Ghost of Tsushima‘s Iki Island expansion, included in the new Director’s Cut version of the game, presents an even better narrative than what we saw in the base game. The Director’s Cut, which releases on August 20, also brings new armor sets, a director’s commentary, and a digital art book. The PlayStation 5 edition costs $69.99, and the PlayStation 4 version is $59.99—though you can upgrade a PS4 copy of the base game to the Director’s Cut for $19.99. (Note: A co-op multiplayer mode was not available in the prelaunch review code.)
The Iki content is separate from the stories and characters of the original game, which took place on the mainland. Ghost of Tsushima‘s protagonist, Jin, is still the main character, and as he travels to the island of Iki, he encounters an isolated people who resent outside influence, especially from samurai like him.
Jin is viewed with suspicion, even as the Mongols—the primary antagonists of Ghost of Tsushima—continue their raids on Iki’s outnumbered pirate population. The islanders’ distrust of outsiders is explained as the plot unfolds, and the new material explores themes ignored by the original game. The expansion focuses on Jin’s propensity for violence and gives thematic weight to the frequent battles that result in ludicrous body counts. Ghost of Tsushima retains its brutal gameplay, but the narrative forces players to consider the downside of cutting down anyone who looks at you funny.
Iki is small compared to the mainland, but it’s big enough for the expansion’s story and activities. The expansion offers new skills, armor, and side missions, and it will take you hours to work through it all. The island is also populated by enjoyable personalities who put Jin in uncomfortable situations as he tries to make up for his family’s cruel past. Iki’s plight brings to mind the fate of Okinawa, a Japanese island lost to the imperial forces during World War II. The fighting cost Okinawa a distinctive culture, and Iki’s islanders want to avoid a similar outcome.
Ghost of Tsushima’s expansion provides enough content to make it worth a purchase, although Iki’s main story lasts only a few (lengthy) missions. But the Director’s Cut also brings technical enhancements, especially to the PS5 edition. You’ll still see texture pop-in when running through dense environments, but the game’s ambient effects, such as leaves blowing in the wind, have received boosted fidelity and clarity. An early, breathtaking scene with Jin’s father features thousands of red leaves covering the ground. And be prepared to see a lot of mist—just as J.J. Abrams loves lens flares, Ghost of Tsushima’s developers are obsessed with attractive mist effects.
Both the PS5 and PS4 Pro versions of the Director’s Cut offer 4K options, but the resolution doesn’t appear to be visibly improved from the original release, at least up close. The PS4 Pro handles the new material well enough, albeit at 30 fps. The PS5 version, on the other hand, is locked at 60 fps when in fidelity mode. Also noteworthy on the PS5 are improved reflections. The update doesn’t appear to have added ray tracing, but lighting has improved noticeably on the newer console; a reflection that looks like a smudged blob on the water’s surface on the PS4 version shows much more detail on the PS5. Farther into the ocean waters, we get only repeating textures and basic sunlight reflections, though. Load times last mere seconds on the PS5, compared to the 30+ seconds for the initial boot on the PS4, and the comparison is similar for fast travel.
Ghost of Tsushima is a beautiful game, and although the Director’s Cut ups the ante, it doesn’t do quite enough to justify a purchase on the technical upgrades alone. The value comes from the content itself. If you have a copy of the original PS4 version, the $20 upgrade fee is an easy sell. If you’ve never played the game at all—and you should—this is the version to get.
Listing image by Sucker Punch Productions