Ghost of Tsushima is an open-world game set in Japan during the Mongol invasion of 1274. Developed by Sucker Punch Productions – the creators of the Infamous and Sly Cooper franchises – you play as a vengeful warrior who must bend the samurai code to fight the Mongol Empire. The last game Sucker Punch released was Infamous: First Light in 2014, a standalone companion game to 2013’s Infamous: Second Son.
On MetaCritic, First Light has the lowest metascore (73) of the games they’ve made; Sly 2: Band of Thieves has the highest (88). I’ve not yet had the chance to play the Sly games, but I’ve played the entirety of the Infamous series. They’re a blast to play, especially the latest PS4 entries; zipping around Seattle with an array of semi-original superpowers was awesome and the combat and movement (combining protagonist Delsin’s special powers with parkour) felt highly satisfying. Second Son was, perhaps, the best PS4 title to release in its infant year.
While I enjoyed my time with all of the Infamous titles, however, there were many elements that felt unnecessary or weak. As an open-world series, Infamous may be closer to what Ghost of Tsushima is going to be than the Sly games, so I hope Sucker Punch improves on some aspects of their open world brand.
Make the protagonist, and supporting cast, interesting and sympathetic
The Infamous titles struggled to have compelling main characters. Cole MacGrath of Infamous 1 & 2 was entirely cliché in his era, a humorless everyman with a tragic origin, bald head and a gravelly voice that made my ears bleed. His supporting cast wasn’t much better, although his friend Zeke would have made a less bland central character to view the world through. I didn’t care much for Cole and co.’s problems, nor their impact on the world as a whole; I was simply having fun with the lightning powers.
Infamous: Second Son improved upon Cole with Delsin Rowe, a rebellious young man with charming, playful tendencies and issues with authority. However, despite being sympathetic, he wasn’t much less of a cliché than his forebear, and towards the end of my first playthrough of the game, Delsin began to both bore and grate on me. Additionally, Second Son’s supporting cast were about as fleshed out as the previous games in the series – that is to say, barely at all, although Delsin’s relationship with his police officer brother, Reggie, was a strong point in the narrative.
We know very little about Ghost of Tsushima or its cast. I have to cross my fingers and hope that we get a developed main character, with more personality traits than simply being a stoic swordsman hounding for some sort of vengeance. I hope they take cues from Yojimbo, or Samurai Champloo. Games as a medium are tired of archetypal rehashes—this year alone we’ve seen great, character-driven stories on the PS4, such as Horizon: Zero Dawn and Nier: Automata. I believe Sucker Punch has it in them to match those games.
Ditch the binary morality system—or make it more complex
To me, the other main flaw to the Infamous series was its “branching” storyline based on moral choices. I say “branching” because the choices you picked rarely meant anything in terms of actual mission deviation or even dialogue choices. This mechanic was known as the Karma system, and felt like more of an add-on than a core component of the games, especially after the first two. The fact that this mechanic was such a core selling point of the series feels misguided; the system, even in the PS4 games, felt tacky and underdeveloped.
Now, with the hindsight of games like The Witcher’s incredibly complicated moral choices and branching storylines blowing Infamous out of the water, Sucker Punch have to either streamline Ghost of Tsushima by removing this unnecessary element of their game design, or double down on it and work really hard to match the likes of The Witcher or Fallout New Vegas. They could make the morality system intrinsic to play-style, like Dishonored, where certain world elements and plot changes happen depending on the way the game is played.
If Sucker Punch can get these elements right, Ghost of Tsushima could be the best game the developer has ever made.