Since the PlayStation 5 debuted, we’ve seen lots of novel uses of its DualSense controller. Game developers have utilized the haptic vibrations to simulate weather like falling rain or blowing wind, while the added resistance in the triggers makes firing a weapon or making an exhausted NBA star sprint all the more immersive. Often these features help make seemingly small interactions feel more notable — and my favorite new example is the cats in Ghost of Tsushima: Director’s Cut on the PS5.
The new version isn’t really a director’s cut, at least in the typical sense, but rather an enhanced version of the open-world samurai game that originally launched as the last big PS4 exclusive in 2020. That game married a fairly standard open-world structure with unique samurai elements, like involved sword fighting and the ability to soak in a hot spring or find a quiet spot to write a haiku. The director’s cut, meanwhile, is both a next-gen update and an expansion of that original game.
In terms of the expansion, there’s a whole new region, called Iki island, that features its own storyline that’s pretty distinct from the main campaign. Protagonist Jin Sakai learns of a sort of hallucinogenic poison being used on Tsushima and tracks its source down to a cult-like group, led by a woman known simply as Eagle, on Iki. In order to protect his homeland he sets out to the island to stop Eagle altogether.
Iki is much smaller than Tsushima, and the expansion also has a much darker tone than the base game. Things start out rough: Jin’s boat encounters some bad weather, and he washes up on shore completely alone. Eventually he joins forces with a group of raiders who have been ravaged by Eagle’s forces. There’s lots of death and drama, and the challenge has also been ramped up a bit — I keep finding myself dying a lot more than usual (though that may have to do with the long layoff between now and having played the original version last year).
Outside of the new location and quest line, as well as the standard next-gen upgrades like improved visuals and performance (you can, as with most PS5 games, choose between “higher resolution” and “better frame rate”), there are also a handful of new gameplay features. Shaman enemies are able to strengthen other fighters, adding a nice layer of strategy to combat, and you can also unlock additional exploration skills for finding specific locations. It’s here that the most important addition comes into play: animal sanctuaries.
Iki island feels much more alive than Tsushima, with a greater variety of wildlife. When I first arrived, there were monkeys hanging out on the beach, and as I moved deeper into the island, I discovered new locations where cats just kind of hang around, lazing in the grass. The first time you find a sanctuary you have to earn those cats’ trust by playing the flute, which you do by moving the controller up and down, utilizing the DualSense’s motion-sensing feature to keep in tune. Once that’s sorted, you can walk up to any cat and press the right trigger to pet them.
What follows is an adorable animation where a cat slowly walks up to Jin, sniffs, nuzzles his hand, and then gives him a playful bite on the wrist. The whole while, the DualSense does a remarkable job of replicating the unmistakable feel of a purr through the controller’s vibrations. (It’s also a great place to play around with the game’s photo mode, where you can really zoom in to see the details; when it’s windy, you can even see the cat’s fur blowing around.)
Part of what makes Ghost so distinct is the way it balances brutal, bloody combat with quieter, more reflective moments. These new sanctuaries lean into this idea even more. They’re not exactly vital, and you could probably experience the new storyline without even interacting with them. But, a few hours in, they’ve been the most memorable part of the expansion for me so far — there are few better ways to unwind after a violent conflict than with a cat purring in your hands.
Ghost of Tsushima: Director’s Cut launches August 20th on the PS5.