Ghost of Tsushima has no lock-on mechanic, encouraging players to remain in the middle of a fight as opposed to keeping all enemies in front of them, so as to keep an eye on all possible threats. In an interview with Ghost of Tsushima narrative director Nate Fox, I asked him why Sucker Punch chose to not include a lock-on mechanic.
“Well working on the combat, we watched samurai films, which are of course an inspiration for the feeling of this game,” Fox answered. “And the fighters in those movies will often have to switch their attention very fluidly from one incoming foe to another. So the combat is built around dealing with a variety of enemies, a group of them.”
Though you will face other foes, you will primarily fight against Mongols in Ghost of Tsushima. “We tried to give [the Mongols] a feeling of being like a wolf pack that would surround you,” Fox said. “And only through skill, could you fend them off as they came at you from all sides. If we had a lock-on you wouldn’t have been able to move as quickly between the different opponents as they came in at you.”
Fox likens Ghost of Tsushima’s combat to a dance where you weave “between [Mongol] swords as they move through space.” Had Ghost of Tsushima incorporated a lock-on mechanic, Fox deposits it would have been more difficult for players to improvise and respond to numerous, simultaneous threats. As is, Ghost of Tsushima’s combat asks you to attack, block, parry, and dodge–the lack of a lock-on mechanic means you don’t have to consider it when enemies are surrounding you.
In GameSpot’s Ghost of Tsushima review, Edmond Tran writes, “The game hits a lot of fantastic cinematic highs, and those ultimately lift it above the trappings of its familiar open-world quest design and all the innate weaknesses that come with it–but those imperfections and dull edges are definitely still there. Ghost of Tsushima is at its best when you’re riding your horse and taking in the beautiful world on your own terms, armed with a sword and a screenshot button, allowing the environmental cues and your own curiosity to guide you. It’s not quite a Criterion classic, but a lot of the time it sure looks like one.”
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