Death Stranding is the first entry from Kojima Productions, Hideo Kojima very own company, ever since his departure from Konami in 2015. For the uninitiated, Hideo Kojima is a legend and icon in the gaming industry. He is the creative genius behind the critically acclaimed Metal Gear Solid series and his last game with Konami was Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain (though it wasn’t a finished game). Veterans of Kojima will tell you that he is a guy with a unique vision, especially in games that he made, along with his signature long drawn out cutscenes that gives you the opportunity to put your controller down and make a cup of coffee, and his thematically strong commentary of society. Whether you love him or hate him, he is a big deal in the gaming industry.
Grab Food Simulator?
Death Stranding is set in a post-apocalyptic America where a cataclysmic event, known as “Death Stranding”, happened: black tar-like creatures that are from the afterlife roams the earth, as well as Timefall – a phenomenal rain that increase the passage of time of things it touched. This causes uninhabitability on the surface of the earth, so the remaining humans cities lived in underground bunkers. You play as Sam Porter Bridges (Norman Reedus), a Porter Delivery man who delivers cargos & supplies between these cities. One day, you were tasked by the President of the United Cities of America to connect the cities together.
Gameplay wise, is exactly as how I explained it. You go around the different cities, delivering cargo and supplies from one to another. Sounds easy? But here’s the catch, the road to delivery is not a smooth one, there are no modern infrastructure like roads to help you across tough terrains (since everything haven been disintegrated by Timefall), Mules (rogue delivery man) who are addicted to the feel-good factor of delivering cargo will attack you and steal your cargo to make the delivery themselves to feed their addiction. Dreaded BTs (Beached Things), who are these black tar-like humanoid spirit thingy that want to grab any living soul they can get their hands on.
The beauty of the game is how they are using a very mundane aspect of games as its core mechanics: Traveling. You have to balance your center of gravity of yourself and the packages that you are carrying, before and during each deliveries so you don’t fall on your side when you are tracking through those obstacles I mentioned earlier. You really have to focus on tthe traversing.
This is definitely not a game for everyone, not especially if you want a gun blazing action and fast paced left-right strafing. But despite it’s “boring” nature, it is strangely addictive. Especially when you start understanding more about the game and have more access to additional functions within the game. Which brings me to my biggest negative to the game: Pacing
Timefall speed things up, if only it sped the game’s pace too.
Pacing is the game’s biggest weakness. Episodes 1 & 2 are basically the games tutorial but set within the main plot, but because they are like “tutorial” you have very limited actions and ability, which slow the game pace down by a lot since you are just walking from point A to point B. I was getting bored during this point and was thinking of stopping the game for good. But i persevere and when I got to Episode 3, the game picks up it’s pace, both in gameplay and narrative.
Episode 3 is where you will get hooked on to it’s addictive gameplay and game style. This is such a shame to me though. Episodes 1 & 2 took up a good 4-6 hours of initial gameplay by that point, majority of the players will make a decision on whether game is for them or not. If they are like me who found this boring, they will immediately reject this game instead of persevere.
Social Strand System
The game developers claim that this new system, named “Social Strand System” will be an entirely new concept that will spawn a new genre by itself. It is a system where different players around the world can have their action in their game impact another player’s game. The impact can be as simple as a rope to help you climb up the cliff to as huge as a highway that connects the area from 1 end to another. But let’s be honest, this is not a new concept. It has appeared in games like DarkSouls, it’s just that Death Stranding took that same idea and brought it to a whole new level until it becomes an integral part of the gameplay.
With that system, playing this game offline will be extremely difficult and less rewarding since you will lack the resource to build a highway. Once you are connected online, it becomes a lot more enjoyable. You can put up signages to warn other players of danger as well as useful signages to help them on their way. The “social” aspect of this system is very similar to how social media function, where you can “Like” the stuff built by other players.
So is this some revolutionary stuff going on? Is this going to change the face of future games? Well… it’s hard to say. It’s definitely fresh and very interesting system but it will only work on game that is built around it. I’m interested to see how this will influence future games.
The art direction, as well as the very powerful Decima engine, that was used to create this game, gives a very stunning, majestic and hauntingly beautiful environment. Many of the scenery you see in the game created to see the beauty of nature (think of those Scandinavian countryside) . If you were to randomly take a screenshot in game, that exact screenshot will definitely be wallpaper worthy.
So, is this a good game? Did Kojima kept to his claims and promises? Should you spend $80 to get this game? Well, I feel that Kojima did achieve exactly what he promised, with new interesting system and a very unique gameplay that is oddly satisfying, while still having his name all over it. But this is not a game that everyone can appreciate. My recommendation is to give this game a try for yourself, then refund it if it’s not to your liking.
In any case I’ll give this game a