Ghost of Tsushima — The Ultimate Immersive Experience

Aditya V
6 min readAug 9, 2020

(This article is spoiler-free)

There are two kinds of great games.

The first kind is what I call the ‘spike’ game. It’s a game that does a few things (or one thing) extraordinarily well. Without those qualities, the game would be competent, but not exceptional. The greatest games have multiple spikes.

Take God of War 4, where the Leviathan Axe and the successful reinvention of an iconic video game character come to mind. Or consider The Witcher 3, where choice driven narrative, unprecedented attention to detail, expansive world building and meaningful secondary content elevate the game to greatness. To be clear — these games deliver with proficiency across multiple dimensions. The point is that insofar as greatness is defined by the influence and legacy of the game, one doesn’t expect, for instance, to see The Witcher 3’s combat system being discussed as a milestone in video game history. The greatness comes from the spikes.

The second kind of greatness is quieter, more subtle. The game doesn’t have many spikes. When you study its parts, the game appears to have a workmanlike quality to it; competent, but not compelling. Yet the game is great, because it amounts to more than the sum of its parts. That’s Ghost of Tsushima.

Ghost of Tsushima is the ultimate immersive experience. It is a majestic tree grown out of a tiny seed; every branch, every leaf, can be traced back to the core idea that seeds the game — that you are a samurai. Focus on one branch or one leaf, and you lose sight of the bigger picture; step back far enough and the tree comes into view in all its majesty.

Immersion is one of the most difficult things to achieve in video games. In part, this is because it’s difficult to define what’s immersive and what isn’t.

Consider Red Dead Redemption 2. RDR 2 is an immersive experience, but is it immersive because Arthur has to squat and visibly search pockets for you to be able to loot a dead body, or despite it? Is Ghost of Tsushima more immersive because you’re able to loot dead bodies whilst on a galloping horse? Is getting violently knocked off your horse for running it into a branch more immersive than riding a horse that is unflappable in the face of physical obstacles…