Over the last few weeks, I have played a lot of Ghost of Tsushima. I wasn’t even writing our review; I just loved it and couldn’t stop playing. As I’ve talked about before, when a game gets me into that space, I’m always looking for another item to collect or quest to complete – any excuse to stay in the world a bit longer. So that’s what I did with Ghost of Tsushima. I kept going until I got the platinum, and once I did, I marveled at how well the team at Sucker Punch implemented their trophies and enticed people to see everything the game has to offer.
These days, I’m not interested in trophies as proof of my “gamer cred” or anything. Rather than badges of honor, I look at them like souvenirs commemorating gaming experiences I’ve enjoyed. Basically, I think of a trophy list like a map full of interesting, thumb-tacked places to visit on my journey with a particular game, and that’s where Ghost of Tsushima excels. It directs you to worthwhile, fun content without sending you too far off-course.
A bad platinum trophy is one that makes ridiculous demands of your time and energy. You may have to replay the whole game multiple times, grind currency for hours, and complete punishing scenarios that the gameplay was never designed to accommodate. Ghost of Tsushima doesn’t do this; it places the trophy-related goals naturally in the player’s path.
For instance, this game has an awesome photo mode. Giving players a trophy for messing around with it is a good way to ensure that they see it and know it’s there, but Sucker Punch isn’t asking you to take 50 photos, or capture a shot under especially crazy circumstances. The team takes a similar approach to collectibles, which I also love. You don’t need to collect 100 percent of the artifacts, records, and gear strewn about. Instead, you get trophies for just getting some of them – enough so you know they’re in the world and available, but without expecting you to spend hours hunting them down for no significant benefit.
Speaking of benefits, you do have to be a completionist in some areas to get the platinum, but those are all things that ultimately feed into your progression in a meaningful way. Finding all the hot springs is a good thing, since they increase your maximum health. You should fully upgrade your sword regardless of whether you care about trophies. They are goals that players pursue organically, and giving out trophies for these activities is a good way to reward players and give them the sense that they are on the right track.
A few trophies in Ghost of Tsushima aren’t exactly intuitive, but they don’t feel unfair or obtuse. Like one that has you dressing up in specific gear to imitate Sly Cooper, or another that requires you to play a particular song on your flute at a specific location. Granted, most players wouldn’t perform these specific actions during a normal playthrough, but they are just buried enough to feel like cool Easter eggs, rather than anything Sucker Punch is trying to keep hidden.
This isn’t all just a question of the platinum trophy being easy to obtain, either. There are plenty of bad, easy platinum trophies out there. The real art here is making the journey to a platinum feel simultaneously worthwhile and achievable. In Ghost of Tsushima, if you’re skilled enough to finish the story, the platinum trophy is within reach – you just need to be thorough. But as you knock out the tasks on the way, odds are good that you’ll be doing things that you wanted to do anyway.
Many years ago, back in 2009, we posted a list of what we want and don’t want from achievements and trophies. While many of those ideals have shifted a bit with time, a lot of the basic concepts are the same, and Sucker Punch knows which ones to take and which ones to leave. Ghost of Tsushima’s platinum trophy rewards players for doing cool things, doesn’t make them do boring things, and remains attainable without being trivial. It’s a balance so perfect, someone should write a haiku about it.
For more about Ghost of Tsushima, check out our interview with director Nate Fox, some tips for how to prioritize the game’s many activities, and five little flourishes we enjoyed as we played.