Ghost of Tsushima Combat Analysis PT. 1
I'm using the final boss fight in Ghost of Tsushima for this analysis, so it'll only include the duel combat mechanics and not the stealth and ranged combat systems. Everything is listed in chronological order with a bit of context explained beforehand.
1:07 - 1:11 Why is the boss slowly walking towards the protagonist at the start?
There's a combat mechanic in this game called Stances that keeps combat fresh and adds a slight additional layer of player skill. There are 4 stances that players may utilize once unlocked. Every stance has its own strengths and weaknesses. It’s up to the player to figure out which one is best for their current opponent.
Scripting the boss to slowly walk toward the player gives them a brief moment to make that important decision. For a game that relies on split second decision making, picking the correct stance can make or break a duel.
A Slowdown occurs whenever the player is selecting a different stance. But in this case, it’s more for balancing reasons as opposed to slowing down time for the player to take it all in.
1:13 - 1:21 - Ghost Stance in a boss fight
Ghost Stance is a super overpowered form that you can only activate after killing x enemies without being hurt.
As soon as you activate it, all surrounding enemies cower in fear and turn into sitting ducks. Allowing you to get 3 free swings in without having to worry about dodging and parrying.
The devs restricted every single assassin weapon in a boss duel because they would make the fight too easy. So why would they allow the Ghost Stance?
To give struggling players a handicap without making the fight too easy. Players who repeatedly fail at defeating the boss can turn back and just farm the Ghost Stance for a few minutes. Since it requires the defeat of x enemies without taking damage, players can typically only use it once in a boss fight, so it doesn’t make the fight insanely easier.
The boss’ health is clamped so once you reach ~70%, it won’t go under until the short cutscene plays out. So at best, Ghost Stance can only bring the boss down from 100% - 70% and players will still need to fight the rest normally.
To sell how powerful and rewarding this Stance is, the game triggers a Slowdown effect when the player enters the mode. It gives the player time to see the boss growing frightened at the sheer sight of Jin. To add onto this, the game triggers a Hit Pause and Slowdown effect whenever an enemy is struck by Jin. This combined effect communicates how much more powerful this attack is compared to normal attacks.