The Japanese island of Tsushima was, until last year’s Ghost of Tsushima, part of an obscure archipelago that few could pinpoint on a map. So much has the video game raised the island’s profile, through the story of how its 13th-century inhabitants resisted the invading Mongols, that the island’s mayor has made its developers permanent ambassadors of tourism for Tsushima. Now, an update, The Director’s Cut, may do the same for an even smaller neighbouring island in the Tsushima strait, Iki, where this expansive, newly released chapter takes place.
Having all but driven the Mongols from Tsushima, our hero, Jin, arrives on Iki with a similar aim. Iki’s residents, however, are less accepting; decades earlier, the samurai’s father invaded the island and subjugated its citizens. Memories remain brightly painful, and the islanders’ hostility is tempered only by virtue of a common enemy.
Last year’s epic was exquisitely rendered but repetitive and somewhat limited in its range of interactive possibility. And despite the tasteful rendering of the world – all whispering reeds and cherry blossom sunsets – you played as a sort of samurai Rambo, single-bladedly repelling the invader army. Here, you’re an important cog in a more complex, multifaceted drama. While the island is geographically small, it is rich and densely packed with missions and distractions: archery ranges to master, animal sanctuaries to establish and ancient riddles to solve.
The update makes elegant use of the PlayStation 5’s controller’s quasi-magical properties. Tilt the controller to guide a note along a musical stave and play a mournful lament on the flute. Wearing the appropriate outfit, haptic buzzes will guide you toward hidden valuables, the force of the pulse quickening the closer you are to the treasure. Despite the intermittent violence, this is a beautiful world to explore, lovingly crafted and compellingly framed.