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Death Stranding

Posted by GG Goblin On November - 21 - 2019

If only my couriers were this dedicated.

Like most players, I did not know what to expect when going in to Hideo Kojima’s latest title, Death Stranding. The pre-launch material had been so vague and, let’s face it, strange that deciphering the game at this point was all but impossible. Not that this slowed down the hype train at all. Still, now that the game is out and being played by people, I can kind of understand why all of that pre-launch stuff was so uninformative. To be honest, trying to explain Death Stranding is tricky, and trying to actually sell the game as an entertaining experience would be really difficult. However, despite all of the quirks and metaphors that are embedded in the game, the end result as a whole is far more enjoyable than the separate parts.


There are three main aspects to Death Stranding, and players will put varying importance on each of these parts. While some may come for the presentation, because they like shiny things, others will be here for the hefty story. Then there are those that don’t care about a story or what the game looks like, as long as the actual gameplay is entertaining. These aspects are so varied though that all of the rules are out of the window and only by actually playing the game will players discover if it is something they could enjoy, and I would say that most would.

So, let’s start with the story, as that seems a good place to begin. Set in a post apocalyptic America, players will take on the role of Sam Bridges. Now, things can get a little sketchy and confusing, so bear with us. The event that brought about the post apocalyptic nature of America was the Death Stranding, which has somehow linked the worlds of the living and the dead. What happened to the rest of the world? Who knows, but the USA was pretty much wiped out by the event that caused dead bodies to explode and cause massive amounts of damage. You can imagine the daisy-chain effect in built up areas.

So, with civilization pretty much wiped out, small settlements have popped up to create the UCA, or United Cities of America. As if exploding corpses were not enough, the Death Stranding has also brought about invisible monsters know as BTs that now stalk the living, and rain that causes rapid ageing to anything it touches. It’s a grim new reality.


But all hope is not lost. The government, for what its worth, is trying to reconnect all of these new settlements to a form of internet, known as the Chiral Network. To this end, they turn to hardened courier Sam, assuming that during his journeys across the country delivering packages from one settlement to another, Sam can convince them all to connect. Strangely, there is not much trust in the people running things at the moment, and so Sam may have to gain good favour by doing a few jobs before getting them up and connected.

That is the beginning story at its most basic, but there is so much more going on than just this. For starters, there is Sam’s family connections, and the fact that he can’t die. Then there is the much advertised baby that he has strapped to his chest in a weird container. This is at least more easy to explain. This is a Bridge Baby, or a BB, which is the newborn child of a brain-dead mother, making it neither alive or dead. This gives the player an advantage in the game, but mostly serves as yet more strangeness. Look, there is a lot of stuff going on in Death Stranding, and for the most part the story trundles on through the course of around 40 hours of gameplay at a reasonable rate. There are times when it slows down, and times where the player will get such an info dump that their head spins. It can be confusing, and is packed with metaphors and hidden meanings, but overall is quite enjoyable.


When it comes to the gameplay, things will be much more divisive. The simplest way to describe the gameplay in Death Stranding would be as a post apocalyptic Fedex simulator. The vast majority of the gameplay will involve players travelling across America, delivering parcels by foot. This means a whole lot walking through lonely, rough terrain. The problem is though that Sam will actually have to carry each of his parcels, as in there is no magical pocket in which to store them. This means stacking them all up on his person, along with all of the gear he needs to help him survive out in the wild. Basically then, Sam is a pack horse. Throw in some rough, rocky terrain, or hills and rivers, and there is the chance that Sam will fall over and damage some of his cargo, and so the player will have to use the controller to actively keep him as balanced as possible. And you thought the story was weird.

There is more going on, but not that much. With the help of the Bridge Baby, Sam is able to see the BTs and thus avoid them, although getting into fights with them is something that the player will have to look forward to as the game progresses and Sam develops the ability to fight back. There is also an online aspect to the gameplay in that the player can build, or begin to build, structures in the game world once they reach a certain point. These structures can be seen by other players, and completed if they are incomplete, while the player can see structures from other players appear in their game. These could be anything from solid paths that make moving from one point to another that bit easier, or zip lines to cover long distances quickly, to shelters from the cargo damaging rain, or even signs to warn others. It’s a pretty cool system that makes the loneliness of Death Stranding feel that little bit less so.

Usually the presentation of a game would be a secondary consideration, but Death Standing is something very special in this respect. Photorealistic landscapes incredible motion capture and stunning facial animation go some way to making Death Stranding possibly the best looking game I have ever played. The lighting, the textures, even the draw distance are just outstanding. Drop in an awesome cast with equally awesome voice acting and a memorable soundtrack that seems to perfectly fit with the gameplay, and the result is a game polished to perfection. The fact that it runs perfectly smoothly and with no noticeable bugs is just a bonus.


At its worst, the story is a confusing mishmash of hidden messages, and the gameplay is a glorified fetch quest. It is these points that some players may struggle with, and why not everyone will get the most from Death Stranding. For others though, Death Stranding will come together into a mesmerising journey that is totally unlike any other game. It is bizarre and meaningful, quirky and comforting, tense and relaxing. Death Stranding is a game that defies definition, and shouldn’t be missed.




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