A lot of people were bummed out with the cancellation of the Silent Hill successor, P.T. Especially after we even saw a sneak peek into the latter. Then the old Metal Gear series went to absolute shit with Survive. What was next for our beloved Hideo Kojima? Who left Konami to start a venture of his own? The answer to that was in the form of one of the most hyped video games in the recent decade, Death Stranding.
After countless blue balling tidbits of info that were scattered around here and there in mind boggling posts or trailers, we finally got our hands on the title itself. No more pussyfooting around, we got Death Stranding, but how was it?
Firstly, the game definitely reeks of Mr. Kojima, and I’m not saying this in a bad way. For people who were fans of his previous works, I’m pretty sure Death Stranding will resonate with you just as much. It’s your average Hideo drug trip that in this case, lasts for a beefy 70 hour main story roughly. That’s pretty thick if you ask me.
The game stars the player as Sam, portrayed by Norman Reedus. The setting, a post apocalyptic version of Earth, something not uncommon in modern video games. However, Death Stranding tackled it by describing the opening of a bridge between the living and the dead. So here you are basically, in what’s left of your civilization.
You can’t just sit around and mope though, right? That’s why Sam acts as a delivery man. Specifically delivering strands to allow human occupied settlements and bases to negotiate and lend a hand to each other. You’re like the Courier from Fallout New Vegas but a little more toned down.
I will admit that Death Stranding opens up almost painfully slowly. The percentage of the initial gameplay which was just spent literally walking from A to B nearly split my brain in boredom. There might have been other reasons or maybe I’m just overreacting but that’s how I felt about the starting of the game.
Death Stranding, even after release, still remains utterly shrouded in mystery. So many terms are just thrown at you and bounced your heads. Things you haven’t heard any mention of beforehand, such as what the Stillmother is.
Now I’m not too big a fan of lazy writing where things are being mentioned out of the blue. However, I think it really does suit this game pretty well. Especially because you pretty much know that Kojima Productions is behind this.
Of course, you don’t spend all your time walking even though that’s a pretty big chunk. Another feature of the game is an upgrade system. The arguable flaw in this idea is that the curve and rate at which you improve and gain those points is reminiscent of trying to take the Ski Lift up to the lodge.
However, these improvements aren’t anything small. Not just a little tweak to the game. In some cases, in fact, it slightly spices things up. Such as ending up owning a car or a truck. Then you can start to drive around instead of walking, until you run out of fuel.
The dimensional rift caused by the initial discharge before the events of the game released a type of spectral enemy that Sam would usually need to tussle with. This makes the management of your inventory very crucial. Now while Sam can in fact, carry as much supply as any video game character could.
Only other characters don’t need to worry over any status effects and the literal visual of all the equipment strapped on. This includes segments where Sam has to even walk carefully when delivering fragile packaging. While it can look like a drag, it did give me a sense of curiosity to just go out and explore the world of Death Stranding.
Another really cool feature of the game was the established relationship between the player and their baby. This is in the form of BB, who is a baby that Sam takes care of but also acts as a feature of the game. This is due to the ability to know when danger lurks. BB cries and whales which is usually a huge indicator of the enemy either rushing to attack Sam or getting close enough to do it as a sneak attack.
The multiplayer in Death Stranding is indirect, reminiscent of the type you see in games like Nioh and Nier Automata. You don’t actually see players or interact with them. However, one thing you can do is leave them gifts and supplies of some kind. The idea behind the game is that you’re all part of a community connected by threads or strands which allow you to interact with each other. While you’re not running and mailing stuff to settlements together, you are in fact reminded of the presence of a worldwide community. Do your fellow Sams a favor and leave them grenades or healing items before a boss fight.
Besides that, BB is also an actual virtual baby that you have to take care of and keep in your eyeshot at all times basically. The way the game steadily builds upon this relationship and really attaches players to their baby sort of reminded me of Red Dead Redemption 2 handled the player’s relationship with their horse.
Some of the walking segments could be pretty mundane. Mostly because you were required to monitor nearly all of your steps when carrying cargo. Making sure you won’t drop and damage the goods. These segments of QTE like gameplay mixed with exploration aren’t great. They aren’t enough to have you on the edge of your seat, but they are enough to sort of keep you occupied since you don’t want to fuck up your package.
The main reason this is more of an annoyance than an outright criticism is the fact that the environment is so damn beautiful. It’s really breathtaking in scenery, accompanied by the gentle passive rock in the background, truly making the walking simulator part of the game genuine but not the best thing to come out of it.
The only annoyance I have with the game besides the slow-ish pacing is how vague the lore of the setting itself is. NPCs and people in the Death Stranding have one liners to just probe points. Each liner having some sort of specific lesson in the back of their mind.
That’s what DS is like but minus the reveal where you had a baby. Other than that, the game goes the Kojima way as just mostly open to interpretation vibes in the world. One for which clues can only be found by exploring pretty thoroughly.