In Ghost of Tsushima, you must explore far and wide to defeat the Mongols
fantasma de tsushimait's finally here, and that means you can immerse yourself in a carefully crafted samurai adventure for the next dozens of hours. In this open-world action/stealth game, you take control of Jin Sakai: an honorable samurai who must make harsh moral concessions to repel an invading Mongol army from his home island. Based on real events in world history, Ghost of Tsushima is steeped in the action and drama of a classic samurai film. It's a thoroughly entertaining game from start to finish.
But it can also be a tough game. Ghost of Tsushima has many different game systems and almost all of them have a learning curve. From the way you explore the world, to the way you engage enemies in open combat, to the way you can use stealth and cunning, Ghost of Tsushima is a game that Patience and experimentation rewards. If you're just starting out, enjoy these ten spoiler-free tips to speed up your journey through medieval Japan.
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Explore in the suit of the traveller
As you play Ghost of Tsushima, you will receive a variety of different armor sets. However, the first set you come across is without a doubt one of the best. Compared to armor sets that reduce damage or grant special abilities, the Traveler Suit can seem quite modest. First, they just increase the amount of map you explore by 10% and vibrate the controller near optional collectibles. However, you can upgrade this outfit to reveal up to 30% more of the map, which is a pretty big deal since you usually have to explore manually to find optional content. They also won't rely too heavily on health or damage increases.
Feel free to use ghost skills
At the beginning of Ghost of Tsushima, Jin tries his "ghost" techniques for the first time - stealth maneuvers like stealth and assassination. Shortly after, he has a flashback in which his uncle, Lord Shimura, explains to him that attacking from behind is shameful. It could be, but as far as I can tell the way you face your enemies doesn't affect Ghost of Tsushima's plot or game mechanics. The storyline goes the same way, whether you're attacking every enemy head-on or taking them all out from behind. So go ahead and use your Ghost weapons and abilities. They can save you a lot of headaches in crowded enemy bases.
Liberate cities to reveal the map
Ghost of Tsushima has a large map, and in addition to aimlessly wandering around, it's often difficult to figure out where the next optional objective is. Luckily, there's an easy way to uncover large areas of the map: clearing occupied cities and strongholds. As you explore Tsushima, you will discover fields, crossroads and cities under Mongol control. By defeating the Mongols (and often completing a secondary objective, like collecting flags), you can help the Japanese townspeople repopulate their territory. Once you've liberated a town, much of the map around it will be revealed, almost always showing you two or three optional objectives that you've never seen before.
change your posture
While Jin starts the game with only one sword fighting stance, he eventually unlocks four different ones: Rock, Water, Wind, and Moon. Stone fights swordsmen, water fights enemies with shields, wind fights spearmen, and moon fights "brutes" (huge enemies that hit very hard). You can change your position almost instantly, and time will slow down as you do so. This allows you to change your stance in a matter of seconds, and you should do so whenever possible. In Act I, Stone Stance works against almost any enemy, but as Act II rolls around you'll need to match stances with enemies if you want to do any serious damage.
Use your exploration powers
Between parrying, dodging, stances, and Ghost abilities, there are tons of things to improve in Ghost of Tsushima. So you might be wondering why you should spend your hard-earned upgrade points on five nondescript powers on the first page of abilities. These are called exploration powers and can guide you to hot springs, fox dens, Shinto shrines and more. While it can be a little tricky to use (they don't say exactly where the next optional objective is), each one points you in the right direction for a useful upgrade. They're especially useful when building up your skills or gear before a difficult story mission.
Decide between standoffs and stealth
If you invade a Mongol camp, it will most likely end in a sword fight. However, when you first enter a camp, you have two options for thinning your ranks: stalemate or stealth. You initiate a standoff by going to the front gate and challenging one of the Mongols to a duel, with the possibility of an instant kill. While you can only face one enemy initially, you can later attack up to five. Alternatively, you can assassinate enemies one at a time, find an alternate entrance, and isolate enemies before killing them. You can't do both in the same area, so choose wisely.
Phantom weapons make tough fights easier
Each act of Ghost of Tsushima has an enormous level of difficulty. This forces you to get better at swordplay, but even the best fighter can still find himself surrounded and defeated. But remember: you can use your spirit tools in battle, and they can drastically turn the tide. A fully upgraded Smoke Bomb, for example, will heal you and allow you to perform a multi-target assassination, while a fully upgraded Kunai can stagger enemies just long enough for you to deliver the final blow. Bringing bombs and fireworks to a swordfight may seem dishonorable, but if you want the purity of a samurai swordfight, check out the optional duels in Act II.
Save pedestrians along the street
Ghost of Tsushima differs from other open-world games in one important way: there are no turrets that reveal all of the optional objectives in an area. If you want to find the game's dozens of hidden side activities, you'll need to explore the map on your own. However, help is available if you're willing to stop and fight along the way. Exploring the streets of Tsushima, you will often come across Mongol warbands who have captured Japanese villagers. Save the villagers and they will always tell you about an occupied camp or a hidden hot spring nearby; They even mark it on your map for you. Mongol squads also amass valuable supplies, so it's worth stopping and investigating.
Redirect whenever possible
Tough enemies can take down Jin in just three or four hits, so you'll need to avoid damage as much as possible. You have two options for this: parry or dodge. Both are upgradeable skills and you should put some points into both before the end of the game. When possible, however, trimming is the way to go. This is because parrying replenishes your resolve (which allows you to use special abilities) and, depending on your upgrades, can even restore health and chase away nearby enemies. When an enemy's attack glows blue, it means they can parry; if it's orange, you have to dodge. Press the L1 button for a second before your opponent's weapon connects at full power.
don't update everything
Ghost of Tsushima has a lot of upgradable weapons and armor. However, finding supplies and crafting ingredients can be a headache, and purchasing resources from merchants is often prohibitively expensive. So it's probably okay to focus on just three or four armor sets, at least initially. Which one you like will depend on your playstyle, but I thought it would be a good idea to upgrade the Traveler's Attire, as well as a melee and ranged armor set. Keep in mind that you will get many new armor sets during Act II. So it might be worth keeping some supplies until then to see what works. However, it's worth maxing out your katana and short sword.
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Marshall Honorof is senior editor at Tom's Guide and oversees the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He has a background in science writing, having studied paleomamology, biological anthropology, and history of science and technology. After work, he practices taekwondo or dives deep into classic sci-fi.
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