Sorry guys! Work/life has been busy and I've been using all my free time to actually play the game.
So yeah, I can already basically tell Ghost of Tsushima is going to be one of my favorite games of all time. Sorry for hyperbole haha. I think basically the most simplistic way to look at it is a much better Assassin's Creed, with some elements/inspiration from Breath of the Wild, and maybe a little Nioh and Sekiro perhaps. So, basically a very well designed and somewhat streamlined open-world adventure stealth game with obvious passionate care/focus paid to art direction, environmental design and the combat system. This is for me the most beautiful game I have ever played easily. But what I love about it is that it is not all graphics/looks over substance.
A note about myself---I typically have no interest in open world games and AAA games in general for that matter. I've played Assassins Creed 1 and 2 only (they were just okay and barely held my interest) and Breath of the Wild (wonderful game but a bit empty). That's about it for my open world experience.....tried Witcher 3 and got bored very quickly and found the combat too generic. But, I do have a huge subject bias for all things samurai/ninja...so I am looking at Ghost of Tsushima from the perspective of someone who loves the subject matter and always intended to get the game. My biggest question mark was would the combat be lame/generic as usual for a Western dev and would I tolerate the open world.
And basically the game has exceeded my expectations on both fronts. The world is rich, beautiful and engaging--I actually want to do all the side quests! And this is bar none the best "casual"/non-hardcore combat system I have ever encountered in a game. It is MUCH deeper and refined than something like Assassin's Creed. Obviously, this is a totally different kind of game so the combat is nothing like Ninja Gaiden, DMC, Nioh in terms of depth or difficulty. In general, Ghost is not a hard game but it is a thoroughly engaging one. Combat feels satisfying and lethal---you will often die in 3-4 hits and likewise you will kill enemies just as quickly. The hit detection, inputs, movement and animations are super crisp and responsive. These are probably the best "realistic" sword combat animations I have ever seen in a game. Enemies are not particularly smart but aggressive and attack in groups, and pleasingly do not wait but will attach at the same time. So, at any given time you will be facing a fast swordsman closing at you fast, a spearman launching an unblockable thrust and two arrowmen sniping at your from afar. So the encounters have an awesome chaotic, brutal quality to them.....honestly it is a feeling that is similar to Ninja Gaiden at times (the feeling, not the depth of mechanics obviously). You have to manage the space or you will die quickly. There is also a very good intrinsic soft lock in the game....it was absolutely the right call of the devs not to have a lock-on feature....you quickly have to maneuver and adapt between multiple enemies and attacks coming at you at the same time from different directions. On top of that, you get some GREAT one-on-one cinematic duels----impressively it is the same core combat system used in these duels as the regular melee action. This to me is an indicator of just how well designed the combat fundamentals are.
So again not a hard game (note I am playing on Normal right now and saving Hard for my next play thru), but engaging and honestly just super fun. Why is it super fun---well, the game just gives you so many incredibly fun skills and options that honestly just make you feel like a badass. Parries, counterattacks, dodges, perfect dodges/parries, multiple stances with their own movesets, "Ghost" tools like kunai, smoke bombs, grenades, your bow and arrow....and I am no where near unlocking them all!
Stealth is decent and fun but nothing new---it is the same kind of stealth for the most part from games like Tenchu, Assassin's Creed, etc. So good but not great---this is where I would have liked them to have done a bit more personally, but it is fine and enjoyable as is.
Anyway....sorry for the length and possible incoherence...typed this up fast. Basically, if you like samurai/ninja, traditional Japan, etc. this is a must play IMO. I cannot overstate how beautiful the game is and how amazing they have captured the natural world, lighting, etc.
If you are someone who has played a lot of open world games, I can see how perhaps this would just be more of the "same" but not the case with me. In many ways it is still just the usual open world game stuff/tasks...but I would just argue done in a much more engaging, streamlined way.
I never would have thought this possible either but a Western developer has also now designed one of my favorite combat systems ever (granted they got some input from Sony Japan I am sure and also brought in renowned Japanese sword masters from the Tenshin Ryu Hyoho school for the mo-cap!).
Hebass, do you agree man?