Death Stranding is a game that seems to come with a lot of buzz around it, and potentially a lot of weight. Hideo Kojima (of Metal Gear Solid fame) unleashed with his own studio and a fresh, un-tethered vision. Seemingly about being a post-apocalyptic delivery guy.
It’s much more than that, though and I think it’s a game that everyone should play.
Just shy of 30 hours into Death Stranding, I’m approaching the final act. I haven’t rushed, nor have I been all about completing all the sidequests available to me. My approach, much like the game itself is about just taking one step at a time.
What is Death Stranding?
A question that I can’t easily answer if I’m being honest.
Death Stranding on a base level, is a third-person action-adventure, with RPG elements like inventory management, kit upgrades and even XP (given in the way of “likes”). You travel from point to point across the map delivering goods, connecting sites to the country-wide network (the Chiral network), and you contemplate life as you trudge along.
The opening few hours give you a good understanding of how Death Stranding works. Keeping balance, using tools whilst out in the field to safely move around the landscape, and getting an idea of the hazards that lie in wait.
You’ll hear about BT’s (enemy ghosts/tar monsters), BB’s (babies you carry around in a tank), time fall, extinction events and a whole host of other big subjects. Death Stranding is thematically covering social connectivity, connectivity with the planet, connectivity through time and ties it all together in a weird and wonderful world.
So on the face of it, it’s a third-person game with a convoluted story. Death Stranding could kind of be a Metal Gear game in that respect.
Some of the story beats do have weight, or they did with me. Connections to our unborn children, and the impact the Death Stranding event could have. Severing bonds of trapped souls from the planet. It’s ambitious.
The best way for me to describe Death Stranding is this:
Death Stranding is unique, incomparable and the work of someone with genuine vision.
Say what you like about the delivery element or the story. The fact is, Death Stranding is an unparalleled experience in gaming.
Hype and drama
You would do yourself a favour by ignoring anything around the new cycle that came out at the release of Death Stranding. A unique experience it is, but as with all things different and unusual, it’s a polarising game, too.
Reviews came out at all ends of the spectrum. It didn’t necessarily hit the right notes for some, which I totally get, but I think people working to review deadlines and embargoes wouldn’t have been put in the right frame of mind.
Looking at the recently-released directors cut, a lot of people have re-visited it and had a chance to take it in a bit more. Death Stranding is something that needs to be absorbed and enjoyed. Ignore everything good and bad (apart from this!!), and just go with it.
Celebrity cameos, A-lister cast, pop-culture references. It’s all there to be had, but totally superfluous to the overall experience.
Drink it all in
Atmosphere, loneliness and trepidation. These are the thoughts and feelings that Death Stranding delivers in spades. Massive spates of silence and just wandering around, like when you go out hiking. Punctuated by songs Hideo Kojima has selected to have maximum impact.
Get ready to listen to a lot of songs by Low Roar. I hadn’t ever listened to them before, but now they feature heavily in playlists…..
Gentle silence and soft music leave you just finding your way around the world and it just hits a chord for me that was a revelation. It’s calming and really sets a tone for the whole experience.
Casual progression sees you getting better gear, making your deliveries easier. Although the routes get tougher, so it balances out.
You have combat and situations where you just have to shoot yourself out there. Take my advice, and don’t kill anyone though. Killing people in Death Stranding sees their souls fail to leave to the next plane and they become BT’s, and then need avoiding/killing again.
Speaking of drink…….There sure is a lot of Monster Energy drink in Death Stranding. Presumably due to needing funding for the first game in a brand new studio. It’s initially a little jarring, granted. But you get over it, and I’ve since replaced it with a beer in my private quarters, anyway.
It’s for everyone
I truly, firmly believe that everyone would be better for experiencing Death Stranding.
It’s a game, yes. It’s a delivery simulator, kinda. Death Stranding is a lot of things. But it’s unique, it’s unlike anything else you’ve ever experienced and you can find a low level of peace whilst you’re just trudging to your next destination.
I’ve left bikes and trucks at the top of mountains. I’ve placed ladders and ropes for future Sam Porter Bridges to discover and use with the wonderfully implemented asynchronous online multiplayer.
Death Stranding frequently fills me with emotion, often a kind of melancholy. It puts you in a place that a good album or film does. When the credits roll or the songs and the silence is suddenly deafening, and you need more. That’s what Death Stranding feels like.
I can’t explain this anymore, and I’ve barely touched on the content of the game itself. It’s a lot to unpack and I’d be doing you a disservice to not let you discover it yourself. It doesn’t always hit the right notes, there are some odd inconsistencies.
When you’re out there hitting your stride, so is the rest of the game, and it feels fantastic.
Buy it, play it and give it time. It might be one of the best games of all time.