Imagine you are visiting a quiet little inn or village out in the countryside. The sun is up. The sky is clear and life is good. You are happy. And then you round a corner and you see a dead body just lying in the middle of the place, with people walking around and going about their day as if there isn’t a damn corpse decaying right there. This happens all the time in Ghost of Tsushima.
I like Ghost of Tsushima. The combat has finally clicked with me after a few hours of frustration and I’m losing hours exploring the world and relaxing in hot springs. And as I explore this world I will from time to time run into villages, camps, or other residential places that were once home to locals but have now been taken over by the invading Mongols. So, being a good and deadly samurai, I charge in and kill them all and then leave. And sometimes when I return, I find people have come back to their village, but have just left all the bodies around.
The Mongols I’ve killed despawn eventually, thankfully, but the bodies of people killed before I arrived stay around after the bad guys have been killed and the people have reclaimed their homes and shops. This leads to morbid and weird scenes like a dude leaning up against a wall right on top of a corpse. Or people hanging out in a room with corpses, some fresh Mongols and others older, pinned to the floor by spears.
This isn’t the first game where I’ve noticed bodies hanging around supposedly safe and reclaimed towns or bases, but it did stand out more to me this time. I think it’s because Ghost of Tsushima is this incredibly detailed world, with thousands of moving trees and ridiculously gorgeous landscapes. And we are supposed to care not only about this world but the people we meet and save in it. So much of this game is spent talking to random folks around the island, helping them out, and listening to them as they explain how they are suffering during this brutal invasion.
And yet, the game doesn’t always treat these people like people. Decaying bodies just hang around as other folks walk around and over the dead, completely oblivious to it all. People run shops or work on rebuilding while piles of corpses litter their town. Yet so often in the game folks will complain about not being able to properly bury and mourn the dead. This often makes the people in Ghost of Tsushima feel artificial and it becomes hard to see them as anything beyond props that you run pass while doing other things.
I’m not a game programmer or designer, so I have no idea how hard it would be to remove these bodies after completing an area and freeing it of hostile control. But not doing so and just leaving the corpses, makes it feel like the people of Tsushima were afterthoughts.
Plus, after a few days, I assume the smell becomes unbearable.