The Sound Design of Ghost of Tsushima: Combat Impacts

May 19th, 2021

We knew as soon as we began working on Ghost of Tsushima that swordplay would be a major part of the game and that the swords had to sound dangerous. In moving to the world of feudal Japan, we wanted to approach combat from a grounded perspective but also really make the sound of the swords slicing through enemies feel razor like. Lots of games and films go for a really meaty, thuddy impact to make things feel powerful. We wanted to go against this trend and make our swords SOUND sharp.

To do this, we really focused our impact sounds on elements of slicing rather than hard impacts. But of course it took a lot of experimentation and a lot of recording. Josh Lord (our senior sound designer) and I amassed a collection of various blades and other sharp objects and applied them to myriad fruits and vegetables. There were some surprising results: digging into celery with the tip of a knife sounding like cutting through bone; a razor blade through an onion sounded like a gut being opened; a serrated bread knife created interesting zippered slicing tears.

Once we got all this source material together, we started experimenting with integration techniques, adapting a technique utilizing sound states in Wwise tied to our animations to trigger different impacts based on animation data. Towards the end of the project, we passed off our combat sounds to Mike Niederquell and Andres Herrera at Sony for some final polish and for them to work the magic they do. We ended up abandoning our state-based multi-impact approach and Mike and Andres made bespoke content largely from our recordings for many of the various impact types as the animations weren’t so excessive, and the state rigging introduced unnecessary complexity. Like most things in the game, this added layer of iteration and talent polished the sounds to a new level.

Here’s a short video of some of the props that sacrificed themselves for the greater combat good as well as how they ended up sounding in game: