There’s more than one way to stand while holding a sword. That’s one of the things you’ll learn while playing Ghost of Tsushima, the almost egregiously open-world open-world game for the PlayStation 4. There are so many different sidequests and submissions you can pursue in this game, and so much you have to discover and unlock to fully maximize your descent from an honorable samurai into a stealthy murder master.
One of the many things you can focus on is unlocking the game’s various stances. There are four different stances you learn throughout the game, and each one is especially useful against a different enemy. A strong attack can quickly stun a foe if it’s from the right stance, letting you cut through all that dueling foreplay and get to the business of hacking and slashing your enemy to death. Eventually you’ll be hopping seamlessly from stance to stance mid-battle, which you do by holding down the R2 trigger and pressing the face button that corresponds to the stance you want to use. It can be a little distracting at first, but in time you’ll have that rhythm down pat, and it’ll feel as second nature to you as parrying, rolling or striking.
Learning all four stances isn’t hard. It can take a while, though. It’s basically a counting stat—you don’t learn ‘em by completing specific missions or visiting the right dot on the map, but by spying on or killing a set number of Mongol leaders. That’s something you’ll just do, pretty regularly, while playing the game; almost every Mongol camp or base has at least one leader to kill. Each leader gets you one step closer to the next stance. Note that the number of leaders you have to whack to unlock a stance gets bigger every time you unlock one, but if you keep at it you’ll have ‘em all in no time.
Here are the four stances you’ll cultivate over time.
The first one you’ll unlock makes you strong against basic swordsmen. They’re like the pawns of the game, and this stance will help you slash through ‘em with ease. You don’t have to do anything to use this one—you just start off with it.
Next on the list is the Water Stance. This makes it easy to take down those pesky shieldman. A strong attack from this stance will swat their shield away for a moment or two, letting you lay it on thick with your sword. You’ll learn this stance after observing or killing three Mongol leaders.
Those spearmen can get bent, especially before you learn the Wind Stance. With their long range and their initially unbreakable strikes they can make quick work of you. You’ll be able to counter them without problem once you get the Wind Stance, which requires taking out eight Mongol leaders.
Finally, Moon Stance levels the playing field between you and those big, burly Mongol brutes that seem to pop up more and more as you get deeper into the game. These are the ones who are so big and powerful that, no matter their weapon, the other stances just aren’t that useful. It takes 12 Mongol leaders to get this stance down.
There’s more to stances than just unlocking them, though. Each stance has its own unique skill tree with four different steps you can unlock. You’ll earn points as your legend grows—basically, as you complete missions or sidequests—and can cash them in on like a half-dozen different types of unlockable skills and abilities. Don’t forget to beef up your stances as you go.
Here’s how each stance can develop over time.
Puncture: This is a quick, back-to-back duo of strong strikes, activated by holding down the Triangle button and then tapping Triangle again.
Strength of Mountains: The second upgrade for each stance is basically the same—it’s a passive upgrade that increases the amount of stagger damage done against whatever enemy is most susceptible to that stance. In this case, that’d be swordmen.
Full Puncture: It’s like Puncture but with a third strike. Just add a second tap of the Triangle button after doing Puncture.
Momentum: This lets you do the heavy attacks from this stance faster than before.
Flowing Strikes: Here’s a quartet of pain. Hold down the Triangle button and then reel off three quick Triangle taps in a row.
Strength of Tides: As with the Stone Stance, the second upgrade increases how much stagger damage is done to the Water Stance’s targeted enemy—namely the shieldmen.
Surging Strikes: This is Flowing Strikes with a fifth strike. So do four Triangle taps after holding it down to start the combo.
Downpour: This jacks up the damage from the Surging Strikes combo.
Strengthened Typhoon Kick: One of the interesting quirks about the Wind Stance is how it uses more than just your sword. You’ll often see your character doling out a powerful kick between sword strikes. Spend a skill point on the Wind Stance tree and that typhoon kick gets even stronger, increasing the amount of stagger damage it deals.
Strength of Gales: Once again, this ratchets up the stagger damage dealt to all spearmen.
Spear Defence: This handy skill lets you automatically parry off any strikes from a spear.
Typhoon Kick Finisher: This final slot on the tree beefs up the typhoon kick once again, turning it into an instant knockout blow.
Whirlwind: Here’s a two-strike combo, kicked off by holding down the Triangle and then tapping it a second time.
Strength of the Heavens: Yep, you guessed it: you’ll deal more stagger damage to the brutes once you unlock this skill.
Finishing Strike: This ramps up the damage you can inflict upon your enemy, as well as increasing how much they get staggered by each blow.
Tornado: This adds an extra strike to Whirlwind. Hold down that Triangle button and then quickly tap it twice more to send that brute whirling.
Rumors of an elusive fifth stance also flit about the island, one that might not reflect too honorably upon any samurai that might use it. No idea what that’s all about, personally. Guess you’ll just have to find out for yourself how true those whispers might be…