The Ghost of Tsushima: Legends multiplayer DLC is one of the most impressive free updates I’ve seen in a major AAA game. What’s even more impressive is that we didn’t even know it existed until a month after the game launched. At that time, I was under the impression that my wonderful journey with Jin across the island of Tsushima had ended and that I’d only revisit the game if it got a next-gen update on PlayStation 5. But lo and behold, Legends is here, and it delivers a loot-based cooperative multiplayer experience that, in many ways, surpasses that of this fall’s Marvel’s Avengers.
From the ground up, Legends builds upon the wonderful mechanics of the core game. A brief tutorial does a great job of reacquainting you with the basics of Tsushima’s combat, stealth, and ranged gameplay, which is much appreciated given how July feels like a thousand years ago. But while your samurai might feel similar to what you experienced in Jin’s journey, the world is anything but.
Given that the entirety of Ghost of Tsushima: Legends is presented as a series of ghost stories passed down through generations, the entire world is bathed in fantastical tones. Islands hover in the air, living vines protrude from the ground, and the skyline is filled with eerie wisps and red and black. The way Legends takes the setting of the original game and adds a genre twist on it reminds me of the neon-soaked world of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.
The two-player story missions are presented as bite-sized tales that add unique twists on the world we’ve grown used to, while also mixing in some really interesting new enemies and mechanics. One has you needing to absorb the energy of colored idols peppered across the map in order to damage enemies of those corresponding colors. Another introduces minibosses that will constantly heal any other enemies nearby, forcing you and your partner to concentrate on taking them out first before handling the rest of the mob.
Ghost of Tsushima: Legends also wisely takes Jin’s jack-of-all-trade skills and breaks them up into four distinct classes, while also introducing some neat new skills. For example, the Hunter is proficient with a bow, can collect various types of arrows, and has an ultimate attack that immediately headshots three targets in range. Likewise there’s the Ronin, which excels at support tasks by summoning spirit animals and having an array of healing abilities.
Having to choose one of the four classes at the start and only unlocking more once you’ve spent enough time leveling that first one up means that you grow to appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of each, and it builds a stronger sense of teamwork in multiplayer. And with each of the four having their own unique skill trees, I find myself constantly wanting to hop around between builds to experience and expand on the different combinations of abilities.
While the story missions only support two players, Ghost of Tsushima: Legends really flexes its muscles in the four-player survival matches. Sucker Punch’s take on the classic horde mode has you defending a trio of points across a map from increasingly deadly waves of enemies. Figuring out how to best allocate defenses, coming to one another’s aid when someone is downed, and using the small breaks between waves to stock up on arrows and purchase power-ups provides a consistently entertaining challenge. My only gripe against this mode is that matches sometimes last upwards of 40 minutes, meaning that each match can be a time investment.
Ghost of Tsushima: Legends has all the same daily challenges, personal milestones, and constant progression drips that you’d expect from a full looter-shooter in 2020. Every story mission or wave-based survival match ended with getting a bunch of new and more powerful gear that I then had to decide how to equip to maximize strength and perks. I’m excited to get my Ghosts raid-ready and team up with three pals to see what Sucker Punch has in store.
What’s most pleasantly surprising is how much smoother of an overall multiplayer experience this has been than my nearly 50 hours of Marvel’s Avengers. Even after a month and a half dozen patches and updates, Crystal Dynamics’ game still has so much downtime between missions, matchmaking woes, and gear upgrades that don’t really impact how you look or play. Meanwhile, Legends manages to avoid all of that. The menus are simple, matchmaking has worked perfectly for me with pals as well as strangers, and seeing how every piece of new gear changes my Ghost’s appearance brings in that Destiny-like personalization.
Legends also proved to me that Sony’s first-party studios — which have spent the past generation making excellent single-player experiences like Infamous Second Son, Horizon Zero Dawn, God of War, Spider-Man, and The Last of Us Part II — are still capable of delivering fantastic multiplayer games. It feels like Sony’s AAA focus as a whole shifted away from this after the pair of late-PS3 disappointments in God of War: Ascension and PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. And while we presume some Factions-esque multiplayer is still in the works for TLOU2, I’ll be curious to see if Legends’ success leads to sequels of the aforementioned games including some sort of cooperative modes.
As it stands, this multiplayer suite has succeeded in making an already excellent game just that much more compelling. The fact that it delivers such an engaging sense of challenge and progression alongside the gameplay we fell in love with this summer, all in a free download, is remarkable. Ghost of Tsushima: Legends is a fantastic way for Sony to cap off this incredible generation on the eve of the PlayStation 5.