. Each competitor has their own style, keeping me on my feet to strike them down. Instead of slicing and dicing, however, competitors use wooden swords, with each round based on a point system. I found it was a fun side quest to hone my reaction skills more than anything.

Bottom line

Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut is the definitive way to play Jin Sakai’s tale, as it further enhances the greatest aspects of the PS4’s swan song: exploration, scenery and story. Returning samurais have plenty of content to keep occupied, whether it be the brilliantly made Tales of Iki expansion, cleaning up collectibles or duking it out in Legends mode.

While the Director’s Cut is priced at $69.99, there are more affordable options for those who already own Ghost of Tsushima on PS4. The price goes down to $29.99 to get the PS5 upgrade for those who already own the main game. Is it worth the price? If you’re looking to play the definitive version of a beloved PS4 classic with even greater content made specifically for the PS5, then yes, it sure is.

Sony’s latest console may have a limited supply of fresh new titles, with Returnal and Ratchet & Clack: Rift Apart being the only two exclusives. With Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut, those who have yet to experience Jin’s tale are in for a samurai-infused treat. For more of the best PS5 games, we’ve got you covered.

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