We all saw it coming: With the advent of a new console generation, even one that’s cross-compatible, comes an onslaught of new remasters, remakes, and now “directors’ cuts” of all the big games from before the new, shiny boxes came out.
The reason seems simple: Although there have been a few truly current-gen games, few developers have yet to finish games that truly take advantage of the cutting-edge hardware. And so, what are those lucky souls who’ve been able to both find and purchase the hot new toys to do? Play the old games, but make them look better, of course!
And thus, we have Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut, which, along with the upcoming Death Stranding Director’s Cut, appears to signal a new style of marketing for Sony’s first-party re-releases. However, at least for this first title, marketing really seems to be the only reason for the distinction. The main story appears to be untouched, apart from a few expected quality-of-life enhancements and appreciable, yet slight, enhancements for the PlayStation 5 version.
The problem with these re-releases, however, is that we’re approaching a point where games look so good that there’s not much further for them to go. Ghost of Tsushima was Sony’s last major PlayStation 4 exclusive, and it had mastered the art of drawing out as much processing power as possible from the 2013 console. Simply popping the original game into a PS5 will already give performance improvements, and the difference between those improvements and those of the director’s cut are so slight that a side-by-side comparison of the two looks completely identical to my untrained eye.
In addition, most of the new quality-of-life changes are also coming to the original game as a patch, which is certainly appreciated but doesn’t do much to convince one to pay anywhere from $9.99 to $29.99 to upgrade, based on a confusing upgrade path. Upgrading the game for review was a nightmare that took multiple calls, emails and blood sacrifices to fulfill, but I believe the frustration came more from my own unique circumstances than something that should affect most buyers.
That’s where The Iki Island expansion comes in. Effectively a DLC expansion to the game, you’re able to travel to a previously unavailable small island near Tsushima, similarly based on real history and geography. There, The Eagle (Anzu Lawson), the expansion’s new villain, captures main protagonist Jin Sakai (Daisuke Tsuji) and forces him to drink a hallucinogenic poison, creating terrifying images and preying on his insecurities. The capture itself was a cool moment of a forced defeat that had me fooled as a genuine one, and the hallucinations look freaky enough, but they seldom affect the actual gameplay in any meaningful ways. Much like the original story, which would often hit the same beats of conflict between preserving Jin’s traditions or following the stealthy, “dishonorable” path of the Ghost, Iki Island’s new story hits you over the head with his guilt about letting his father die while also realizing that he was pretty much a war criminal. I like the characters of Ghost of Tsushima’s new and old stories well enough, but they can be a little trite and overly repetitive.
The story doesn’t overstay its welcome though, and I quickly fell into the same addictive loop I fell into with the original of hunting out each new marker (aside from the new archery challenges, which I found to be pointless slogs). There’s something about Ghost of Tsushima’s set-up that makes it hard to stop playing, succeeding for me where the overwhelming maps of games like Assassin’s Creed fail by opening up new areas at just slow enough of a clip to appear manageable, a trait I also found in other open-world, first-party Sony titles like Spider-Man and Horizon Zero Dawn.
There’s little to the Iki Islands that you won’t also find on the mainland of Tsushima, but as someone who loves what Tsushima had to offer, that’s fine by me. The one-on-one duels still had my heart pounding, while other encounters are trivialized by the upgrades and gear I’d obtained from nearly completing the main game. There were a good number of quests that feature raids, one of my favorite elements from the original where it really feels like I was one powerful member of a larger army storming an encampment. As Garrett Martin wrote in his review of the original, Ghost of Tsushima is a videogame-y videogame, and the Iki Islands unsurprisingly do little to challenge that notion.
And that’s just fine with me. I’m more than happy to go along with a handful of more quests where you stare at the ground, Jin makes some remarks about how there was a struggle, then you follow some comically obvious footprints until—surprise!—a bunch of bad guys show up for a fight. Because as copy-and-paste as they are, they’re set within a gorgeous game that’s only made more gorgeous by the new version’s enhancements, and a solid battle system that never seems to ask too much or little of me.
Whether it’ll be worth it to you depends on how much you’d need to end up spending and how much you enjoyed your first time in Tsushima. If you’ve never played it, though, Director’s Cut is the obvious choice whether you’re on PS4 or PS5. It might be the filler of games, but it’s some of the best filler I’ve ever played. Slap that on the back of the box, Sucker Punch.
Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut was developed by Sucker Punch Productions and published by Sony. Our review is based on the PlayStation 5 version. It’s also available for PlayStation 4.
Joseph Stanichar is a freelance writer who specializes in videogames and pop culture. He’s written for publications such as Game Informer, Twinfinite and Looper. He’s on Twitter @JosephStanichar.