So… I wasn’t very productive for the past two weeks. Why, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you why, it’s because of that gosh-darn video game Ghost of Tsushima, that’s why!
While anticipating the new DLC for the game – the Iki Island expansion, I replayed the entire game in New Game +. And when I mean replay, I mean replaying everything the game has to offer, from all the side quests to finding every collectible, I redid everything.
That took me some time.
The thing was, I enjoyed every single second of it all. Heck, it felt even more fun than the first time around, since in New Game +, I have all the upgrades and weapons. I played as a straight-up samurai for my first play-through. Just strutting into camps or groups of enemies and challenging them to a standoff.
Felt so badass.
I didn’t even bother with archery or stealth. Only after finishing the main storyline that I started using archery to clear out some remaining camps. And what a revelation it was. Some might say the game’s archery system is not the best ever but for me, it feels like it. Everything about it felt… right.
I went on to play the Legends mode being a Hunter (archer) main. Wasn’t a big fan of the supernatural themes and the powers, but hey, I get to perch on a rooftop and take out multiple bad guys in a single super shot (paired with the ridiculous Skipping Stone Bow). I won’t even jump into battle with my katana, much to the chagrin of my teammates.
“Dude, pull out your sword and come help us!”
“I’m an archer, dammit. I perch on rooftops and collect headshots!”
It was rough for them but we managed. Heck, we even beat all three chapters of Tales of Iyo, though it was mostly thanks to our Ronin.
So, for my New Game + play-through, I went pure archer from the get-go. And wow, it felt like a brand new awesome game. I was discovering the story all over again in a new perspective.
This was, undisputedly, my Game of the Generation.
So, that takes us to this brand new expansion – Iki Island. A massive side mission and extra map to explore, with a handful of new activities and collectibles for you to indulge in. Our titular hero Jin Sakai gets washed up onto the shores of the island once you start a marked mission on the main map. Do note that you need to be at least be in Act 2 of the main story to access this.
There’s a new main baddie, simply known as The Eagle – a female Mongol shaman leader who’s using hallucinogenic drinks to poison and, occasionally, control/brainwash people.
Mild spoiler alert – she manages to poison you near the beginning of the expansion and you’ll go through the main storyline effected by it. Basically what that leads to is a something similar to, another mild spoiler, the Joker’s presence in Arkham Knight, or even some parts of the excellent Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice.
This was where my gripe popped up. Though visually interesting and it’s a good story element to showcase Jin’s inner demons and his mental state regarding the sins of his past, it can get annoying fast. And the reason I love Ghost is because, at least in the main game, it’s very grounded unlike other games like Sekiro where demons and monsters are aplenty. These hallucinations kind of take me out of the story a bit at times.
But I digress.
Though The Eagle wasn’t that interesting as a main baddie, or even a character, the rest of the new characters you meet on Iki island continues the Ghost tradition of having exceptionally interesting side characters, something which was a double-edged sword for the game at times.
In the main game, I was way more interested in Jin’s companions’ stories than his own. People like Yuna, Tomoe, Lady Adachi, and more stay fondly in my memory more than Jin does. Jin’s story was decent, especially the ending, but the side character’s had way more depth and development.
I’m happy to say that in Iki Island, Jin’s story managed to receive some depth, delving deeper into his father’s death and what they have done on the island. Oh, and if you haven’t noticed yet, Iki Island was the place where Jin’s father, Kazumasa Sakai, met his end at the hands of the local raiders.
Mainly because Kazumasa and his samurai army had been rampaging through Iki Island and killing “bandits” and torching villages. (Check out his nickname given by the locals.)
Jin’s journey of coming to terms with both his father’s death (which he felt was due to his cowardice) and brutal/supposed evil actions on the island is a much more involving story than his main one.
You only meet two main side characters on your side for Iki Island and they are the weathered raider Tenzo and the powerful matriarch of the raider’s stronghold Fune. Even side missions have interesting characters such as Sugi and Hotoke, plus a cameo from one of the side characters from the main game.
Among them all, Tenzo was the standout. The chemistry and story between he and Jin are one of the game’s best, comparable to Jin and Yuna’s relationship. And without spoiling anything major, the way it ended almost brought a tear to my eye.
The gameplay stayed more or less the same, which isn’t a bad thing at all, with some added little features like pulling stuff down with your hook and the fun horse-charging-rampage to mow down enemies. Side activities include archery ranges, animal sanctuaries (the cats!), reliving Jin’s past at certain locations, and a bokken tournament that could test your skills and patience (DAMN YOU SAO!).
There are two new Mythic Tales which will score you a badass armour (that buffs your parries and duelling skills immensely) and a brand new horse armour that will make your stead look like the stuff of nightmares, especially after mowing down some Mongols and you got blood all over.
On top of all that, there are hidden tales which do not show up on your map at all. You have encounter these in the open world to trigger them and it was quite fun hunting them down (some with the help of online guides). And finally, we have the wind shrines, which are puzzles that you need to figure out from hints in the form of poems. But the mechanics are the same so once you know how they work, it shouldn’t be that hard. The rewards are great though as you get PS-themed armour sets, which we have seen in the Legends mode prior.
There are still more little nods and callbacks and Easter eggs sprinkled all over the island of Iki, which took me about a good 10 hours or more to see every major thing it has to offer, but I’m still discovering smaller areas or things to do even after.
Which brings us to my I named this article as it is. I have more or less finished Iki Island, and I am not happy. Because I wanted more. Yes, Iki Island is more or less just more of what we got in the main game but dammit, I still want more.
And did I mention how gorgeous it looks, just like the main game?
This game is a marvel.
A once in a generation triumph. A personalised gift for someone like me who has been longing for a badass, grounded, samurai game since way back in the PS1 era.
I am not happy because I have to wait until the inevitable Ghost of Tsushima 2. I am not happy because there might not be any more expansions for now. I am not happy because I can’t help but compare this game to other games, especially for games that has archery in them, and feel like they can’t live up to what I have been spoiled with thanks to this game.
I am happy though, that I can still replay this game once again (with all the items and upgrades, including the ones from Iki Island), and enjoy its many offerings, be it its brutal combat, beautiful visuals, heartfelt stories, amazing settings, and many, many more.
Go and play this game and this expansion if you haven’t yet. Please.
Back to Tsushima, I go!