"Death Stranding" leaves players living the dream

December 3, 2019

 

“Death Stranding” is the debut title of recently formed Kojima Productions, a company founded by Hideo Kojima (creator of the Metal Gear Solid series) after his falling out with Konami, the previous studio that employed him.

 

This information is relevant because it puts a lot of pressure on “Death Stranding” to be a break out title, considering that it’s his first in his new company and he has a lot riding on it.

 

Photo Courtesy IMDB.COM

Creator of "Metal Gear Solid" Hideo Kojima's

debut game after leaving Konami.

 

 

I’ll get straight to the point- it delivers. “Death Stranding” is an absolutely phenomenal game.

 

After playing several hours of it and immersing myself in Kojima’s vision I found something very special, particularly within its story.

 

It’s hard to explain the story of “Death Stranding.” The game is purposefully vague when it comes to the plot.

 

You’re thrown into a very confusing world at the beginning, a world where there are invisible creatures lurking around you and the rain causes whatever it touches to move forward in time rapidly. 

 

The game begins with our protagonist Sam (Norman Reedus) delivering some packages on a futuristic motorcycle he immediately crashes.

 

From there, things start moving forward at a steady pace as you get to a waystation and meet several new characters and begin to learn about the post apocalyptic world around you.

 

The story is relayed to you in several ways, primarily through your interactions with interesting characters like Deadman (Guillermo Del Toro) and Die-hardman (Tommy Earl Jenkins.)

 

These two are introduced within the game’s first chapter and feed you pieces of what led to the world, particularly the United States, to become a wasteland. 

 

The ‘Death Stranding’ is a mysterious event that happened years ago and caused the current state of the world, there are many questions surrounding it that are slowly answered as you explore what was once America.

 

As you explore you discover locations and find memory chips, both of which give you access to archives and interviews of the past.

 

You begin to learn exactly what the ‘Death Stranding’ was and why things are the way they are. 

 

Why Sam is a repatriate and what a repatriate is. the true nature of those invisible monsters after you and why you have to carry around this underdeveloped fetus that gives you visions of Mads Mikkelsen every time you hook up to it. Weird stuff. 

 

But the weird works here. The nonlinear storytelling combined with the open world aspect does wonders as you go about your travels and discovering the hidden past of this supernatural event feels very pleasing. 

 

The game rewards you for being hungry for knowledge and encourages you to look around and piece it all together at your pace.

 

The gameplay feeds directly into this and is probably the most essential part of the game overall. 

 

Having a good story to tell is absolutely useless if you don’t have the proper tools  to convey it.

 

"Death Stranding" is an open world game, based on making deliveries as a porter. 

 

Porters are highly valued in the post apocalyptic society as they transport goods across the wasteland, usually on foot or by vehicle. 

 

The idea of moving Norman Reedus across the entire United States on foot sounds pretty grueling, but it actually works.

 

A lot of open world games have a fast travel option that lets you essentially teleport around areas you’ve already been to.

 

"Death Stranding" has no such thing, and forces you to make all of your deliveries the old fashioned way, by trekking across the wasteland with your trusty “Monster Energy” canteen. I’m not kidding about that last bit.

 

Despite this, the gameplay is a lot of fun. The distances are just right and the terrain is treacherous at times, forcing you to pay attention. 

 

Most importantly this makes you take in the atmosphere of the world and feeds into the story. 

 

You constantly have to balance Sam and use several tools like ladders and climbing stakes with ropes to traverse the area, along with being mindful of your cargo and how much you’re carrying on you.

 

All of these things, along with the small random quirks, make for a pretty unique experience. Make sure you have enough materials as you walk (or later, ride) through the wasteland. 

 

But what if you don’t? And how can Sam be the only porter? Doesn’t it break the immersion if only you are there to do all of the deliveries? Where is everyone else?

 

The answer to all of these is found in the extremely clever use of the online aspect of gaming. 

 

The game has no direct multiplayer function. Instead, you interact with other players by leaving behind ladders, ropes and other things for them to use. 

 

Once you advance in the story you’re able to connect parts of the US to a specific network, which allows you to see and use player-made structures that others have left behind.

 

This also applies to delivery cargo, if someone else drops their cargo in their world it eventually becomes eligible for you to carry and you can finish off their delivery for them. 

 

This, along with every other positive action in the game, earns you likes, which serve as experience points and level up your “porter grade.”

 

You can leave behind signs, bridges and even roads for other players to ride their vehicles on.

 

You’ll need every tool you can get because you’ll encounter opposition in the form of the terrifying “BTs,” the invisible remnants of the dead that chase you endlessly once they’re near, and the “MULEs,” oxytocin addicts who want to steal your cargo because it… makes them feel good.

 

Yeah, the game is weird. Luckily, you have your underdeveloped fetus (which is affectionately referred to as “BB”) to warm you when there are BTs near and Sam’s rugged survival skills to help you out. 

 

I want to point out that while there is conflict and action in the game, that’s not the main focus.

 

You can, by all means, tackle those who oppose you while most games center around the combat and action.

 

“Death Stranding” is very story oriented and turns that notion upside down, you don’t spend most of the game in combat with short bits of time to wind down.

 

Offhand, I just can’t continue this review without giving at least a passing mention to the stupidly good soundtrack this game has, including music from Low Roar (if you haven’t heard “Don’t Be So Serious” either play the game or do yourself a favor), Bring Me The Horizon, Norman Reedus himself, and Johnny Cash.

 

Spotify has a playlist for it if the reader is so inclined. 

 

There are, of course, a couple of flaws. The game is pretty detail oriented, and while friendly to new players, if you’re not a meticulous person, it can be a daunting world to be a part of.

 

There’s so much information to take in and it may not all be obvious at first. 

 

You have a lot at your disposal and it’s easy to forget sometimes. If you’re just looking for something casual, take a good look at your schedule because this is a game you have to invest a lot of time into.

 

Just the intro alone and getting to the point where you’re left to do deliveries as you please takes an hour and a half minimum.

 

The controls take a little getting used to, but if you’re familiar with video games they’re pretty intuitive.

 

Lastly, like I mentioned earlier, there’s a lot of systems to keep track of, on top of several mechanics.

 

Bear in mind this is a very big, time consuming game.

 

But these are very minor complaints when compared against the plethora of things this game does right; atmosphere, story, gameplay, it all feels well put together and all of the little quirks that are a staple in Kojima’s games come together to create something truly special.

 

The sheer scope of the game is massive, it’s such an ambitious and ridiculous creation.

 

I can tell that the developers put a lot of love into this piece of art; it’s felt in every single aspect and every bit of story that is revealed to you.

 

I won’t say it’s for everyone, but I will say that so far, it’s been an experience that’s definitely moving me.

 

There’s a lot I haven’t even gotten to talk about here, and I’m just full of excitement to keep playing once I’m done writing this review. 

 

Maybe I’m easily impressed, but I can say with certainty this is one of the best games released this year. 4.5 out of 5 dunko points… I mean, stars. 

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