Death Stranding Review
While tying the “knots” between Metal Gear Solid and Death Stranding, one can see various similarities in the gameplay, with regards to the communication “Codec” and the stealth aspects required when sneaking up on BT’s to set them free from the physical world by cutting their umbilical cords (whoooops, did I “fragile jump” too far ahead, let me backtrack over the mountains, through the hills and valleys and start again…).
Another interesting tie worth mentioning, is that between the games and the characters brought forward, there are strands linking them up, beginning with Sam, played by Norman Reedus (known mostly for his role in The Walking Dead) and Deadman, played by Guillermo del Toro (who we all know and love for Writing and Directing Pacific Rim), as they both worked with Hideo Kojima on Silent Hill titles, which also link up those characters in more ways than one. Compounding knots. Apart from these well known protagonists, I believe people were far more excited to hear about the antagonists, Higgs, played by Troy Baker and Cliff, played by Mads Mikkelson. Of course there are other well known actors who play in-game characters such as Fragile (Lea Seydoux), Die-Hardman (Tommie Jenkins) and Amelie (Lindsay Wagner) you get introduced to as gameplay progresses.
“Welcome, Sam Porter Bridges”, an automated voice greets you as this is something you will hear frequently upon entering your designated facilities due to being the only “human” above ground. In my perspective, it’s like being stranded, as seen in the trailers – on a beach, washed up on shore, naked all alone with nothing but holograms and robots surrounding you, for now.
You, as Sam, run around making deliveries all alone through forests, up hills, underneath ruins and through rocky obstacles. Throughout the game, Sam will talk to himself to seem as if he is keeping his spirits up and one of my favourite quotes he says is, “I’ve always liked the quiet.” Sam also pulls faces in his Private Room mirror to show he’s not all that serious (all the time). The lonesome travels, breath taking visuals and amazing music genres that play in the background (majority of the music is done by a band called Low Roar but as you progress in the game you unlock other artists such as Alan Walker, Bring me the Horizon, Khalifa, Major Lazer and many more) which makes it easy to reflect on one’s self to which you come to realize being alone isn’t really all that bad. It’s peaceful.
Although, as time goes by, you will digitally meet more and more people via holograms and even get to meet a few of these characters in the flesh but those interactions don’t last too long before you’re on the road again. MULEs for one is a good example as they are the ‘bad guys’ you physically run into. MULEs are thieves that will attack you to steal your cargo for themselves. Later in the game you will meet the antagonists, Higgs and Cliff as well but your interactions with them are fewer in comparison to your interactions with MULEs.
Another thing I find quite interesting is that even though this is an online multiplayer game, you do not interact with other Sam’s (players) but you do get to see bits of strands that they leave behind such as ropes, ladders, stickers, lost cargo, post boxes and much more. You even get to see little hologram markers set around the map where other players have taken a break or succumbed to slumber.
I Need A Hand
Starting off with Death Stranding, I was very excited, hoping it was a horror genre so I volunteered to step in and play the game. Sadly I have come to realize it wasn’t scary at all but I’m not all that disappointed as the game causes a fair amount of personal dismay as it progresses.
For myself, this was a pretty tough game to get through and I really needed a hand (Haha poor joke. I’m so lonely. Please date me.) as I am not used to playing on console. I had to learn to not only use a console controller but also learn how to use various buttons simultaneously, focus on the game, think on my feet, work out combination bindings and breathe all together. Especially when dealing with BTs (pixelated apparitions that drag you down in ectoplasmic goo, also known in game as Tar). Luckily you can avoid being attacked by going into stealth mode through crouching and holding your breath, whilst slowly maneuvering your way past them. Later in the game you are given a special Cuff Link that allows you cut the BTs “Umbilical Cords” resulting in them disappearing for good and they won’t respawn upon a later stage when passing through that region again.
Pushing through the ‘Episodes’ I felt Episode 3 was definitely the one that dragged out the longest and I even had to ask my boyfriend to step in and assist to get me through this level as my shoulder injury was prolonging my ability to press and keep hold of the run button, only to find out from him that there is an alternative setting to run automatically without holding the button down the entire time! This discovery on the controller has made my life easier as we all know, this game is all about traveling long distances.
It Brings Tears To My Eyes
I tip my hat off to Kojima and all the developers of Death Stranding as there has clearly been a lot of effort put into the visuals of the game. Every detail has left me in awe. Their eyes, skin texture, tears and bloodstained clothing, fabric texture covered in rain and snow has so much incredible detail and not to mention the landscaping.
Although running through most of the game is a bit of a drag, I am pleased to inform that the environment is so beautifully detailed that I don’t mind the long travels because I get to have constant eyegasms of snowy mountain tops, rainbow rays, fresh, green forests and much much more. Everywhere I travel to is so very captivating. I must have filled my storage with too many screenshots because everything that can be seen is too damn beautiful. Wallpapers, wallpapers everywhere!
The mechanics of the game are pretty awesome. When it comes to your cargo, you have an option to auto rearrange and thereafter if you wish to change your items around you can do so manually. This helps maintain your balance because if your cargo is stacked too high or unevenly stacked, logically, you will be thrown off balance and end up tripping and damaging your parcels.
An interesting thing I find, is your character skill tree, which upgrades and auto assigns on its own based on how you play the game. You do not need to go choose and set a skill or skill level for yourself. Depending on your gameplay, orders you take on, success of completing orders on time, your skill tree will determine which bar gets upgraded and it will update other beneficial bonuses accordingly. This saves a lot of time and is pretty nifty for a porter on the go.
Although you may fall over due to your cargo being too heavy or unbalanced, this is not the case on transport. Having to drive over rocks, through rivers and in between obstacles, I have not tipped over my bike once. However you can definitely get your vehicle stuck at some points of the game but to help break loose you can always use the jump button. Yes, your vehicles have the option to jump as well. If you want to see a twerking van, get stuck and have some fun (wink wink).
I love the idea of auto-saving whenever Sam decides to take a break and sleep. The time in game is very close to time in reality. So if Sam happens to sleep 2 minutes 30 seconds in real life, he gets approximately 2 minutes and 10 seconds of rest in game. This comes in handy for bathroom breaks or when one needs to grab a snack or make a hot beverage real quick.
One other thing that is mind blowing and something that I have not personally seen in other games is the map that is displayed on your Cuff Link. Knowing you will need to climb up on mountains and run down slopes, your map is displayed in 3D. So by pressing and holding the middle button and tilting the controller, the map will then show you the highs and lows of the area you are viewing. Another nifty mechanic regarding the Cuff Link is a terrain scanner that can show you whether the terrain will be slippery, rough, restricting or safe to cross. It also displays items such as cryptobiote bug heaps, lost cargo, sandleweed plants and chiral crystals. Then you get the BT scanner which comes from your BB (Bridge Baby), the incubator attached to your chest as seen in the posters.
Seeing as the game has been unofficially titled by others as the “walking simulator”, you get to customize your look while hiking a hundred miles, and then some. Not extravagantly though, but you get options of glasses and colours to pick from and throughout your Porter Duties you are given extra accessories such as Headwear and Trinkets that do have certain benefits, “apparently”. The otter beanie is my personal favourite simply because the guy that handed it to Sam was making a lot of otter puns. This otter make you laugh too. Also backpack customization is an option, you get to add Gadgets and Pouches as well as the Trinkets to it. So my point being, you can travel far distances in style.
I was pretty excited to see that Sam, unlike other games I have played, breaks the fourth wall. This only happens in his Private Room though. Sam will look at you and wink, indicate to either go to the sink or bathroom and my favourite part is covering his crotch when you zoom in on it. Don’t ask me how I know this or why I did it – laughs nervously. Depending on how often you do that, he will either flip you off or get up and punch you as the 3rd person viewer. It reminds me so much of Deadpool as he is also one of the rare characters in movies, games and comics that also breaks the fourth wall.
Grateful For Gadgets
Upon advancing in the Porter Grade a.k.a. Skill Bar and passing on to the next Episodes you are granted access to Weapons and modes of Transport, which definitely aids in your trips to make deliveries. Also your items can also increase in levels which Prolongs Durability.
One of the best items I prefer are the Speed/Power and All-Terrain Skeleton legs, since your vehicles won’t always get you through, over or underneath certain obstacles, your own legs with enhanced mechanics can assist you in going a long way. There are definitely many more items that are far more superior, that would take other players places faster or better, but still limit you, such as the Reverse Trike, Rifles and so forth, but you will ultimately find your niche Loadout.
The key to most gadgets is the fact that you use items called PCC’s to build structures such as Post Boxes, Watch Towers, Bridges, Safe Houses, Timefall Shelters and many more. Take note, the higher your PCC level, the bigger your structures are going to be but of course you will need more materials which means more cargo to carry. Catch twenty-two anyone?
Although the Private Rooms aren’t really gadgets, they do come in handy, like a lot. Once you’ve entered your Private Room after a long trip and some bad run-ins with either BTs or MULEs, you can go rest in the Private Room at the nearest facility which replenishes your stamina, pacifies BB and restores health. Along with the Private Room, Sam gets to use shower facilities and the toilet supplied which is critical as the waste collected after usage is turned into grenades that will come in handy against your enemies. Strange, I know.
A Frayed Knot
As a porter, you, Sam, will not only be making deliveries. Your job will be to start connecting America via the Chiral Network. As you travel to each city you will come to find the word “knot” in each of them. The Government is attempting to tie the knots between all the cities to connect and help one another by sharing resources and necessary information after the country has dealt with a big explosion leaving it post apocalyptic. If you think you can progress to the next episodes without connecting the cities, I’m a frayed knot. It is crucial to complete the connections even if the NPCs (Non Player Characters) are against the idea.
Another really interesting part of the game, apart from connecting all the cities, is the characters you get to meet. Each has their own stories, some good and others knot so good. Throughout hearing their stories you are requested to bring a few people together and tie the knots between their relationships and strengthen their bonds.
Death Stranding has really grown on me. Although Open World (Sandbox) Games aren’t my cup of tea, the fact that this game has such a captivating story, great visuals and good music, I did not want to stop playing. The start definitely does drag out and I fully understand why people call it the ‘walking simulator’. I am very happy to have pushed through because it gets more and more interesting as time progresses and all the information and clues start unraveling, falling into place, like a spider web (yes, strange comparison, I know, but you’ll come to understand soon if you play the game too). The game can really work on your emotions as well, from frustration to joy and laughter to being on the brink of crying to relief.
The game reminds me of social media for one, as you are the only character seen in this digital world of holograms living past all the other players not physically seeing and interacting with them but you get to see the footprints they leave behind, literally and figuratively. You can also “Like” or “Dislike” their items that are left behind (using Facebook as reference).
The game focuses on connecting people and helping one another indirectly. So at the same time that you’re living past another player, you still get to share items with them via Shared Lockers, Post Boxes, Zip-Lines and seeing their created items (as mentioned before; Ropes, Ladders, Stickers etc) that they have left behind and indirectly still interact with other players by retrieving their lost cargo and having it delivered back to them. Looking past the frustration of running amok, you get to understand and grasp the idea of connecting people on a whole new and deeply different level without physically being in their presence and realizing that being alone can also still be rewarding.
This magnificent game was written by Hideo Kojima and developed by Kojima Productions, and if you think you’re up for the challenge and your fingers are fit enough, feel free to purchase the game at KOODOO for the price of R949.00 which is the current Pre-Order price at the time of this review. Death Staranding will be released for PlayStation 4 by Sony Interactive Entertainment on the 8th of November 2019 as subliminally shown in the cover poster (11 Letters linked by 8 Strands) and for Microsoft PC by 505 Gaming in the Second Quarter of the year, 2020.