Potentially stranded
PlatformOVERALL
PlayStation 45.30
Overall 5.30
As I said late last night, I beat Death Stranding and I wanted to give my thoughts.

I'm sure as most people know this game is very polarizing. To the point where if you look at [url="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujcC1_Ur9RY"]IGNs controversial review[/url] you see that it is basically even between likes and dislikes in the video to each of nearly 40k. I don't think I've ever seen that in a game before, if not, not for some time. It seems people either identify with the game being a boring slog that is boring and bad to a artistic masterpiece that should be showered with praise of being game of the year, if not game of the generation.

So what exactly is my take? ...somewhere in-between. To me Death Stranding is a very mixed and uneven games. During its highs, it's a very unique experience that one argues sets a new bar for the entire industry with its scenic atmosphere and film quality cinematography, acting, and direction. During its lows it is essentially foot trekking DLC for Desert Bus and writing and storytelling that would be deemed bad by users on WattPad.

The best way I can explain the game is that it is divided into three parts. You have the first part of the game that is a monotonous slow trek through the openworld with a snails paced story. The second part, which while has some flaws, is a very scenic and atmospheric drive through the continent, and the third part which is a lightly interactive exposition dump.

The first part of the game has you walking through fjords of Norway. Yes I stole that description from Giant Bomb's review, but that's what it more or less is. You walk through mostly green and pretty rocky and high altitude terrain while carrying packages for delivering. And there's not that much to it. You spend anywhere from ten to thirty minutes just walking around. Occasionally setting ladders or ropes up to tackle the obstacles the terrain lays your way. Now this could be fun if done right. The terrain could offer solutions to really challenge the player, becoming puzzles themselves, which is what many games do. Or you could offer a destination that isn't quite obvious to reach but have the player discover their own route while challenging themselves scaling and enduring the terrain. You see many titles, especially as of late do this, specifically Breath of the Wild.

However, the thing is that Death Stranding doesn't do much of any of these things. Sure ladders and ropes can be useful, but rarely are, since instead of trying to scale a bluff or a rocky terrain, it's much more efficient to simply walk one minute in real time to circle around it and continue on the path. This not only due to the fact that it is a lot faster in the long run, but also some of these obstacle terrains are basically not scalable and it isn't worth it to testing them to find out. Especially due to the fact that once you place a ladder, rope, or anything else, you can't get reuse it. Sure you can dismantle it, but you can't set something up, put it back in your cargo, and reuse it again. This really hinders the thirst exploration and experimentation. On top of all this there is nothing to really gain by exploring. There is no treasure to find, no goodies, not even any type of collectible. What motivation is there to challenge the American wildlife in front of you? Nothing.

And this is pretty much it when it comes to gameplay. Just trekking around, staying to close to a line you drew yourself on the map as much as possible, while delivering parcel. Could this be more boring? Well yes it can because I'm not finished yet.You see, the protagonist has to carry everything with him, you like every other game. The thing is that the more he carries the slower he moves. Now that's not too bad, but there's also the fact that you have organize your equipment. When the player picks up equipment or cargo they assign where the cargo goes on the body. Whether it gets strapped to the backpack, or attaches to their hip or shoulder, etc. If things aren't properly organized, like say you have significantly more weight on one side of the body than the other, well the protagonist will begin to lean toward that side and fall. This is bad because when the player falls all of their cargo falls off like knocking down a Jenga tower. The cargo gets damaged which could lower your mission score or disqualify you all together. Well that's a pain, anything else? Well yes. During the mission you carry a baby that helps you see semi-invisible ghosts (I'll explain later). If you fall you will likely make the baby upset which in turn will make it will cry. To stop the baby from crying you have to rock it back and forth with motion controls to calm him down.

So in short, the gameplay consists of walking from point A to point B, while being careful not to be too reckless to not get off balance. Sounds pretty boring and it is, if only something to break up the monotony. Well there two ways Kojima and his team do this. The first is as I've mentioned before, these sort of ghosts will pop up. They are one of the few enemies in the game and if you trigger them they will drag you down in a newly formed lake of tar and send you a hundred feet back where you are now being chased by a giant tar monster. You can escape, and probably will but it will take up your time. So to take them out by slowly crouch walk your way toward them and throwing a piss or shit grenade (literally) at them. Now this will seem relieving to break up the boredom, but in reality it's just...even more boring. The ghosts (referred to as BTs) aren't that threatening as long as you approach them slowly since they are all but stationary and you now have went from running to your destination to tiptoeing toward it.

The other way the game attempts to break up the boredom is by having other mailmen to fight. These people are known as "MULES" and they are rogue pirate mailmen who are addicted to the high of package delivery (...) so they steal and rob from others, especially other mailmen. They are gathered in these forts of theirs which are scattered throughout the map. The player can either infiltrate these areas by going by stealth or guns blazing. The thing is that due to this being Kojima's first post Metal Gear game since 1998, he likely wanted to make the combat well not like Metal Gear. The result is that he took Metal Gear Solid V's combat and dumbed it down to the bare essentials. The "stealth" is done by crouch walking to the enemies and wrapping them up for "takedowns" and...that' sit. The combat is simply pressing square over and over in a slow and sluggish fashion. The gunplay is aim and shoot with a very unsatisfying feel to it, especially in regards to aiming and feedback. You also have grenades which are a pain in the ass to aim at enemies, especially the BTs.  This results in combat that would feel dated compared to some Nintendo 64 titles.

In short, whether fast or slow, fighting things isn't very fun in Death Stranding. And when using not fun to break up the game being...well not fun it results in things being even more...not fun. And this perfectly describes the first third of the game. You are walking point A to point B. It's very uneventful. You are bored. Your boredom is only interrupted by pretty sights at best, to mediocre combat at worse, to attempting to juggle all of these mini-mechanics of encumbrance, balance, baby irritation, cargo degradation, and even more to list at worst.

Now before I continue to the second third I have to explain the story. To make things short, you are in a both apocalyptic world. The "Death Stranding" which killed pretty much everyone, and the handful who haven't perished now live in underground bunkers. This is because the open air world are BTs to suck you into the afterlife, timefall rain which ages people, and rogue terrorist mailmen. The player controls Sam "Bridges" Porter  one of the famous and well respected porters. He is very well known for being a reliable and efficient cargo handler. Well one day during a run his team is carrying cargo on a delivery truck.The truck crashes due to BTs. Sam and his friends use tube babys (called Bridge Babys or BBs for short) who can sense where the BTs are. Sam's two partners get killed and Sam escapes with his life. He later goes to visit the President of the United States who turns out to be his mother. It turns out that Sam's sister (I guess?) Amelie is on the West Coast and Sam's mom wants Sam to go to her while activating the various cities on the super internet along the way. This is in order to connect America and make it whole again as the "United Cities of America." Sam initially doesn't care because he's a loaner and introvert who doesn't care about people and much less a country. But he is persuaded by others to do it since he's the only person left in the world who can make the journey (because of reasons?) and that Sam cares for his pseudo sister.

The story bits are a mixed bag. On one hand the acting is very well done. The world is very imaginative and interesting. The cinematography is great. But on the other...the writing...is not...good. Now I realize this is Kojima being Kojima but it's just too much to take in and doesn't make much sense. So the main character is both a super delivery man AND the son of the president of the United States..........AND HIS LAST NAME IS STRAND!? On top of that, do they really HAVE to have him? Why not use someone else? Or a team? Why not just use a drone? All Sam does to connect cities to the super internet is just have these dog tag key get bear a sensor and everything is automatically connected. This game world doesn't seem to be like The Lord of the Rings where the eye of Sauron is always watching.  Just use a drone.Nobody is going to know.

And that's pretty much the first third of the game. Walking around being bored or annoyed or bored and annoyed while engaging in a story that is mixed. Nearly 12 passed in my playthrough when I ejected the disc out of my PS4. I looked at it, put it back in the game case. I was ready to sell the title online, hoping that during its first week of release I would be able to really cut my  loses. But despite me thinking the game crap, I felt that I had to play more. See it through just a little bit. I opened the case back up and inserted the disc in for another playthrough. After sitting down for around three hours something happened...the game started to become...pretty good.

Toward the end of Episode 3 vehicles are introduced which really help pacing of the game. It also makes the sharing aspect of the game have much more impact. A huge thing I've been leaving out of this review until now is that the game is very "social" in a way. Players can build various things on the map such as lockers, bridges, safehouses, charge stations, etc. They can also leave things like ladders and climbing ropes behind. These things appear in other players worlds to assist them as these players use these items and send "Likes" to other the other player. I mostly ignored this during the first third of the game as they weren't all that helpful. I rarely needed to use ladders, lockers were pointless because I won't be revisiting them due to the long walking distances, etc. But with addition of vehicles it makes things much more purposeful since nothing is THAT far away anymore. Plus certain structures like bridges and charge stations (especially) are a god send when traversing the world with vehicles. As players can also assist in build highways and other things, the game's message of connectivity and we are stronger together really comes into fruition.

But when things really get into high gear is with introduction of the long range trike. This motor trike is capable of taking you almost anywhere in the game and has a battery life long enough for almost any trip. And this when the game is at its best. Instead of worrying about encumbrance loads, balance, BB soothing, ladder and rope placing, and what not. You can just drive to your destination with not all that much worry. It's soothing and atmospheric in a way to take in gorgeous environments surrounding. Yes the game attempts to interrupt this with BTs and MULES, but that's just it, attempts to. It often fails in that attempt since you can speed right past anything. You get an alert of BTs or MULES are in the area, then you laugh as you put the motor trike in boost mode blazing past your enemies as they attempt to catch your dust. You just continue soaking in the scenery and being surprised and thoughtfulness of others installing a safehouse or a power generator just when you needed it. It is also rewarding when it is vice vesa, when you built a structure to later see it receiving hundreds of likes from other player's you have assisted on your journey.

This certainly isn't for everyone, especially since you will be spending nearly a dozen hours or more doing it, but this is the second third of the game. If you grew up playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and enjoyed scaling the hills in a shortcut while traveling from Los Santos to San Fierro, then you will enjoy your time. If you are tilting head reading this wondering "what the hell is he rambling about?" you will not. This is when Death Stranding nearly "clicked" for me. The next dozen hours were filled with general enjoyment. Unfortunately, this came to a close thanks to the final third of the game.

Come to think of it I should put "game" in quotations since there isn't much game here. You connect United Cities of America to the super internet and fight the big bad boss for a final showdown. All seems good and fair until things are not what they seem. Yes this may be a minor spoiler, but this is a Hideo Kojima game and he's being this for almost two decades now. The rest of the game from here on out almost all plays out in a large cutscenes.  So many large cutscenes. Sure there is another trek or two you have to make, as well as two more bosses, but that's about it. Once those things are done you are essentially bouncing from standard cutscene to psuedo-interactive cutscene, to standard cutscene. And it just isn't overall that well done.

Now as I've said before the story is a mixed bag. Watching it ranges from being so high quality that it sets a new standard for cutscenes in gaming to it being literally painful to watch. It all depends on the writing and if it's salvageable enough for the actors to carry it. Now the casting in this game is fantastic. Everybody carries their role beautifully. With Troy Baker and Lea Seydoux being the better of the ensemble. The problem is that the writing is just horrible at times, both in substance and how it's told. For the former many things in the game are just...stupid. Like not just for a game that takes itself seriously, but for a game in general. Some of the stuff would make me cringe in a JRPG. As in if I booted up say Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and if I some of these special character attributes or backstories appear in the game I would cringe. Yet here it is, in a huge AAA production artsy game...taking itself seriously. I don't want to give examples due to spoilers but...you will know what they are.

And there is a matter of how these things are told. You'll either meet a supporting character for the first time in your life and they will proceed to tell you their entire life backstory. Or you'll meet them, have a few friendly insignificant chats, then out of nowhere they will dumb a huge exposition backstory on you only to rarely if not then never mention it again. The writing clearly shows a lack of awareness when it comes to pacing and it really is apparent in the last stretch of the game. Prior to delivering the cargo to the final destination you don't really know as much about the story as you should. The game then proceeds for the next five hours explaining everything in meticulous detail of what exactly happened. Which begs the question, why didn't they elaborate on these things during the past 23 hours of game time?

What's worse is a lot of it is showing what "real happened" during BBs flashbacks. You see you and your BB (capsule baby) share memories and whenever you come back from your private room and plug your BB back into your equipment you see a flashback of its past. Pieces of events in its past life for you to piece together the narrative from BBs perspective. The problem is that the end game spends at least a full hour showing you EXACTLY what happened in a linear cinematic fashion. That's a problem because you already knew happened if you spent the time thinking about it. Imagine if in Breath of the Wild after you beat the final boss you see a series of cutscenes all of the photograph memories showing you the full events of Link escorting Zelda through her journey. It isn't needed because you know what happened. And this perfectly describes much of the last third of the game. It's just so unnecessary.

Overall, Death Stranding is a mixed bag. On one hand much of the time it's very atmospheric and has a jaw dropping cinematic quality. On the other hand it's also very boring much of the time with just horrendous writing. It's a unique experience compare to other AAA games, but that doesn't necessarily translate it to being a must play title. If Kojima and his team trimmed the fat, shortened the first third game to being only a few hours, and hired editors not afraid to challenge Kojima on his writing, then Death Stranding would be a pretty solid game. As of now it's a title that I have mixed feelings with and while I'm overall glad that I played it, I don't think I would want to play anything like it again.


I'm not sure how to score it but I see the first third as being a 3/10. The second third being a 7/10.  And the final third being a 6/10.

This averages out to a 5.3, so I'll go with that: 5.3/10.
Posted by Punk Rebel Ecks Sat, 16 Nov 2019 22:19:01
 
Mon, 18 Nov 2019 17:00:57
The review so nice, Punk had to list it TWICE!
 
Mon, 18 Nov 2019 18:39:52
I look forward to playing this on PlayStation Now and then likely deleting it after 3 hours.
 
Mon, 18 Nov 2019 20:24:56
I knew this game sucked! Finally a review which matched my expectations Nyaa
 
Tue, 19 Nov 2019 07:52:44
I wouldn't say that "it sucks", but more so it's a very mixed and complicated experience. Unlike say IGN, I use the full 10 point scale.



10 - Game of the Generation Material
9 - Game of the Year Material
8 - Great
7 - Good
6 - Pretty Good
5 - Okay/Mixed
4 - Pretty Bad
3 - Bad
2 - Terrible
1 - Steam Store Garbage

To be honest though, I don't like scoring games too much.
 
Tue, 19 Nov 2019 10:35:36
I'm just kidding Happy
 
Sat, 07 Dec 2019 20:22:45
I commented in the other one! lol
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