Death Stranding: A long walk off many short cliffs

  • Completion Date: 11/02/2020
  • Platform: PC
  • Hours Played: 45
  • Completed: Main Story, roughly 50% of side missions
  • Score: 9.5 out of 10

As you may know, Hideo Kojima’s latest work, Death Stranding, is his first foray into a world outside of the Metal Gear Solid series. As such, nobody was quite certain what to expect, and there were fears that the game would be non-sensical and so out-of-this-world that it would not be playable.

So, how did the game turn out? Let’s find out.

It’s true, for better or for worse, the game breaks most of the gaming conventions. However, I found this pretty refreshing. Wondering what would come next, and not being able to predict the journey I was on, left me motivated to continue trekking through the post-apocalyptical landscape.

Kojima maintained his manner of story-telling by delivering his life-or-death (or life-or-death-of-everything-as-we-know it, if you prefer) missions, but always off-set it by the completely ridiculous. This kind of story-telling works wonders, in my opinion, because, as they say, the highs can only be recognized by the lows, and the lows by the highs.

I found the bits in the private room to be especially peculiar and intriguing. Let me give you one example. As you may know, Sam spends down-time between missions in his private room. As you work through the story, you get more and more “army men” that resemble major points in the story (boss fights, mostly). The first time I realized this game was quirky was when I went to look at these army men. When I pressed the button to check them out, Sam moves his face towards the camera, spins around and points directly at them. It was a bizarre, fourth-wall breaking moment, and I loved it. This is just one example. There’s also the part where he spills on you (the camera), where he beckons you over to him as if he’s about to whisper something, and on and on. There’s no doubt that Kojima marches to the beat of his own drum, and this game is no different. Of course, if you weren’t already aware that you were in for a unique experience by the fact that Sam is carrying an unborn baby in a jar on his chest filled with amniotic fluid, then… well, I’m not sure what else to tell you.

It’s true, you’ll be spending the majority of your time walking. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. This is a bold move by the game to shirk the natural conventions of games to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. The game is saying, “Slow down. Enjoy yourself. Think about what’s been happening. What do you think might happen next? What motivates Sam to keep moving?” By removing any means of instant transportation, the game forces you into an almost meditative state, forcing you to stop your brain from moving a thousand miles an hour and to think about things on a deeper level. Also, I found that getting from place to place was in itself a bit of a mini-game. There are enough routes to consider, and enough equipment to choose from to make the means of completing the mission interesting in and of itself. I can’t help but be reminded of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. In that game, running around the map, trying to figure out whether you could make it up a mountain with your current stamina and gear, was in and of itself a lot of the fun of the game.

However, when you’re not walking, you’ll be experiencing cutscenes. Lots and lots (and lots and lots) of cutscenes. I found all of them to be awesome, almost a sort of reward for taking on the rocky mountains and swampy tar pits. All of them have a way of building on previous experiences that you’ve dealt with in the game. As soon as you think you understand the world, the game throws another scenario at you, and forces you to re-evaluate this strange new world again and again.

The game covers heavy topics such as connecting with others, the soul, life and death, and the meaning of life. Yes, really. As such, it’s a bit of an emotional roller-coaster, especially at the start and finish. But when it’s over, you’ll feel that there’s no doubt that you’ve had, as they say, “an experience”, and one that you won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

I certainly recommend it.

Game On.

By Steve Bongiorno

I write about gaming, books, faith, and family.

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