Sucker Punch’s samurai epic Ghost of Tsushima was my personal GOTY of 2020, so I was naturally very excited to dive back into the role of Jin Sakai once I heard about the Iki Island DLC. More wandering the countryside on horseback and battling enemies in badass samurai/ninja fashion framed in an engaging and personal story? You didn’t even have to ask. (Note: This review will solely cover the Iki Island expansion content and will not go over the other visual enhancements and whatnot that come with the Director’s Cut.)
Some time after Jin completes his quest to stop Khotun Khan, he hears of a new Mongol tribe causing some trouble in Tsushima, and after defeating a group of them and finding out about their leader, Ankhsar Khatun, a.k.a.: the Eagle, Jin travels to the neighboring island of Iki to deal with this new threat. Story-wise, Iki Island delves into Jin’s past and focuses more on his relationship with his father, Kazumasa Sakai, which we only got a glimpse of in the main game. Jin’s experience with his father and his time on Iki Island during his childhood and how it affects his current journey on the island are the main focal points of the story, both in the main and side quests, and it’s done very well. However, I found the main antagonist, the Eagle, to be the somewhat weaker element in the story. Not counting the many times that Jin will hear her voice in his head throughout his journey thanks to some poison that she makes him drink early on, the Eagle barely appears in this game and ends up being nowhere near as memorable or sinister as Khotun Khan before her. Nevertheless, the suffering Jin goes through thanks to her can truly be felt at times both in the cutscenes and the gameplay when he experiences intense hallucinations.
Gameplay-wise, in its most basic form, Iki Island is very much the same as the main game. Any and all skills and abilities you unlocked for Jin in the main game will be accessible to you in this expansion. Jin’s combat stances, ghost (stealth) weapons, armor sets, cosmetics, are all still here, and there is some more new stuff. The first and most notable addition is the horse charge ability, which allows Jin to ride his horse at full speed (at the cost of some resolve) and charge into enemies with tremendous force, dealing heavy damage. You can also unlock special armor for Jin’s horse, which further increases the damage of the horse charge ability, and it has the added bonus of making your horse look like a supreme badass. Some new charms and a new set of armor round out the rest of the extra gear you can acquire on Iki Island.
There are also a handful of new Mongol enemies to contend with. The shamans are your classic “buffers” who let out a chant that causes other Mongol enemies to attack Jin more aggressively and relentlessly, so taking out these musical mooks should be a priority if you wish to not get piled on simultaneously by other hyped up Mongols. Some of the larger brute Mongols will be armed with dual-bladed spears that they like to swing around in a certain fashion that makes it difficult to find a decent opening to counter them. There is also a new class of Mongol warriors who can freely switch between wielding dual swords, a sword and shield, and spears, forcing you to be quick in switching between Jin’s different combat stances in order to effectively get past these Mongols’ ever-changing defenses. I liked how these new enemies kept the combat from becoming stale by providing a consistent challenge to even a fully upgraded Jin.
Finally, some new activities on Iki Island come in the form of archery challenges and reclaiming animal sanctuaries. The archery challenges, as you would imagine, challenge your skills with a bow, requiring you to shoot several lanterns under a specific time limit. The quicker you complete the challenges, the more you’ll be able to improve one of the game’s new combat charms. And if you were a fan of the main game’s feature where you can pet foxes, then you’ll no doubt be in for a treat after reclaiming animal sanctuaries from those Mongol bastards. Attracting the animals back to their sanctuaries by completing a new flute-playing mini-game will not only improve one of the other new charms in the game, but doing so will also let Jin pet his new woodland friends (which include wild and fluffy kitty-cats). One other new activity available in Iki Island is a tournament where Jin competes in sparring matches against a handful of warriors using wooden training swords. I personally thought this was an okay distraction, but these warriors could only be defeated using very specific attacks, giving these duels somewhat of a trial-and-error quality, which I can’t say I normally enjoy all that much. While figuring out how to counter these guys by thinking outside the box was rather amusing, these duels don’t give the player much room to stick to their usual combat strategies and kind of force you to fight a certain way. Some may like this, others (like myself) might not be too thrilled by it.
Despite that one minor negative point, I can wholeheartedly recommend the Iki Island DLC for fans of Ghost of Tsushima, it is well worth the price of admission. I got the expansion on PS4 for $20, along with a few other bonuses that, quite frankly, don’t matter much to me. This expansion provides players with another 10 to 15 hours of that epic samurai goodness we all fell in love with last year, so if all you want is some more Ghost of Tsushima with a little extra added to it, then go ahead and get this expansion now.
Developer: Sucker Punch
Release Date: 20th August 2021