Obviously there's a lot packed into the Ghost of Tsushima Director's Cut - from the upgraded visuals on PS5, to a completely new story in the Iki Island expansion. That's why we went directly to Sucker Punch to find out more from creative director Nate Fox and environments lead Joanna Wang.
We'll get to the PS5 upgrades and extras later, because the real star of this show is the Iki Island expansion. It's a whole new story, in a new area, on an island between Tsushima and the Japanese mainland. Obviously slotting a whole new plotline into a narrative as dense and interwoven as the main Tsushima story is an interesting challenge, and just how new content fits in was one of my first questions to Fox. "So once the player gets through Act One of Ghost of Tsushima and they go into Toyotama, they'll then get access to the Iki Island expansion," explains Fox. Crucially, he adds, "the narrative in Iki Island respects choices you've made inside of Tsushima," he confirms, saying "there'll be a story that makes sense, that takes you there."
We're not going into details on what that interlinking story is because spoilers, but it does explain how the new narrative works - it'll simply join the list of companion missions and side quests you pick up along the way, forming part of what's going on in the main game rather than an addendum. (Something Fox says is "tricky" to do.) Once you've unlocked the option you'll be able to set sail for Iki whenever you want, explains Fox. And if you've already completed the game it'll be there, ready and waiting when you load up.
Environments lead Joanna Wang does give a little tease about the expansion's opening while talking about some new environments you might encounter: "So one example is in the very beginning, one of my favorites; when you land in Iki you may find a cave," she explains. "It's actually a smuggler's hideout and you see where the people were [and] you also may find evidence of what is happening in the Island right now."
This extra adventure is about the same size as act one according to Fox. "We get to see a different viewpoint on the sense of Mongol expansion", he continues, "another side of how the Mongols were looking to conquer this space and using a different tack than Khotun Khan". In this case, that conquest comes from the Eagle, a new villain who, from the trailers appears to use some sort of mind-altering drug to break and subdue Jin, along with the local population. Although when I pressed Fox for more on that he simply replied there were "a lot of the details of that I'd rather not describe". What he would say about the events on Iki is that "Jin gets to know [the Mongols] more intimately - as well as the people of Iki island that have their own relationship to the Mongol invasion," adding, curiously, "and even the people of Tsushima Island".
With a new Mongol force, there will be new enemies that Fox says "will challenge you to play in a more diverse way". Again, he wouldn't be drawn on more specifics but did say that there will be "a bunch of new skills and armor" that will let players get deeper into whatever playstyle they prefer. So whether you're into stealth, direct combat, or ranged fighting Fox promises "more options for self-expression inside of that combat experience". Perhaps more interestingly, "all the upgrades and all the abilities translate back to Ghost of Tsushima", he says. "This is one package, it's one experience, " he adds. "The Iki Island story is absolutely integrated and meaningful to what happens in Tsushima island as well".
Not everyone can be a samurai...
So that's some of the new stuff coming to the Director's Cut, but how will the move to PS5 change the basic game? The first obvious improvement is there will be much more pretty. On the new platform textures are "double the resolution" according to Wang. New texture streaming tech and the PS5's SSD speeds mean you'll be able to see more detail at larger distances. That's something the Iki expansion will build on with a "different color palette, different biomes [and] different foliage" Wang says. "There's also new landscape and other vegetation that you haven't seen in Tsushima before". Wang highlights things that flashed by briefly in trailers like a "Wisteria forest and purple flowers hanging on vines, swinging the wind". And for all the animal fans out there that were excited by the cats in the trailer, Wang also confirms a new creature briefly glimpsed in a trailer - monkeys! - while casually mentioning they might join you while relaxing in a hot spring.
One area where the new version of the game is building on totally new territory is the haptic feedback and adaptive triggers inside the DualSense. "We're experienced working in graphics, we're experienced working in audio," says Fox, "and haptics is, like a whole new landscape for us to discover". For Ghost of Tsushima Director's Cut, that means you "absolutely get tension on the bow" in the triggers for example, while haptics are used to reinforce the game's swordplay. "Our goal was to make it feel, through the controller, that you were holding this sword,'' Fox says. "In the past, games gave you graphics, audio, and sometimes a shake, but with the haptics we can get much more precise. So if you swing your sword, and it bounces off an enemy shield, the haptics let you feel that in your hands, which makes it more immersive, like you're really holding that sword."
Hopefully, it all means there'll be plenty to look forward to in the Ghost of Tsushima Director's Cut for new and returning players alike when it arrives on August 20.