E3 2018: Sucker Punch creative director opens up about Ghost of Tsushima

Started from Sly Cooper now we’re here

Between Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Nioh 2, and Ghost of Tsushima, E3 2018 had a lot for samurai action game fans to obsess over. Building on the Tsushima gameplay demo shown at Sony’s press conference, Sucker Punch Productions offered a behind-closed-doors breakdown with more insight.

The open-world action-adventure title takes place in 1274 during the Mongol invasions of Japan. Tsushima Island is home to flowing fields, bamboo forests, and rolling hills.

As creative director Nate Fox puts it, Sucker Punch aims to capture “the sublime beauty of nature,” and while it is drawing from real events, this is “an original work.” The developers “are not recreating history stone by stone. We don’t want to run fast and loose with history with real people.”

As it turns out, the storyline in the on-stage demo was only a side mission — one meant to illustrate “the kind of experiences that you’ll come upon” while exploring. “I believe that open-world games come alive when you have the option to organically find something and discover it and then have it happen versus the just straight-up arc,” says Fox. He describes Tsushima as “an anthology of stories where you get to know characters all trying to survive inside of the Mongol invasion.”

“This is a game with a fixed story. It is not a branching story like inFamous.”

While Sucker Punch didn’t have much to say about combat yet, we saw tense duels that ended in a single well-timed strike as well as back-and-forth sword swinging and blocking against multiple characters that looked more traditional to the AAA games space. Tsushima “is about lethal precision,” according to Fox. There aren’t supernatural elements; “it is a grounded game.” Challenge-wise, Tsushima is meant to be akin to Horizon Zero Dawn and reach a “mainstream gaming audience.”

Protagonist Jin Sakai “was trained in the code of the samurai, a very strict rule set, but since the invasion he’s been radically outnumbered and he’s been forced to evolve the way that he fights back. Including going into things like stealth.” The power fantasy is that he’ll become the “warrior that slips through the Mongol’s fingers and ultimately hunts them.”

Another topic that wasn’t covered in-depth: progression. But yes, as an open-world game,  progression will “absolutely be a part of [Tsushima]” and give players “new ways to assault a situation.” One early example was a grappling hook, which Jin used to mount a ledge and catch three soldiers unaware.

Sucker Punch did confirm a photo mode. (I mean, after Second Son, they had to.) There’s also localized Japanese audio, which will make it onto “every disc to every territory.” The story is told “from the perspective of the Japanese, however the Mongols — outside of some of the leaders and the translators — all speak in Mongolian, and this is entirely on purpose to give you the feeling of what it would be like to be on this island and not know what they’re saying,” says Fox. “To me that’s very threatening.”

As much as Tsushima‘s E3 showcase left me with more questions than answers, I’m optimistic. Tonally, they’re hitting their mark. This is a dream come true in the making for samurai film fans.

Jordan Devore
Jordan is a founding member of Destructoid and poster of seemingly random pictures. They are anything but random.