Castles Of Sin Is Ghost Of Tsushima In VR

The blood on your face is hotter and sweeter when you wield the blade yourself. Sword-based combat has been a staple of video games for decades now, and before them, fantasy role-playing games did the same. But the addition of VR to the equation reminds us why we pick up sticks in the schoolyard, why we still tell tales of the knights of yore. Lots of VR games struggle to distill the complex actions required for video games into the act of moving your hands, but sword combat is very intuitive. It’s upon these simple and violent delights that Arashi: Castles of Sin is built.


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Arashi first launched in 2021 but is coming back later this year with a Final Cut version that adds faster, more reactive combat, more intense boss battles with new phases, and upgraded graphics. It was this version that I tested out at Gamescom, where it quickly became a surprise standout of the show.

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Most of the VR opportunities TheGamer had at Gamescom fell to me. I was the only one of our crew with a headset myself, and therefore a good fit, at least on paper. But in practice, as the wearer of the most makeup, the biggest earrings, and thickest (read: only) glasses, I was not the dream VR gamer that was prophesied. Whereas I had expected my experience with the medium to break down a barrier, it seemed instead to offer a hurdle – I was not wowed by the magic of virtual reality as a rube might be, and was too accustomed to the PS VR2 for any other headsets to be much more than an annoyance. But in the end, despite having to tuck in my earrings to wear a sweaty contraption that would soak off my makeup, Arashi: Castles of Sin was a damn good time.

Arashi Castles of Sin fighting a samurai warrior in VR

I felt actively immersed in the game, rather than just standing around with a weird first-person view while wearing an uncomfortable hat. Set in feudal Japan, you take on the role of a samurai warrior skulking through camps and waging war. Perhaps my favourite thing about Arashi is that, despite its reliance on stealth mechanics, it is a big believer in the rule of cool. You have a dog you can sic on enemies, and despite the usual VR foibles of it clipping and jumping around, it will not be detected so long as you are hidden and haven’t sent it to prowl randomly. And yes, of course, you can pet the dog. It feels far less cheap when you’re physically petting with your hand too.

You can also use various samurai tools to rope your way from ledge to ledge, and as long as you stay out of sight, you’ll remain undetected. Other stealth games can be too loyal to realism, and when playing in VR, where things can get hectic, giving you that leeway of ‘as long as you’re trying to stay quiet, you probably will’ makes for a far smoother experience. The best use of this rule of cool, though, is that getting the drop on your enemies and sneaking behind them results in a one-hit kill when you stab them in the back, complete with a scream of anguish and a slow-motion drop to the floor.

Arashi Castles of Sin petting the dog

It can sometimes feel a little insulting to say that Game A is good because it’s like Game B, but Arashi: Castles of Sin is like Ghost of Tsushima in VR. Like most VR games, it exists in a narrow and mostly linear sequence of climbs, bridges, and bases, but by letting you slash down enemies after careful planning and not rushing to overpower you, Arashi: Castles of Sin recreates a Hollywood fantasy of the samurai experience. It’s not all one-hit kills and untouchable God Mode either – when meeting enemies face to face, you dual wield, with one hand back in a defensive stance, the other forward to slash and slice.

You’ll understand the combat in an instant, but the timing and what hand is best for which technique will come with time. The fact you can involve your dog and even switch to a bow and arrow all add depth too, without making it overly complicated. Of all the VR games I’ve played, Horizon: Call of the Mountain feels like the closest anyone has gotten to diluting the triple-A experience into something that works for VR – most other VR games either feel like their own genre or like regular games but in a silly, expensive hat. From what I’ve seen, Arashi: Castles of Sin is Call of the Mountain’s biggest challenger.

Arashi Castles of Sin using rope to sneak behind archer

Arashi: Castles of Sin – Final Cut is a great addition to the VR library, and launches later this year on Quest 2, Quest 3, and PS VR2. If you want to play Ghost of Tsushima in VR, this is the closest you’re going to get – plus, you can even pet the dog.

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