It’s always tricky to know how to approach re-releases of games, and Ghost of Tsushima may well be the most difficult one of all so far. The primary reason being that yes, for all intents and purposes, this is basically the same game with some extra content added on, and the PS4 version of the game had a patch not so long ago which bumped the frame rate up to a remarkably stable 60fps even in its resolution mode when played on a PS5. The question when the Directors Cut was revealed was, and still is, “is the new DLC worth the £25 upgrade fee for existing owners?” And, to be blunt, it absolutely is.
If you want to check out our initial review for the game, Andy’s superb write up is HERE, where he awarded it a 9/10. I would stand by that score, even though (somewhat criminally) I’ve yet to finish the main story, even after giving the new island a solid thrashing. I’m not too far off it though, so before anyone gets preachy in the comments, don’t, as this review is focusing primarily on the new content more than anything else.
The Iki Island content, then. The carrot on the end of the stick tempting people to hand over their £25 and see what all the fuss is about. It’s a standalone story (with some nice callbacks to the main game) that’s set on a smaller island to the south-east of Tsushima. The game allows you to import a PS4 save, although you need to be at least as far as Act 2 for it to become available. Jin finds himself travelling to Iki,, the place of his father’s death, and in the crossing gets caught up in a storm at sea. Even worse, shortly after setting his feet on solid ground, he’s set upon by a band of Mongols, who pledge their allegiance to a mysterious new foe known as “The Eagle”, who captures Jin and poisons him, her intentions unknown. Soon after, Jin escapes and finds himself forming an uneasy alliance with a group of Raiders who inhabit Iki, but are sworn enemies of clan Sakai, given their perceived invasion of the island 15 years prior. Due to this, Jin introduces himself as “Jin from Yarikawa”, hiding his true identity to Fune, the leader of the raiders, and the rest of the group. It’s a wonderful little narrative twist that adds an extra bit of spice to what would otherwise be a standard “protagonist finds new friends” plot line. The poison begins to consume Jin, making it a matter of time before not only the island of Iki is lost to The Eagle and her tribe, but his mind too.
There are a couple of new game mechanics that have been introduced on Iki, both of which fall onto your horse. The first is an extremely handy charging mechanic, allowing you to barrel through enemies on horseback without breaking stride. Extremely useful for decimating groups of enemies, this mechanic is complimented by a second horse based toy, with some saddle bags. This may sound minor, but this provides the ability to stash an extra set of ammo in them, with any additional pieces automatically finding their way into the bags, allowing you to have a portable resupply unit. This is a great way to ensure that you’re fully stocked up before slamming into a bunch of enemies, jumping off and slicing up what’s left.
Somewhat predictably, the game is technically flawless. The previous PS4 patch ran at a stable 60fps in the resolution mode, so there’s no surprise that the PS5 release does the same. In my entire time with the game, I didn’t notice a single dropped frame. There aren’t a huge amount of other changes outside of a resolution bump, although there does appear to be a bit more in the way of particle effects and leaves etc floating around, which made the game world feel that little bit more alive during my time with it. Loading times were already super quick on PS4 once you get into the game, but the PS5 version takes it to another level. Getting into the game from a cold boot takes under 10 seconds, and fast travel brings an entirely new meaning to the phrase. The screen dips to black and immediately comes back up at your chosen destination, something which will never get old for someone whose first game involved sitting in front of a tape deck for 15 minutes before watching Mr Puniverse crash for the umpteenth time. The other main enhancement for the PS5 version is the lip sync with the Japanese audio, which is something that I briefly checked out, although didn’t stick to because I’m a heathen when it comes to that sort of thing. Oh, and Kurosawa mode still looks breathtaking.
The thing that really surprised me with the Iki Island content, however, was how much the story gripped me. Far from being a typical “Go here, stab dude, repeat” level of narrative, Jin’s 8 hours or so travelling around this small yet densely packed island amounts to a journey of acceptance. Without giving too much away, the key thing to remember is that Iki is the place where Jin saw his father pass away. There are playable flashback sequences in the form of “memories” scattered around Iki, and the hallucinations brought on by The Eagle’s poison add another layer into Jin’s story. As someone who’s experienced paternal loss, I was broadsided by some of the themes and narrative threads tucked away on Iki, and this exploration of grief, and what it can do to a person, was something I genuinely wasn’t expecting. By the time the final sequence hit, I was legitimately struggling to find the words to describe what I was feeling. It’s a genuine surprise, and one that really adds another dimension to Jin Sakai as a character.