“Didn’t Kinglink already post this?” I posted a unscored youtube review but to ensure that proper reviews are entered in OpenCritic I’m doing a written review for some games, such as Death Stranding.
Death Stranding is the latest from Hideo Kojima. He’s best known for his Metal Gear Solid franchise while working at Konami. Death Stranding is the first game after leaving that series and the question is can he still deliver on the style he’s known for.
Death Stranding is two different games. There’s the gameplay which focuses on the main character, Sam Porter, delivering packages, and the story that focuses on the world of Death Stranding. I’ll be breaking this up because the game also breaks up these two topics as we’ll see.
The core of the gameplay is Sam delivers packages, and while that sounds quite simplistic, that is ultimately what Death Stranding has the player do for gameplay. It’s very much a Doordash Simulator 2020 edition. There are several systems to assist with that or make it more interesting, but nothing that changes the base action.
Players will traverse a vast wasteland to visit different outposts, distribution centers, or prepper houses and while it sounds like there might be something interesting in each of those locations there’s not. Every location feels like a cold sterile mess and so much more could be done with these different sites.
There are multiple levels of gameplay when players are walking between the various locations. Without a large load, Death Stranding feels like a very chill and relaxed walk in an unknown land. The world of Death Stranding is beautiful at times, and yet it’s also sterile. There’s a very peaceful feeling of being the only person for miles around.
If Sam starts to carry a larger load, Death Stranding starts to challenge the player to keep his cargo balanced to avoid falling over, and in this, the game starts to take on minor aspects of QWOP by Bennett Foddy.
Both of these systems work well and are quite interesting. The problem that Death Stranding runs into is when it wants to make the experience have more action. There are two major threats to Sam, other humans, who want Sam’s Cargo, and BTs, the unknown terror. The problem is that Death Stranding never really makes either of these threats threatening. Players can just run past most encounters and get away with almost no danger to themselves or their cargo.
Death Stranding has some interesting systems that work with the delivery game, such as power armor and vehicles, but all that does is change the speed that Sam can move or how the weight is distributed Ultimately the gameplay of Death Stranding is a walking simulator where the player is just getting between points
The one part of Death Stranding that can be interesting is the inclusion of other player’s items. A player might leave a ladder on a cliff face, and later on, you might come across it. Another player might leave a sign warning you about something dangerous ahead of you. But the player interaction between these systems is a bit limited, and while players will receive likes from other players for doing a good job, these likes feel like a simplistic version of experience points so players can level up through artificial systems.
Death Stranding reminds me a lot of Metal Gear Solid V, in that it has some large systems that players can safely ignore. There are systems such as the dangerous and damaging system of Timefall, a story element that talks about the rain that ages humans and cargo. Timefall sounds like it’s going to be a major problem but I never once had to even consider it. Most of the time, Timefall just warned me BTs were in the area, and all that made me do is start to sprint through it, rather than worry about the damage it could do to me or my cargo.
There’s also the ability to create transportation systems such as a zipline but even these don’t feel that interesting and after building out a couple of pieces, I found it was a better use of my time to just move quickly between two locations then creating a new transportation system that I rarely used.
On the other hand, the story is every type of Kojima weirdness together and the fact is Death Stranding has a compelling story. There’s a lot to talk about with the story but with 90 percent of the story being choke-full of spoilers. I hesitate to dive in.
I will say that story would rival an early Metal Gear Solid. There’s a lot of interesting characters, themes, concepts, and stories. A few moments in the game are wonderful and the game keeps revealing more and more of its story in the final moments and somehow makes the large narrative very accessible.
The only real issue with the actual story in Death Stranding is that the game is needlessly silent on a majority of topics early on. What the BTs are, what Death Stranding means, and what is going on with the world is not explained to the player. While many of these topics have spoilers that Sam will find out as the game goes on, there’s a base understanding that Sam has at the beginning of the game that isn’t well conveyed to the player.
Death Stranding’s story is a great rollercoaster ride of emotion and filled with multiple interesting and unique experiences that players will enjoy. Every major character has an interesting level of exposition and almost every character was a joy to meet after talking to them virtually for a decent amount of time.
The real problem with Death Stranding’s story and thus Death Stranding as a whole is not how it’s told or what is said, but rather than have a tight 10-20 hour story, Death Stranding strings the gameplay out for 60 hours, and ultimately will stretch the story out over that time.
The delivery of the scenes are good, but when there can be between two to eight hours between critical dialogue scenes that should be connected, it’s hard to have a cohesive narrative.
Sadly this is a critical issue for Death Stranding. It’s a fun and interesting game, but with so much time between scenes, the story struggles to remain relevant. The gameplay is interesting but it’s a vessel for the story. I wouldn’t mind playing the gameplay by itself as it does produce a calming and interesting experience but at 60 dollars players deserve a better experience.
I give Death Stranding a
though add a couple of points if you will mostly focus on just the story because it’s one of the most interesting stories being told right now.
At the same time, I would probably wait until the game is priced between 20 and 40 as that feels like a better price.
If you want to know more about my opinions on the gameplay as well as the idea of it being a walking simulator or further information on the story, or faces of Death Stranding I recommend checking out my video that can be seen here: