Success in Ghost of Tsushima requires one thing: mastering the game’s four sword stances. Each stance deals boosted damage against specific enemy classes, which is essential for managing crowds and quickly taking down Mongols. There’s Stone stance, which wrecks anyone wielding a sword. Water stance makes short work of shields. Wind stance trumps spears. And Moon stance, the final one, can take out the game’s hulking brute-class enemies in just a few slashes.
At the start, you can only use the Stone stance, but unlock more by killing various Mongol leaders at outposts across Tsushima. (This process can be sped up by stealthily observing leaders before you kill them, granting you two stance points off each one.) Once you get all four, you’d be forgiven for thinking the toolkit is fully opened up. From that point on, it’s up to you how you want to use it to repel the invading army.
But that’s not the whole toolkit. Ghost of Tsushima has a surprise fifth stance.
Halfway through the second act, when you’re defending Yarikawa from a full-frontal Mongol assault, you’ll open up the Ghost stance. It channels Jin’s deeply buried rage. You can only activate the stance after performing one of two war crimes: Massacre a number of enemies without taking damage (the exact figure is variable, which we’ll touch on in a bit), or assassinate a Mongol leader (after Ghost stance unlocks, leader assassination animations are far more brutal). Once you do that, click in both thumbsticks, and you’ll be able to take out rank-and-file enemies in one hit each.
The first thing you need to know about Ghost stance is that it works during (some) duels. If you know a duel is coming – say, at the end of a large Mongol outpost, or during a mission that explicitly says “duel this dude” – try to start things off with Ghost stance charged and ready to go. You won’t be able to instantly kill your opponent, but you can deal some serious damage. I found it most helpful at the start of battle. If you get hit just once, you’ll lose it. Question: How confident are you in your duelling skills?
In regular battles, Ghost stance isn’t something you can just count on, either. When you first get it, you need to rack up seven kills without taking any damage. That’s easy enough in big-scale melee brawls, where you can parry and block and dodge. Protecting yourself against flaming arrows – and whatever the heck those portable mortars are – is a tougher feat. The easiest way to bank on Ghost stance is to level the Ghost armour up to its third tier. (Equipping the Charm of Inari can help you earn enough resources, though by the second act you’ll likely have a small treasure in the bank.) That’ll make it so you only need five kills – something you can easily pull off with a full quiver of arrows and some well-placed headshots.
The stance is best reserved for moments in the game when the developers throw countless Mongol soldiers at you. Keep playing, and you’ll know the parts I’m talking about.
Really, there’s only one thing you have to ask yourself: Is Ghost stance honourable?