[Editor’s Note: Some minor spoilers ahead for the upcoming video game Ghost of Tsushima, though we’ll keep this guide for beginners as spoiler-free as possible. Be sure to check out our review here!]
Right now, gamers around the world are getting their first chance to play Ghost of Tsushima, the new Sucker Punch Productions title that lets players embark on their own samurai journey on the PS4. We know not everyone can get in on the fun at the same time, and we also know that we’re darn lucky Sony gave us an advance copy to check the game out ahead of time, so we wanted to put together a helpful set of tips and tricks for beginners. The game does a great job of doling out tips during the short loading screens, but ours are a bit more fine-tuned from personal experience. We hope that you’ll be able to learn from our very silly mistakes and use them to make yourself the best samurai warrior you can be! Just be aware that some minor spoilers may follow.
Since Ghost of Tsushima features a lot of objectives — clearing areas, recruiting allies, fighting off invaders, exploring a hostile world, and gathering crafting supplies and collectibles — as well as a lot of variety in how you get the job done — honorably by fighting out in the open, non-traditionally by striking from the shadows, or on horseback riding across the land in search of every last scrap of loot — it can be a little overwhelming. So we’ll first feature some general, overall tips for every gamer out there in order to make your job a little easier. Then, we’ll add some playstyle-specific tips for those of you who want to walk the path of a samurai, a shinobi, or an explorer. So let’s get started!
Master Your Swords – It’s hard to overstate just how important a samurai’s sword is. Jin Sakai’s katana has its own lore, of course, but it will also grow and change with Jin himself. But all the upgrades and cosmetic changes in the world won’t help you much if you don’t know how to use it. While Ghost of Tsushima offers players a ton of versatility as to how they approach every fight, the overwhelming majority of them will end with the sword. Get comfortable with it. Learn how to block and parry (general and blue enemy attacks), how to dodge (unblockable red enemy attacks), how to strike fast or hard and when to do so, such as after staggering a foe. Get used to switching stances depending on what enemy type you’re facing. Practice your timing, boost your reaction time, and polish your combo skills against a variety of enemies; it’ll definitely save your life (especially on harder difficulties), but it’ll also make your foray into the late stages of the game much easier to handle.
Master Your Horse – Much like Red Dead Redemption 2, your character will get a noble steed to accompany you across the wild and dangerous island of Tsushima. Unlike RDR2, however, you get to name your horse (though there are only three options), and it’s pretty much indestructible. (It doesn’t like to swim, however, giving it something in common with John Marston.) Though your horse will buck and run at the slightest provocation, you can take that sucker off of almost any ledge or cliff without taking much if any damage yourself, if you’re comfortable doing such things. You can also summon your horse almost instantly no matter where you left it previously — say, by riding it through a Mongol camp and then leaping over the wall at a dead end, summoning your teleporting horse on the other side — making for a quick escape or speedy travel through certain areas. Both aspects are sure to come in handy while speedrunning but they’re also useful in casual gameplay.
Master Your Map – The mapping system in Ghost of Tsushima is both exceedingly clever and a little frustrating at the same time. The overall island map is zoomable, going out far enough to show all three regions and in far enough to get to the town / location level. Unfortunately there’s no finer mapping option, so you’re left to discover smaller-scale areas on your own. Luckily the Guiding Wind is there to help you! This super-fun aspect of Ghost of Tsushima summons the wind to push you towards your objective, be that a quest location, a new area to discover, or even a collectible hidden away from plain sight. Usually, it’s as easy as clicking on the place on your map and selecting “Track Location.” But there’s a subtler trick: It took me hours before I figured out that you can set the Guiding Wind to take you to a specific category of “things” on your map, be it a fox den or a singing cricket or a collectible. Additionally, keep an eye out for golden birds, columns of steam, clusters of fireflies around trees, and flocks of birds gathering above a location; if you can see it, you can get to it. Get comfortable with the map and the wind, and you should be good to go.
Master Yourself – Obviously there’s a lot of customization in this game, giving Jin a variety of options when it comes to combat and exploration. But it’s up to the player to decide when and where to apply those upgrades. You’ll earn Technique Points by completing objectives, dispatching foes, and satisfying quests; how you spend those points is up to you. I’d advise maxing out your available Stances and swordplay skills / combos first since you’ll likely be using them no matter what finer sort of playstyle you lean towards. Additional customization and upgrading comes via craftspeople (Armorers, Bowyers, Trappers, Swordsmiths, and the general Merchant, maybe even a Dyer or two out there in the wild…) and in-game upgrade stations, like Fox Dens / Inari Shrines, Hot Springs, and Bamboo Strikes.
With all of that in mind, here are some tips for more specific playstyle approaches:
Honorable Samurai – There’s a great story arc in Ghost of Tsushima that pits the tradition and honor of a trained samurai against the non-traditional tactics of thieves and assassins. You may find the need to use skills and weapons from both paths in your journey, but if you want to stick to the tried and true honorable route, we have some tips. First, prepare for a rough ride. Calling out every Mongol camp with a Stand-off at the gates is definitely a bold samurai maneuver, as long as you’re ready to face down dozens of them on your own. For this build, I’d advise gearing up in the traditional Samurai Clan Armor and maxing that out at the Armorer’s crafting station ASAP. (None of the other attire, ie headgear, appears to have any stat bonuses.) Also be sure to visit as many Hot Springs and Bamboo Strikes as you can to pump up your health meter and Resolve, which is used for special attacks and to refill your health gauge. You can also tweak your stats through sword charms; you can unlock more of these by visiting Inari Shrines, which is a good idea no matter how you want to play. Look for both major and minor charms that reduce damage received, and boost health, resolve, and damage dealt. Good luck!
Sneaky Archer – Somewhere between the Honorable Samurai and the No-Good Thief is the Sneaky Archer. For this build, you’ll want to prioritize a combination of the Ronin Attire, which minimizes detection while boosting damage somewhat, and the Tadayori Armor, which lends beneficial bonuses to bow-wielders such as increased nocking and arrow reload speeds and a longer Concentration, ie slow-down meter for aiming and firing. You don’t need to prioritize health boosts and damage mitigation here (as long as you don’t let enemies get a clean hit on you), so Charm focus should be on boosts to ranged stats and arrow damage, reduced reloading times, and reduced detection stats. It should also go without saying that you’ll want to upgrade your archery skill trees, as well as both of your bows and your various types of arrows ASAP to get the most bang for your buck, sometimes literally.
Stealthy Assassin – Though it may be the least honorable, there’s a lot to be said for the stealthy approach in Ghost of Tsushima. You can clear out a Mongol camp of some thirty-plus foes silently, one at a time if need be; you just have to be willing to stab them in the back, from above, or even through a shoji screen. If that’s fine by you (as it is for me), then put your efforts into the sneaky Ronin Attire, along with the sneaky-boosting options I mentioned above. Additionally, rather than the bows, you’ll want to make sure your tanto is fully upgraded, along with all available Ghost weapons and skills, which really make the difference in a fight. Charms that lower your detection rate and boost your Ghost weapon damage are good options here. You’ll be able to use a combination of short-range and long-range weapons against solo foes or groups of enemies if things go south and they catch you in an attempted assassination, but they’re best used to cause a distraction, giving you time to get to the relative safety of the waiting, waving pampas grass once again.
World Explorer – It’s not just combat in Ghost of Tsushima; collectors and explorers get a customized option, too! You’ll want to don your Traveler’s Attire, one of the first outfits you’ll get, in order to clear out the “fog of war” from the island and discover all it has to offer. Wearing this outfit while out and about on horseback, or after clearing a base, will more easily allow you to discover artifacts along with the Guiding Wind; the controller vibrates to let you know how close you are to a collectible item or a newly discovered location. Pretty handy!
My chosen method is as follows: Travel around the world in Traveler’s Attire until I find a site worth exploring or a base worth clearing out. Don the Ronin Attire to sneak around and do some wet work; I rarely swap to the Tadayori Armor for bow-work, though I’m learning to remember to do that. Then, if things get really hairy, switch to the Samurai Clan Armor for the full-on melee battles. You’ll 100% want to keep this armor set on for the one-on-one cinematic duels, unless you’re a true Ronin badass. Then, when you’re free to explore the cleared-out base, it’s time to put the Traveler’s Attire on once again to search for all that loot! (One note: I hope Sucker Punch adds a quick change option for outfit load-outs because changing outfits and charms is a bit of a pain, even though you can do it in the midst of a battle. This would be a great quality of life update.)
Some miscellany for you, too: I don’t really know what purpose the various songs serve besides changing the weather to suit your fancy or occasionally adding to the narrative, but the flute and singing crickets are nice touches. Also, your touch pad doesn’t just summon the wind or play a tune, it also lets you bow or draw your sword. I’ve only found one place where bowing actually activates something interesting in the game, so if you find more, let us know!
We hope this helps you in your journey! If you have more tips you discover along the way, feel free to share them with us, and we might even add them here!
Dave Trumbore is Collider’s Senior Editor overseeing Games, Animation, and all those weird Saturday-morning cartoons no one else remembers. Test his trivia IQ on Twitter @DrClawMD