Content of the article: "46 Hours of Death Stranding. Here are my thoughts."
When I think back to playing MGS4 I mostly remember watching cutscenes. When I think of the gameplay, from what I remember, it was “sneak from one side of the map to the other”, mixed in with some on-vehicle levels, sometimes-frustrating boss fights, and a boxing match. It was all over the place. I feel like there might be a huge difference between 4 and V (which I have not played, only watched). 4 being more of a movie, V actually being a tactical stealth game.
And the experience is what I was most interested in with Death Stranding after seeing those trailers. What the heck was going on in those trailers? When I saw gameplay, I didn’t think much of it other than it’s a Kojima game, there’s going to be some wacky shit and I want in.
- FedEX the game. Sure, that was the root gameplay and I see why people would have a problem with that, but only if you look at just that. I have no problem with the gameplay being focused on deliveries and quite frankly I’m amazed they were able to make that this interesting. I can see if you were a Kojima fan, coming from MGSV, you might not be happy.
- I’m happy it’s not another military tactical stealth game. I have played all the mainline MGS games except for V. I was happy to see that Death Stranding is far from that theme, though there is shooty stuff in it. I’m excited to see more from Kojima now that he's away from MGS. A silent hill-like game from him will be bonkers.
- A post-apocalyptic world that didn’t feel like it’s been done a million times already. The world has been obliterated and it was so terrifying that people are afraid to leave their bunkers. The earth looks like another planet, with most traces of a previous civilization being wiped clean. We see some old buildings in Port Knot City, and maybe some rusty cars here and there, but that’s it. Advanced technology is the only thing that has kept people alive and even then it’s limited because of the disconnect between everyone. I really liked the setting.
- The game was oddly addicting for me. I couldn’t leave DS alone. The landscapes, the music, the world building and lore, the unlocking of new equipment, the performances, the sound design, the online aspect. It all was piled on top of a pretty basic pickup-and-deliver game. I wanted to see what would happen next and had to deliverysome packages to get to that next step. So I did.
- Play with good headphones on. My god the sound design! Ear candy. The music is setup perfectly, queuing up moody songs as you start to cross a rocky stretch on your way to do something momentous or after experiencing something momentous. A few times it was almost a relief to hear, like a nice break that let you chill out and catch your breath. And all the little sound queues and effects are so crisp. I amazingly didn’t get tired of them. Kojima productions should sell ringtones.
- The controls are a mess. Holding X to confirm, or trying to remember how to soothe BB, or getting to all the different gear I was carrying was sometimes tedious.
- Satisfaction in doing deliveries. Climbing up a snowy mountain using an exoskeleton, ladders and ropes to deliver a huge load of deliveries felt great. Planting zip lines along the route so you could zip back and fly over that rough terrain was even better.
- Zip lines did not break the game, they kept me from putting it down. Yes I liked doing the deliveries but the snowy mountains and rough terrain almost made it exhausting. I felt like I was climbing those peaks. With chiral bandwidth being a thing, and areas of the map not on the chiral network, you still had to climb those rocks at least once. Getting everyone online and planting those zip line posts made the zip line rides all the more worth it. I bet they were added because people felt fatigued at that point in the game and the mountains made people groan with the idea of trekking back and forth across them.
- I loved how the online mechanic worked. It’s interesting to see “online” done differently and it reminded me of dark souls and the messages you can leave for others. Seeing timefall shelters, generators, zip line posts and private rooms around the corner and built by others was most often a relief to see. Most of the game feels very lonely, but these structures brought some relief to that.
- I did not care for Amelie at all or reconnecting with her. Sam’s life up until when we meet him in the start of the game was completely ignored. It's as if he just suddenly existed at the point we meet him. The introduction of his “mom” was jarring, even for Sam it seemed. I thought that would be a story element, that Sam just kinda came into existence. But apparently he had a childhood and grew up in this world. It’s just never talked about and I wish it was to help me kinda connect Sam with these people.
- I enjoyed all the dialogue. There’s always tons of chatter in kojima’s games and I loved all of it in this game. I’m happy it wasn’t military stuff too. I didn’t get tired of hearing from all the characters.
- Die-Hardman, Deadman, Heartman, Mama, Sam Porter, Bridget Strand, Higgs. The names are very on the nose and I love it. Clifford Unger and Lou are the only “normal” names and that made them kinda weird only because they are normal. And I think Lou was used for the surprise of “Louise” at the end.
- A lot of weapons that I never really felt the need to use. The bola gun was great but then came the non-lethal assault rifle. I think I just used those two weapons and the grenade launcher and missile launcher for bosses.
- Son of a beach. Despite all the in-game talk about it all, I’m still not sure what the beach is, or the seam, or what BTs are, or that Amelie is an EE (and not really Amelie). I’ll have to watch some explainer videos. When you die you go to your own Beach. From there you enter the water to go to the Seam (the under water stuff) which takes you to the afterlife? Only Repatriotes can come back from the Beach/Seam, essentially making them immortal, unless they die on the Beach. Amelie is the Ka of the Ha of Bridget Strand, they are the same and also unknowingly and then Knowingly an EE, who’s “job” it is to bring on an extinction invent, that Sam managed to subvert. Or something.
- I didn’t get tired of the barren landscape and all the rocks. It’s all part of the Death Stranding disaster. It all felt very cold and lonely and that was the point. It looked the same yet it was different.
- The boss fights fall back to what the developer knows, but they felt out of place. I don't know what a better solution would've been for "boss fights". After managing deliveries and navigating terrain, what do you do for these epic battles? Asking me to shoot a grenade launcher at a giant tar squid after spending my time climbing up and down ladders was quite a change. I did enjoy some of the meta dialogue from Higgs in encounters with him.
End Game Stuff
- Having to head all the way back to where I started really revealed that the maps aren’t that big. You were crossing America heading west, and it felt like a long journey going one way because of the stops you had to make and the new areas you had to explore. But making a bee-line back east was pretty quick. I didn’t have a problem with doing this, but I wish the game showed a lot more stuff that was built by others. It would’ve been nice to go back through areas I didn’t develop too much to see all the roads built and stuff everywhere to show the progress happening now that all the knots were connected.
- Confusion. So Sam was the BB from the flash backs, so who was Lou? Why was connecting to Lou causing my flashbacks? Was Lou anything at all?
- That ending went on forever. I stayed up late because it seemed like it would end any minute. Then the credits rolled, and I was still playing. And then the credits ended and I was still playing.
We are lucky to have Kojima in the industry we love. This game was something different and I enjoyed the experience of it all.
Will we see a Death Stranding 2? “Next Stranding”? “Last Stranding”?
I hope so. Kojima’s only done Metal Gear Solid sequels, and he did some interesting things with those. Changing the protagonist in MGS 2, a prequel for 3, and showing a dystopian world of 4. What could he do with the DS universe? I really hope he’s thinking about it and developing something.
- Does Death Stranding count? I think it counts.
- Death Stranding – This isn’t a walking simulator.
- My issues with Death Stranding. all spoilers are hidden pretty long post
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