Ghost of Tsushima is a lonely game. Over the course of three lengthy acts, you might team up with computer-controlled characters, but, as Jin Sakai, the titular Ghost, are often alone. Today’s update for Ghost of Tsushima brings teamwork and companionship to the game with the addition of a free, new, genuinely thrilling multiplayer expansion.
Released as part of the game’s 1.1 update, the add-on, called Ghost of Tsushima: Legends, introduces two new multiplayer modes to the game. The first is a series of narrative-focused, two-player campaign missions. The second is a survival gauntlet, where you and up to three other players have to survive increasingly difficult waves of enemies while protecting key positions. (A third mode, something like a raid, will be added in the future.) I’ve stuck to the campaign so far, but my colleagues Matthew Reyes and Michael Pasquariello played some of the gauntlet mode. You can see how it went down in the video below.
You can access Legends by talking to a Gyozen, an in-game citizen of Tsushima, or by jumping straight in from the main menu. (I chose the latter.) You’re then sat down for a cutscene—which, in classic Ghost of Tsushima fashion, you can’t skip—and funnelled into a meaty tutorial section. It’s odd: You’re taught how to walk forward, how to block and parry, how to assassinate enemies, how to shoot a bow, and even how to perform light or heavy attacks. These are all things you master in the main game.
I didn’t need nor want to go through Samurai 101 again, but, having not touched the game in months, the refresher was admittedly nice. What’s more, since Legends is its own game mode, it could be helpful for those who plan on playing this mode but have yet to play the base game.
Crucially, the tutorial also introduces you to the four classes you can play as in Legends. There’s the Samurai, a traditional combat-focused swordsman; the Hunter, an archer with an ace eye for instant headshot; the Assassin, a stealthy fighter who would certainly be considered dishonorable in Lord Shimura’s eyes; and the Ronin, a straw hat who can use mystical abilities to revive fallen Ghosts and summon a literal spirit animal sidekick. Once the tutorial wraps, you choose a class, which you’re stuck with for a while. (You can unlock the other three classes later on, but it takes a while.)
Initially, you might get the impression that the abilities you’re taught in each tutorial section are limited to the specific classes. That’s not the case. You learn how to revive people in the Ronin’s tutorial section, for instance, and learn how to fire arrows in the Hunter’s, but those aren’t the only classes who can do those tricks. You needn’t be an Assassin to assassinate people. You needn’t be a Hunter to use a bow. Save for two unique, high-powered abilities per class, there’s little daylight between the four. Each one plays largely like Jin does, with access to a katana, a bow, a grappling hook, some killer climbing abilities, and the preternatural talent to sneak through tall pampas grass without a trace.
I went with my gut and chose the Hunter, because the bow served me well in my adventures as Jin Sakai. (I appear to be in the minority here. According to a Twitter poll conducted by Sucker Punch, just 8 percent of players plan on starting out as a Hunter.) Most of my time with Legends thus far has been spent on the two-player campaign, a series of vignettes wrapped up in storytelling. Recall the Mythic Quests in the base game, where Yamato, the traveling musician, would regale Jin with an inspired fable. Legends’ campaign is like playing out one of those fables in real time, only chronicled by a different bard.
That bard is, so far, the only standout part of the plot. Gyozen, Legends’ narrator, is voiced by Greg Baldwin, who you may recognize as Uncle Iroh from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra. So far, I’ve completed five missions of nine. There truly isn’t much narrative thrust to these missions; instead, you just move forward, kill everyone in your path, maybe rescue some captives, knock out any other objectives (like closing evil spirit portals, because, again, Legends is rooted in fables), and bask in the mystical scenery. The cooperative nature of combat is transcendent: Headshotting one unsuspecting Mongol while my friend sneaks behind and stabs another never gets old. The same can be said about coordinating assassinations from opposite rooftops. Some high-powered foes can’t be taken down with assassinations, which are usually one-hit kills. But if you and your partner are in sync, you can perform back-to-back assassinations for a near-instant kill. It’s not an official move, and figuring out these small ways to game the system—with a friend—is a blast. (I can’t wait to see what players come up with in the coming weeks.)
While what I’ve seen of Legends so far doesn’t do much narratively, it goes all in on mysticism in a way the base game does not. Torii gates serve as otherworldly teleportation portals. Massive stone pillars float in the sky. Some enemies can summon a magical murder of crows (that, heads up, will totally mess your day up). You might come across two enemies tethered by a magical rope; if you don’t kill both in short order, they’ll continue to revive each other. Some enemies take on a green, blue, or orange aura. To meaningfully damage them, you have to run to a matching pillar of the same color and imbue your katana with the same aura. Since enemies of multiple auras will be on the field at any given time, you’re forced to plan out who gets which aura. I’ve played games that require coordinated play before, but never to this degree.
Another change is that you don’t spend any time collecting resources. Early success in Ghost of Tsushima was contingent on stocking up on various resources—yew wood, bamboo, the creatively named supplies, iron, things like that. Legends has none of that. It laser-focuses on the sneaking and stabbing—the same core combat that made Ghost of Tsushima’s action-packed battles so great. Hunting for resources and meticulously upgrading gear was, of course, fun in the meaty open-world parts of the game. But I already did that (a lot), and if you’ve played the base game, you have, too. Being able to experience the combat in a streamlined game mode is just the thing I needed to draw me back in.
If there’s anything that might turn Ghost fans off of Legends, it’s the new equipment system. Instead of leveling up gear through meticulous resource allocation, Legends veers somewhat into a Destiny-style loot grind. You start out with basic gray gear—a katana, a bow, a charm, and two Ghost Weapons—in five slots. As you complete missions, you get green gear, blue gear, and so on, from a randomized, post-mission draw. Each piece of gear comes with a skill level attached to it. Your character’s skill level, which is separate from your character’s rank, is an aggregate of your equipped gear’s skill levels. That level then dictates your eligibility for missions—or, more specifically, the difficulty level you’re allowed to play missions on. Legends has three difficulty tiers: bronze, silver, and gold. Anyone can access bronze missions at any level, but you have to hit a certain point for the other two ranks. So far, I haven’t found myself gated off.
Those who don’t feel like embarking on another “deleting green gear because you just got the same piece of gear but it’s blue and has a slightly higher level” feedback loop could, understandably, be annoyed. I, for one, am head over heels for it. Like so many loot-based games, it’s a never-ending, dopamine-fueled quest to make my Hunter harder, better, faster, stronger. And, since I’m already well-acquainted with Ghost of Tsushima’s gear system, I don’t have to learn a whole new glossary of terms. I know what a “charm” is. I know what each of the Ghost Weapons do, and how they work. If you’ve played Ghost of Tsushima, you too will pick it up in seconds. Figuring out how loot games work can be a chore, or at least a small commitment. Since this mode is tacked on to an already existing system, you can dive right in. That, plus the fact that you don’t have to spend an epoch tracking down 750 sheets of linen or whatever for a marginal defense boost, immensely lowers the barrier to the gear loop.
I’ve only scratched the surface of Ghost of Tsushima: Legends. Between the changes to the core gameplay, the revamped visual motifs, and the staggering degree of equipment I’ll stand to earn—to say nothing of the library of new cosmetic options, like armor kits or katana sheaths for my Hunter—there’s still a lot to parse. But one thing’s for sure: I’m going to play the shit out of this mode.