Sucker Punch's Ghost of Tsushima is a fantastic psuedo-historical samurai adventure. In many ways, it was the swan song for the PlayStation 4 and cemented Sony's brand of console-exclusive prestige gaming. The entire experience was highly polished, beautifully detailed, immensely satisfying, and had an amazing story to tell. There really wasn't much else that could be added to this game.
But Sucker Punch lived up to its very name and surprised everyone with the announcement of a completely free online co-op mode. Better still, it kicks a lot of Mongol ass.
When you first start Ghost of Tsushima: Legends, you are greeted with a cutscene narrated by Greg Baldwin. He helps reframe the entire Legends mode as being the fantastic tales of a traveling storyteller recounting Jin Sakai's story of revenge as an urban legend. In this retelling, there wasn't actually one person called the Ghost who was just really well-armed with a grab bag of skills and knowledge fighting the Mongol invasion of Tsushima.
Instead, there were actually four Ghosts—vengeful spirits from Japan's storied history returned to the physical world to fight back not just foreign invaders but the evil demons and monsters that had allied with them. If it wasn't for this introduction giving context, this mode would have been really silly in comparison to the main story's somber tone, but now there is a delightful tongue-in-cheek quality to everything going forward.
A formal tutorial follows, helping you get acquainted with the more dedicated roles. The Samurai is a straightforward combat type but has no real ranged or tactical options. The Assassin strikes from hidden places and messes enemies up with traps and poison. The Hunter specializes in long-range bowmanship and trick arrows. Finally the Ronin is able to heal and revive allies as well as summon a spirit animal to help in fights; and yes, you can pet the spirit animal.
These are familiar roles to be fair, but they are presented quite well. There is some overlap—the Assassin has a bow and the Samurai can sneak around as well for example—but the addition of an ultimate ability and specialized gear help each Ghost stand out.
Yes, gear. Ghost of Tsushima: Legends borrows Destiny's gear system, and it's not a bad fit. Every time you complete a mission and complete various challenges and bonus objectives, you are rewarded with brand new swords, secondary weapons, and armor. Each piece of gear has a certain level of Ki which contributes to your overall Ki level. The rarity ranges from common gray and green to uncommon blue and above, and some of them can add additional perks like a smoke bomb that knocks enemies back or a sword that does more damage to certain enemy types.
This level is important since it helps your overall offense and defense and it serves as a limit for doing missions on harder difficulties. Jumping right into a level on Gold or Silver difficulty with starting gear will just leave you chipping away at spongy enemies and getting done in by a gentle breeze. Thankfully the gear rewarded is plentiful and keeps offering you different possibilities for your specific build.
This gear is separate from unlockable cosmetics, which appear to be mostly tied to in-game achievements. Reach level 6 with a certain class, or clear a mission on a certain difficulty, and you can unlock different outfits, sword and bow skins, and different facewear. The only stuff that seems to carry over from the single-player mode are the pre-order bonus items from picking the Deluxe Edition of Ghost of Tsushima. Otherwise, everything is earned by playing Legends; there are no microtransactions.
As for the missions, you'll be spending your time playing and grinding for the loot, they range from great to alright. There are story missions you can take on with one other player, and they shake out the best. Each mission is broken up into three distinct acts and have you and your teammate infiltrating a hideout and taking out enemies, usually ending in a boss fight.
If you've played enough of Ghost of Tsushima's single-player mode, then you will get some deja vu with these missions. Not only are the missions the main game's stronghold missions with some additional twists, seriously go into these missions blind and you will be impressed at what they throw at you, but the locations themselves are re-used in this mode. Thankfully, Sucker Punch did a really impressive job hiding that fact with some impressive environmental effects and some otherworldly elements like shadowy symbols and floating lanterns, giving the entire game a surreal dreamlike atmosphere.
This is especially felt when you and your partner enter a torii gate to go to the next area. You don't just get thrown into a loading screen but you go through a stylized vignette like climbing up a mountain or venturing through a corridor that goes on far too long while a swarm of crows fly overhead.
As for those twists, they are handled quite well. In addition to facing new takes on familiar enemies, Legends introduces demon bosses that can summon swarms of birds to overwhelm you, create an area of effect that rapidly heals enemies, or just be a really tough berserker with a giant club.
I was lucky enough to play through these missions with a friend of mine who had played more than enough of Ghost of Tsushima to be an expert on it. Yet somehow even with all of that muscle memory and the benefit of voice chat, there were a few scenarios where we were gritting our collective teeth and doing all we could to fight back. And yet, it's entirely possible to complete these missions with a total rando and still succeed, thanks to some savvy tutorial messages and the objectives never getting too obtuse.
On the other side of the coin is the four-player Survival mode, which is the lesser of the two modes. Putting it bluntly, Survival is a simple wave-based territory defense mode. Waves of enemies come out and try to capture points on the map, you and your teammates stop them, rinse and repeat until done. There are boss battles and modifiers thrown in for good measure, but compared to the more open-ended approach the story-mode missions provide, Survival falls too far on the simplistic side.
As an aside, there are also a few weird connection issues that cropped up during my play time. Aside from a few cases of lag with my co-op partner, there were a few instances where I'd get an error message on the PlayStation 4 dashboard, but the game will keep running as if nothing is wrong. Hitting accept gets rid of the message, allowing you to get back into your session, but that brief handful of seconds can be utterly devastating if you're in the middle of a boss fight.
With those reservations in mind, it is still absolutely phenomenal that Sucker Punch put this much work into Ghost of Tsushima: Legends. With the level of polish and care that was put into this update, it could have very easily been sold as DLC or even as a complete standalone spin-off. As it stands now, it's one of the most in-depth updates to a fantastic game that really didn't need it. If you're still craving more samurai action after the main adventure and want to do it with some friends, this will have you covered.