Simply put, Death Stranding is a unique experiment into several intriguing new concepts and gameplay styles. The game that is supposedly launching a new genre, the “Strand” genre, boasts a fascinating story. It features great characters, risky gameplay, and many attempts at trying something new. While Death Stranding tackles change and innovation, it is obvious that these new attempts at gameplay will not be for everyone.
It feels as if this game was built to be divisive. While that may sound bad, it truly isn’t. Death Stranding is a game that knows what it wants to accomplish, and does not attempt to please everyone. It caters to a very specific kind of player. As such, it provides relatively little for people who are not fans of walking simulators, inventory management, and the storytelling style of Hideo Kojima.
The story of Death Stranding takes center stage over the course of the gameplay experience. Following an apocalyptic event, the world of Death Stranding has been reduced to a fractured wasteland. However, there is a surprisingly competent network of civilization still at play during the events of the game.
You play as Sam Porter Bridges, a deliverer of packages across the land that was formerly the United States of America. By completing these deliveries, Sam and the player hope to mend the fractured pieces of the old world. Naturally, there is far more to the story than that, but an experience such as this deserves to be discovered by those curious.
Suffice it to say, if you are familiar with Hideo Kojima, you know what to expect. If not, then prepare for some wild moments.
While Sam traverses the broken shell of America, the player is greeted by surprisingly deep gameplay. Sure, the main point of the game is to travel from point A to point B. But how the player gets there is what makes it interesting. It takes patience, planning, and some quick thinking to make a successful delivery.
While there is combat in the game, I personally found the offerings to be pretty shallow. Anyone expecting an action game similar to the Metal Gear series that Hideo Kojima is known for will be pretty disappointed. The combat systems come down to ranged attacks with your standard guns, close quarters combat with simple melee attacks, and stealth, of course. Death Stranding simply doesn’t offer any standout moments that will make combat memorable, unfortunately.
When the game begins, the player is expected to learn the dangers of risky terrain. A nasty spill on a steep slope can damage the packages that Sam is delivering. If a parcel becomes too damaged, then you will face a sharp penalty, or the delivery will simply be a failure. Therefore, you must be extra careful while doing something as simple as walking.
In other games, the player feels comfortable running over any little thing. In Death Stranding, that larger than average pebble is your enemy. Luckily, the game provides ample room for error until you find your footing. The player is also given many useful tools to make deliveries a simple process. You will have to plan ahead to keep things moving smoothly, though.
Death Stranding also differs from most adventure games by making inventory management a challenge. You cannot simple pick up that new parcel and hide it away in an invisible pocket. Every piece of equipment has a place on Sam’s body, visually and technically. If you choose to load Sam down too heavily on his right side, he will face a greater chance of falling. Distributing packages and tools logically will help make the journey from here to there much easier.
There will be many people who read that last paragraph and lose interest. As far as reasons to drop a game go, this isn’t a bad one. The inventory management can be really tedious, as can planning the trip out beforehand. However, the entire process is streamlined pretty well. Even with that the mechanics can still be a turn off.
Some people enjoy this kind of in-depth gameplay. Others prefer to come home after a long day and simply relax with a straightforward, easygoing experience. Ultimately, it all comes down to what you want out of your experience.
Social Strand System
The story and gameplay of Death Stranding are interesting enough to be successful. However, the thing that truly makes this game unique is the “Social Strand System” that holds promise to create a new genre. Whether or not this will turn into a trend remains to be seen. The possibility is definitely there, though.
To talk about this, I need to explain the Social Strand System. Basically, it is Death Stranding’s multiplayer component. Although, it is not multiplayer as you may traditionally think of it. You will have an impact on fellow player’s games, and they will leave their marks on yours, as well. However, it is all mutually beneficial.
The idea behind this mechanic is unity: helping your fellow player while they help you. There are a few ways this can be done. Most commonly, you will find resources left behind or built by other players. These can be ladders, vehicles, or even entire lengths of road made to be used by everyone who comes across them.
These connections to other players go well with Death Stranding’s overall focus on unity and interaction. The online component creates bonds among players. The feeling of helping someone out is enjoyable, and the relief to find a very convenient piece of equipment left behind by another is always nice.
Death Stranding is an odd experience. I believe it can be quite memorable for the right person, however. The routine-driven moment-to-moment gameplay will undoubtedly turn many off. Those who enjoy the grind may find it oddly relaxing, especially when the Social Strand System is used to benefit everyone involved.
All in all, Death Stranding is flawed in various ways, but there is still much to love within the story, characters, and world that Sam Porter Bridges is involved with. Death Stranding is currently available on PS4 and coming to PC in Summer 2020.