Ghostwire: Tokyo Impression
Where Ghostwire: Tokyo shines and really comes together is its audio-visual atmosphere.
Tango Gameworks’ Ghostwire: Tokyo launches next week, taking players to a supernatural, fog-filled Tokyo as its population disappears and Visitors from another world cross over. RPGamer was given the opportunity to spend some hand-on time with the game following our hands-off preview last month. For the purposes of this impression, we were able to check out the first two chapters of the game, covering around six hours of gameplay, which gives players what they need to understand the basic open-world loop and all of its major systems.
As previously covered, the game is set in a distorted version of Tokyo where most of the citizens have disappeared and the streets are filled with spirits called Visitors. Players control Akito, a young man searching for his hospitalised sister Maki, who manifests supernatural powers after becoming linked with the spirit of an experienced ghost hunter named K.K.. The linking comes after Tokyo is suddenly enveloped by a fog that causes its citizens to disappear and the Visitors to manifest, seeming caused by a mysterious man wearing a hannya mask.
The game features a primary quest line that takes players to various locations around Tokyo. Many of these are based on real-world locations with altered names such as the Shibuya Kagerie (Shibuya Hikarie). These usually begin enveloped by fog, which swiftly drains Akito’s health if entered, so players must first expand the open world available to them by cleansing the torii gates that appear around Tokyo. It’s difficult to read too much into Ghostwire: Tokyo’s story at this stage; although there’s an obvious antagonist, it’s looking to build up the picture of what’s going on and K.K.’s history slowly with more characters to come into play down the line. Nevertheless, the drip-feed of information and the game’s task-setting is engaging, while the initial conflict between Akito and K.K.’s differing goals and necessity of working together and its resolution pays off well.
The open world makes good use of Tokyo’s 3D nature, with players frequently scaling up buildings and gliding between roofs or balconies. Akito is also able to use K.K.’s spirit vision to spot anything of use and any potential threats nearby. It successfully avoids the excessive map and checklist bloat seen in other open world games; there’s still lots to uncover and collect, but it lets players determine for themselves whether the feel the need to search high and low rather than pushing it front and centre. Each cleansed torii gate will generally provide an additional few side quests for players, and these are some of Ghostwire: Tokyo’s most interesting and self-rewarding parts. Players get to discover and learn about yokai such as zashiki-warashi and nurikabe, while delivering assistance to friendly spirits, and the game’s fairly complete in-game glossary lets players absorb nuggets of information about a variety of subjects.
The primary thing that players will be collecting around Tokyo are the spirits of those taken by the fog, which are all over the place. Akito can collect these within katashiro paper dolls and take them to any of the payphones modified by one of K.K.’s allies, where they will be transported outside of the fog and ostensibly to safety. The initial progress label indicating a total of over 200,000 spirits to find is a bit overwhelming at first, but each group of spirits found provides at least 100 and it’s fairly easy to get to at least one-sixth of the way there within those first two chapters without going too far out of one’s way. It’s not clear what finding all of these spirits means for the game as a whole, but one hopes that it’s flexible and that missing one set isn’t going to later necessitate a full search of the entire city down the line.
Players spend the first few hours accruing multiple abilities to fend off the Visitors, which take on humanoid forms such as headless students and faceless businessmen. The initial wind projectiles make a basic but effective option usable in all situations, while the fire blast features a powerful, slower attack, and the blue water slice is only really suited for enemies at close range. Each has its own set of spirit points needed to be used, which are replenished by collecting coloured crystals dropped by enemies or the multitude of floating pieces of scenery. Akito also has the ability to block, with well-timed blocks reverberating back on the enemy, as well as to use K.K.’s bow, which becomes vital during a period when their connection is severed. Also vital during this stage, but also highly useful across the game, is the ability to sneak past and up to enemy Visitors. Once close enough, Akito is can rip out their cores to instantly defeat them.
Ghostwire: Tokyo does feature character growth and customisation elements, though it’s still a first-person adventure game first and foremost. Gaining a higher level provides a small 2% health boost and skill points to upgrade combat and exploration abilities. Finding shrines to pray at, which increases the maximum amount of SP held for attacks. Players can purchase or unlock clothing for Akito, which is wholly aesthetic. It all adds a nice bit of depth and players can focus on upgrading specific elements, but it doesn’t have anything approaching specific character builds. There are four difficulty levels; players are able to swap between the first three at will, the fourth being a dedicated challenge mode that also removes much of the game’s experience points, as well as turn off time limits in certain sections of the game. So far, combat does what it needs to without being a truly notable part of proceedings in itself; it’s certainly strong and an enjoyable element, but unlikely to be the primary recipient of superlatives.
Where Ghostwire: Tokyo does shine and really comes together is its audio-visual atmosphere. The always-night, and often rainy, version of Tokyo is packed full of detail and absolutely looks the part of a bustling metropolis where the populace has suddenly disappeared, complete with piles of clothes lying all over the place. The supernatural elements are utilised nicely too; Visitors’ designs and movements are appropriately disconcerting, with environmental manipulation serving to build up certain encounters. The music is appropriately understated to build up the visual atmosphere, and it uses the sound design and DualSense controller incredibly well. K.K.’s voice coming through the controller adds a nice immersive touch, as do the indications of when Visitors are near or certain things are nearby. Players can choose between Japanese and English voice acting options. The English option is fine, but the Japanese audio option just feels like the more appropriate fit that ties in much better with its atmosphere and setting.
The first two chapters of Ghostwire: Tokyo have done the job of getting me invested in the game and looking forward to getting back into it. Exploring the city has felt rewarding and engaging thanks to how the game handles the atmosphere and ensure there is a strong but not overwhelming amount of things to do and find within it. A testament to its engagement, the six hours spent with the game for those first two chapters felt like a much shorter period. Players will able to join Akito and K.K. on PC and PlayStation 5 next week, and despite being still being relatively early in the game, it’s easy for me to suggest as a title well worth diving into.
Disclosure: This article is based on a copy of the game provided by the publisher