Ghost of Tsushima was not an easy game to review last year. While it had plenty of strong features such as the impeccable graphics, it was let down by several trivial design choices which I felt held it back from being the masterpiece it had the potential to be. In a surprising twist, as expansions have become somewhat of a rarity through the PlayStation 4 generation, we have received another location to explore and drive the Mongols away from, Iki island.
The first thing I have to address is that I think the time to visit Iki island is very confusing. During its announcement and promotion it was stated by Sucker Punch that you would be able to reach it upon arriving in the second region of the base game, and that there would be features unlocked on it which would assist with the core experience. I cannot stress enough, if you have not completed the story of Ghost of Tsushima before: Do NOT go to Iki until you have.
I have beaten the story already on PS4, but had started from a fresh save with the Directors Cut on PS5, and was disappointed in an early Iki cutscene when main story points from the end of the core game were discussed, despite the fact my save was nowhere near that point.
There is also a sudden jump in enemy difficulty upon reaching the new island, so while you may be able to reach there way before the central story conclusion, you absolutely shouldn’t. This creates an issue for me in the manner that the new techniques and features you unlock on Iki are only useful on Tsushima if you haven’t cleared the map yet, or intend on playing again on new game plus.
However, I am pleased to report with that housekeeping aside, my issues with the Iki Island expansion begin and end with the above.
The story begins with Jin reaching the new island after learning the people there are being subjected to poisoning by a Mongol leader, and to liberate the people from the Mongols as he has been / is doing on Tsushima. In an interesting addition to this, the people of Iki island actively hate the Sakai clan and frequently celebrate the death of Jin’s late father Kazumasa, who they know as ‘The Butcher of Iki’. Due to this issue with visiting the new location, Jin must not only hide his true identity as the lord of Clan Sakai, but also as the infamous Ghost.
One thing I criticised about Ghost of Tsushima was the ridiculous amount of padding its open world was rife with. This is not the case on Iki, and after visiting every location on the map there is sufficient variety that the issue has most definitely been addressed. Fox dens are a thing of the past, and not one of the little red irritations has made the trip across to Tsushima’s neighbour; in their place different animals have sanctuaries across the island which I took great delight in discovering. Where once there was nothing but foxes as far as the eye can see, now you can expect to interact deer, monkeys, and my favourite of the new additions, cats.
If only there was a way to take a cat on your adventures with you like in Spider-Man: Miles Morales..
Combat is as visceral and deeply satisfying as you remember if you’ve completed Ghost of Tsushima before, but now there are two new enemy types to bolster the ranks of Mongols. The first are spearmen who attack with spinning moves as their spears are now bladed at both ends, and the second are the Shaman. The latter do start off as an irritating addition, but as you ease into the slight change in combat flow you have to adjust to following their introduction you will learn to appreciate them for what they are. While they are chanting all enemies enter a trance-like state, and despite still being able to attack you as normal take significantly less damage, meaning that a flurry of direct hits will do less damage than attacking with a sword made of rubber.
After the base game could be fairly described as padded, the expansion makes none of the same mistakes and is overall a much tighter and more enjoyable experience. The last two story missions are particularly spectacular, on a par with the ride down the hill to Komoda beach from the very first scene of the main game. The duel with the antagonist of Iki Island at the end of the story is without a doubt one of the most gorgeous fights in video game history, and certainly one which must be experienced to be believed.
I scored Ghost of Tsushima highly when I reviewed it in July 2020, and am very happy to see none of the issues I had with it have made it into this expansion. I cannot recommend purchasing Iki Island enough as it is the very best of the base game refined into one climactic eight hour adventure, which I score