Ghost of Tsushima was my GOTY 2020 and I just replayed it because I needed to shape up for the Iki Island-Expansion that comes with the Director’s Cut. Playing through the story missions I fell in love with the game all over again. Please be aware of possible MAJOR SPOILERS for both the main game and the expansion.
Best come prepared – Iki Island is not for beginners
You could, of course, try Iki Island already after finishing Act I, which is when the expansion becomes available. But you really should already have a good set of armor handy, upgraded your weapons and, most important of all, unlocked all of the stances.
You see, Ghost of Tsushima does not make it easy for you. With each area you unlock when finishing one of the three main acts, enemies become harder. First, the straw hat ronin will teach you something about caution when facing swordsmen. Then, mongol arrows will be laced with poison and damage you instantly.
Iki island’s warriors, then, are as adept at switching stances as you are and will do so mid-fight. You will constantly have to be on your toes. Also, they have a special bonus that will make things tricky for our hero, Jin Sakai.
Since the expansion is set after the third Act, the difficulty described should come as no surprise.
The story is a journey into the past
Jin is familiar with Iki Island and it is connected to a very personal trauma. Which is an exciting baseline, since we get to learn more about his past and thus more about Jin and why he is the way he is now, the demons he struggles with.
Though reliving that past trauma is not something Jin chooses himself, it is forced upon him in the form of disturbing visions. Confronting his past and confronting his actions as well as his strength and weaknesses is what made the main game one of my favorites. Iki Island expands on that…
As he explores the island, Jin encounters a previously unfamiliar Mongol tribe as well as the people living in fear of the invaders. What I thought interesting was that while in the main game we have Lord Shimura and Khotoun Khan as allies/antagonists, on Iki Island their place is taken by two women, the Eagle, leader of the Mongol tribe, and Fune, a raider captain. Again, Jin cannot be sure of his allies and his enemies are unforgiving.
The story also ties in neatly with subplots from the Tales of Tsushima of the main game, which I thought awesome. And you can tell the devs know their fans very well as – SPOILER – you will meet a familiar face on Iki, namely Kenji, the sake-seller, who is in trouble once more. When first meeting him on Iki, I noticed that his stunning horse, Miko, was missing. And immediately I was hooked. Well done!
The Island is a wonder to discover
Like the main game, Iki Island offers beautiful vistas and landscapes you can explore. Then there are shrines, onsen and animal sanctuaries to discover. The latter will require you to use your controller to play a melody on your flute. This will calm down the animals – cats, monkeys and deer – and allow Jin to pet them. The adorable animations had me try my flute playing skills whenever I came across a sanctuary! Oh – and you can also compose Haiku and participate in archery competitions.
With the expansion come two new skills. one for Jin himself and one for his horse. Since I played the expansion late into Act II, I could make full use of the latter, the horse charge, which lets your steed plow through enemies and trample them into submission. Jin’s new skill, which involves the Iron Hook, is only useful on Iki Island itself.
What bugged me
The story missions in Ghost of Tsushima are usually very well done, but the second story mission of the Iki Island expansion was not to my liking. Not only because the deception was so obvious and Jin’s reaction jarring – I mean, he found Tomoe out, after all – , but because I did not understand why Jin would be allowed to escape it so easily. Imagine having your prize in your grasp and letting it slip away like that.
The other predictable mission involved Kenji, but I was actually looking forward to meeting him again. I remember thinking “Please, let it be Kenji! It has to be Kenji, right?”. I love that character.
Well, my verdict should be clear: The Iki Island expanion is a must and I would love to see another one, or a second game, soon. I just really love Ghost of Tsushima.
And I am extremely happy that I will be able to dive back into another of my favorite franchises, as Aragami 2 drops this month. From ghost samurai to ninja shadow warrior – what could be better?
Until then, keep on playing!