How Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut Can Improve the Game
What will the Iki Island DLC bring to the table to expand the original experience?
Ghost of Tsushima, one of the darlings of 2020, is set to receive a new and enhanced edition called Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut, scheduled to launch for PS4 and PS5 on the 20th of August.
As stated in the relevant PlayStation Blog post, the Director’s Cut edition ‘includes a new chapter in Jin’s journey, but also some new updates that are a direct response to some of the community’s most requested features.’
The story told in the DLC pertains to ‘events with deep personal stakes’ as Jin travels to the island of Iki to investigate rumours of a Mongol presence. Iki island is also going to include brand new environments, new armour sets, new mini-games, new techniques, new enemy types, and more.
On the surface, this all sounds nice, exciting, and like the normal bells and whistles that come along with a DLC or expansion. But I think the development team has a chance to improve and expand on Ghost of Tsushima’s mechanics and design systems to elevate the player’s experience on Iki Island.
When DLC for a game is announced, length or duration is an interesting factor to look at. The larger the expansion is, the more new content it will add and the more likely it is to improve and add new mechanics instead of just being more of the same.
Howlongtobeat.com lists Ghost of Tsushima as a 25-hour game if you just play the main story and more of a 40-hour game if you also choose to play most of the side stuff. This gives us the 33-hour mark as a near average. The real-life island of Tsushima is round about 700 square km in area, while the much smaller Iki island is only 140 square km. Mathematically speaking, Iki island is 1/5th the area of Tsushima island, meaning that the Iki island DLC would be roughly 7 hours long.
If this indeed is the case, it would be rather disappointing. Ghost of Tsushima was split into 3 acts, and while not equal in size, these 3 acts provided nice pacing to the game’s flow. If they were to be near equal in size and duration, each act would be somewhere between 10–12 hours long.
In my opinion, this timeframe would be a much better fit for the Iki Island expansion. There is no point in adding a whole new island to the game, only for it to provide a mere 7 hours of gameplay. Stretching that number to 15 on the other hand would provide the team more incentive to make a whole new locale.
The geographical area of the island would stay the same even if the duration of the expansion was to be increased or decreased. Too little playtime is directly proportional to less content and thus the island might seem too sparsely populated with NPCs, quests, and activities.
More content and more playtime will make the island more densely populated, which would also solve Ghost of Tsushima’s problem of spreading out its content too thin and generally being too geographically large for its own good.
If Sucker Punch can create a much denser and more padded-out environment for the player to explore, then they would much better be able to justify an entirely new island. It would also provide sufficient content and playtime to draw gamers into playing the new experience.
Ghost of Tsushima was set on Tsushima Island and was split into three main geographical sections, each connected to one of the game’s three story acts. Each one of these had its own unique geographical flair, with different looking terrain and environments.
The southernmost region of Izuhara has flourishing colourful forests and gently rolling hills. The middle region of Toyotoma is marked by low lying swampland that flows into sprawling farmland as the land slopes upwards. And each of those is a far cry from the icy, snowy Kamiagata region that sits at the northernmost tip of Tsushima Island.
Each act and each region of Tsushima provided different and unique eye candy for the player to soak in as they rode their horse through one dancing meadow after another.
Iki Island has the chance to introduce a new style of environment. From pre-release pictures, the island looks like a rainforest, overflowing with lush vegetation and striking purple leaves drooping down from mellow-looking trees.
The damp and dreary island looks to suit the darker theme the expansion is taking up, with Jin’s arrival from the western setting sun symbolising a beacon of hope for an island that looks to be in ruin.
Ghost of Tsushima’s most glaring problem was its repetitive open-world. Aside from the myriad of side quests known as Tales of Tsushima, which to Sucker Punch’s credit were fully fleshed out character tales with intriguing plot lines, the island was littered with tiny activities for the player to do. From following a fox to a nearby shrine or chasing down that golden bird to a point of interest or clearing the next Mongol camp on the horizon, Ghost of Tsushima had a repetition problem.
I personally did not have such a problem with this. For one, I am not a completionist, meaning I won’t and don’t like to complete every objective on the map. I mostly ignored these activities unless I was feeling like it. And two, I genuinely found it exciting to see what the island's nature led me to. My own choice allowed me to enjoy everything great about Ghost of Tsushima, while still being able to dip my toes into its more lacklustre sections without losing interest.
But the overwhelming majority of people don’t seem to like such repetitive and basic activities. The Iki Island DLC gives the developers a chance to resolve this issue. In the main game, these activities granted you rewards, like a charm to provide passive buffs in combat or valuable resources with which to craft gear. Due to the length of the game, such upgrades were in abundance, and because of that, more activities were added to the game’s map.
With a single piece of DLC expansion, the duration of content that developers need to create is sizably less than for a whole game. Touching on the previous chain of consequences, with less content comes the need for fewer upgrades which results in fewer icons and activities on the map.
With the Iki Island expansion, Sucker Punch should look to create a more compact and dense world. More meaningful side quests and less open-world filler will go a long way in making this a more pleasant experience for many.
Ghost of Tsushima’s stance system was brilliant. Because each enemy used different weapons in combat, the player had to use the right stance against the right enemy. Parrying against a swordsman using the stone stance and breaking a shieldsman’s guard using a flurry of heavy attacks in the water stance highlights the different approaches needed to tackle the various enemy types.
In Sucker Punch’s description of the DLC, they mentioned the addition of new enemy types. This opens up the possibility of adding a whole new fifth stance to the game, to go alongside the already existing stances, these being the stone stance against swordsmen, water stance against shieldsmen, wind stance against spearsmen, and moon stance against brutes.
To select a stance, the player had to hold down R2 and then click the face button assigned to each stance. The four face buttons on a controller were perfectly suited to the four stances in the game. If a fifth stance were to be added, it would create a serious button mapping complication for the developers to figure out.
The more realistic outcome is that the enemies on Iki Island will be visually different, with unique armour and builds. It is also possible that new weapons are given to Mongol soldiers while still categorizing them into one of the four existing groups.
Ghost of Tsushima was yet another top-notch addition to the PlayStation 4’s exclusive first-party lineup and a fitting farewell to this great console. While more cross-gen games and a native PS5 port usher it out of both the aforementioned accomplishments, a new DLC expansion aims to bring a whole new samurai adventure.
There is a lot of promise in the Iki Island expansion and the chance to address some of the game’s shortcomings. Even if the expansion doesn’t fix all of the game’s limitations, it will be hard to be too disappointed with just more Ghost of Tsushima.