Ghost of Tsushima is a big game that offers a wealth of options to choose from. Most players will already know how they want to play at this point, but Sucker Punch has done a lot to ensure that we can try out different approaches during the course of the game. For example, some encounters have been designed with a preferred playstyle in mind or to encourage the use of certain gadgets. Of course, you can also just storm enemy camps head-on, start a fight and take down every foe that dares to face your mighty samurai skills. However, this can become pretty repetitive in the long run, so why not evaluate different opportunities? Take your time, look around, and try out different ways to play and you'll be able to enjoy this open-world action game to the fullest. Therefore, we have put together a few sneaky tips to help you get the most out of your adventure.
The beginning of Ghost of Tsushima is fairly linear and doesn't really let you stray from the critical path too much, but after you have completed the tutorial, the game opens up. After reaching this point, Jin already knows most of the tricks that are needed to explore the first region of Izuhara. Almost all of the important points of interest are waiting for you now, but it is worth exploring the Golden Temple in Ariake's Golden Forest early on, as all of the suppliers are available there. With the right materials, you can improve your armour or have your sword sharpened in the smithy there.
If you explore diligently and complete the side tasks, you will soon unlock additional armour, which in turn will bring various bonuses with them. If you adapt these garments by an outfitter, the corresponding advantages increase. The Traveler's Attire helps you explore and the simple ronin clothes are perfect for stealthy sequences. Switch to samurai clan/gosaku or various late-game armour sets when battling multiple foes at once. By the way, you only have to change the main armour to benefit from the armour's effects - the mask and helmet are purely cosmetic.
I recommend investing early skill points in combat (samurai skill tree, deflection arc), stealth and stand-off skills. Armour gives you multiple combat benefits and the 'mythic tales' (blue icons) grant new skills without the need to spend accumulated skill points. You don't have to grind the randomly occurring face-offs against wandering bandits, Mongolian patrols and samurai deserters because the main quests will throw out a lot of experience points that help you advance properly. However, it is still worth saving any captive citizens so that you find more places to gather upgrade materials and the like. You'll find the important goods such as silk, wax wood (you can get two of them in each Shinto shrine if you search carefully) and gold only after completing certain activities, so you have to be thoughtful about what to invest in early on.
In the first chapter, it's important to learn the four fighting styles to effectively battle different enemy types (once you've mastered a new style, heavy attacks break through an enemy's defences). You have to defeat multiple 'warlord' type enemies in order to unlock a new stance, but there is another way to boost your progress; infiltrate enemy camps quietly and keep an eye out for the heavily armoured soldiers who are actively training (this will most likely be the camp's leader). When Jin watches their martial arts prowess in action up close (hold down R2 to do so) your progress also increases. You don't have to worry too much about it, though, because in the course of the story these opponents will appear en masse. Still, it's nice to have them as early as possible.
While we are at it, duels against enemy swordsmen can get fairly difficult, so it is important to follow a few basic rules and bring the necessary skills with you to battle. Attacks that are indicated with a red flash of light should always be avoided, and you can only parry blue shimmering attacks if you unlocked the corresponding abilities in the samurai tree (in this case, deflection). It's a good idea to work towards these talents early on so that you have the upper hand in battles and don't get overwhelmed.
As soon as you have cleared all Mongolian camps in one region, all points of interest will be shown on the overview map. This way you can (with help of the Traveller's Attire) find all collectibles in the area you're currently in, even without the need to invest in skills that help you discover hot springs, Inari shrines, and so on and so forth. These passive bonuses are small and you can reach them much faster later on, so it's not really worth the time. If you climb up lookouts, just search for fox burrows (the yellow trees - they will turn reddish later) or for health-boosting hot springs (they are the red trees, but later on they can be recognised by their steam).
Shinto shrines and side-quests reward you with major and minor talismans that unlock very powerful passive effects. If you need a decent charm, I recommend the 'Charm of Okuninushi', which slowly restores your life outside of battle. This saves your reserve of 'Resolve' while you're exploring or lets you take a breather after you've cleared a part of an enemy camp. You'll find it in the Mending Rock Shrine located in Hiyoshi, southwest of Castle Kaneda on the Isonade coast.
One last thing: don't burn yourself out (that's also advice that Eirik shared in his review). You don't have to conquer all of Tsushima in one weekend, so take your time and enjoy taking in the stunning sights as you explore. For now, though, that's all the hints and tips we have for you, however, if you have any guiding words for other players, let us know in the comments below and help other samurai fulfil their duty. Now drive those Mongols and traitors away!