Death Stranding Review

by Sandoozee . December 14, 2020

Death Stranding Review

I know that this is very late to come out but in all honesty that was affected by the game to some degree. Not to say that it was a fault in any regard but that there are elements of the game that made it so that I took a lot longer to get through it than anticipated.

Death Stranding caught my attention right from the first trailer that I saw. It may have been because of Norman Reedus starring as the main character or the fact that it seemed like a very unique game. The trailers didn’t reveal a lot about what the game would entail other than extraordinary scenery and some fighting of Ghosts? Of course you find out a lot more about the game as soon as you start playing it but those giant question marks definitely kept me looking back for more information right up till its release.


I also managed to avoid any spoilers after its release so that my experience of the game was unclouded by others' opinions of it. This is often hard to do but I think it really helps to develop a true sense of a game without expectations, good or bad, of what’s to come. 


I want to preface this with saying that some things that I initially loved when starting the game did end up becoming things that annoyed me to some degree later on. I’ll try and distinguish those things as I go.


Enough of the pre-game nonsense, let’s get into my actual experience of the game. 


My initial introduction to the game was beautiful and a little nerve wracking at the same time. Travelling the scenery to deliver a body to the incinerator involves a lot of elements of the game and does a great job teaching you a lot of the mechanics of it as well. One thing that I found so interesting that I had to share it with my girlfriend is balancing the load that you’re carrying. Whether that’s making sure that you’ve packed your pack in the best way possible to distribute weight or grabbing onto the straps of your pack at the right time to keep the backpack stable. I did realize fairly quickly that you can walk around always holding onto the straps of your backpack with little to no consequences. The game didn’t leave me with many (if any) questions regarding the mechanics of playing, which can be one of the most frustrating failures of a game in my opinion. So in that aspect Death Stranding gets a few points in their favor. 


Skip to the general review below if you’re not interested in knowing in depth details of the game.

BT in death stranding


Enemies 

Introduction to the “enemy” is also done in such a way that even though it is nerve wracking, you know that there is a chance for you to succeed even if you are caught. It is not a simple pass/fail on being sneaky. That just changes the way you play in terms of the routes that I would take and often would cause me to take a lot more time to get to the same point. 
The Beached Things, otherwise known at BT’s (the ghostly looking things) are one of the main things you’ll end up dealing with. They give lots of warning to their presence in a number of ways. The rain is a big giveaway that they are in the area and if you come closer to where they are the sensor will activate pointing in their direction. They can be attacked and “killed” but the best thing to do is to simply avoid them altogether if possible. This often caused me to take massively wide detours to avoid them that sometimes wouldn’t work in the end. When I would find myself getting extremely frustrated I would allow myself to get caught in order to battle and hopefully defeat the large BT. Once defeated, the weather will change and you’ll be safe to travel straight through for a time.

 Fighting BT's | Timewasters, youtube.com

  
There are also living human enemies as well that you’ll encounter in the game called Mules. These are people who want to steal your cargo basically because they have become obsessed with the “Likes” that are received from delivering it. Although the camps of these characters seem to just horde the things they collect I do think it’s a fun poke at the modern social media obsessed society. You can sneak up on them and knock them unconscious but if you’re carrying anything that needs to be delivered they have a pinging system that will detect where you are. Easiest way to deal with retrieval quests from Mules is to leave all other deliveries stored somewhere else and sneak in. Without having deliveries on your person you have a much better chance of getting away with it without causing a large battle. There are other ways to knock them out later in the game and also ways to kill them as well. Both options will mean eventual regeneration of Mules in that location but killing them apparently will make there be a lot more BTs around the map as well. I avoided killing them as much as possible for this reason but when they are trying to kill you and you’re running out of non lethal weapons you’re kinda stuck.


There is also a terrorist organization that comes into the game later on called Homo Demens. They act a lot like the Mules but rather than Pinging your cargo they specifically ping you meaning there is little you can do to hide yourself in their territory. They are only interested in killing you and killing them is also not advised leaving you with the non lethal option once again. It’s not an easy scenario so I would highly recommend just getting around them if possible. 
The addition of these enemies to the game dramatically changes the environment for playing. Now the gorgeous landscape that can be difficult to traverse with a full load anyhow becomes significantly more challenging. This is something that could be extremely frustrating in the beginning of the game but as you get better at dealing with them it becomes nothing more than a minor annoyance most of the time. 

Hand to hand combat |Timewasters, youtube.com


Travel

Traveling around the map on Death Stranding is a lot of fun. In the beginning you’re just hoofing it from location to location carrying your cargo on your back. Trying to climb up mountains and traverse rivers with a load of cargo can be very demanding but the right placement of ropes and ladders can make it easy. One major benefit of the game is the fact that the things others have constructed can show up in your world, and vice versa, meaning that you might come across a rope in the perfect climbing location by chance!


Later on you unlock the motorcycle and then the cubetruck to move more things at once. The motorcycle lets you get through things a lot faster than walking but obviously you cant climb up the sides of mountains with it. It does handle the terrain a lot better than the cubetruck though.

 Getting around in Death Stranding | Timewasters, youtube.com

 

With the truck the amount you can carry is massively increased and it is really nice when your destination is near one of the paved roads (more on that further down). If your destination is going to be difficult to reach at all then likely the truck will have a very difficult time getting there. You also can’t just get close and run back and forth to unload. Leaving your cargo and getting too far away from it will cause it to be brought to a different location or be “lost”.

Both these vehicles have variation but all run on electricity. You can charge them at charging stations (more on this in construction below).


Finally there is the hover transporter that kinda counts as a form of transport. It can also be the most fun way to get around but the least effective. Simply put it’s a hovering platform that can carry supplies for you but is way more fun to ride like a skateboard down the side of a mountain! Not effective, but greatly entertaining.

 


Construction

Following talking about travel it only seemed fitting to talk about construction next. There is a variety of things that you can construct in the game but some of the most useful ones that I found were the generators (charging station) and roads. 
Roads can’t be constructed anywhere but instead you have to bring the supplies to the road paving unit that will then “print” the road for you. Although this was super exciting and a big goal for me it actually took away a lot of the fun of the game. Being able to drive back and forth from location to location without trouble from either Mules or B.T’s quickly made the game start to feel like a simple delivery game. I’m sure struggling though the terrain constantly instead would have gotten frustrating as well but I was just surprised at how monotonous the game felt after having the roads constructed. 


There are other things to build of course. Watchtowers and Timefall shelters come in extremely handy, especially when someone else has constructed one in a prime location for you to use. Ziplines and bridges can make your travels drastically more simple, after you’ve put all the work into constructing them of course. 

 Construction in Death Stranding | Timewasters, youtube.com


Your gameplay style will mean you end up creating and using a lot of items in ways that are very different from the way that I did. What creations from other people appear in your world may also help to guide what you end up creating yourself and alter the way you see the landscape around you. 


I don’t want to get too into construction because a lot of the guides out there did make me question the way I had constructed things while playing but I had a lot of fun doing it the way I did. I don’t want to make anyone question it and instead enjoy the learning process. It takes a lot of trial and error but once you develop a system for yourself it’s entertaining to see that others are liking it too.

 


Strand Games

Hideo Kojima (Creator of Death Stranding) stated that he wanted to create a game where players were affecting each others world without being directly involved in it. This is what led to the idea of what he has come to call a “strand game". The idea that the things you build, items you donate and likes that you give can affect another player can change the way you play. 


I found myself going out of my way to place ladders and ropes in areas that I found challenging to assist future travelers because without those items I found the area difficult. I will say that the idea of gaining “likes” from other players was an incentive to build and upgrade items as well. 

traversing the landscape

Traversing the landscape on foot


A very unique change in the way I have played online previously because I wanted those Likes. I enjoy playing a lot of games offline and by myself even when they have multiplayer capabilities. This "Strand Game" gave me the ability to essentially do that while still effecting the world of others (and having them effect mine). I would find myself trying to figure out the best place to put a ladder or rope, even if there was something there that was already useful I would try and find a slightly better location so people would use mine instead. I can only assume that others felt the same way and there is why I would come across so many different things to help in my adventure. It is a really interesting and nice way to be able to play the game with others while not having others take over portions of your game. 


General Review

Death Stranding is a phenomenal game that you can use to quench your thirst for exploration. If nothing else just traveling through the landscape is so captivating that I found myself attempting to reach the highest peaks in some areas just to see the view.


Attempting to sneak around the various enemies on the map made my travels that much more challenging keeping me even more on my toes than before. It meant that I couldn’t just run to the top of the mountain quickly but instead had to dip and weave to get past people. Sometimes scaling the mountain sideways to get past them. Sometimes having to face them head on in order to get to where I was going. 


Although if you wanted to simplify the game you could say it’s a delivery game where your whole job is being a delivery man. You wouldn’t be wrong in that assessment (especially since there’s more than once where you have to deliver a pizza) but you would be selling the game short. Yes the basics of the game are delivering from place to place but you’re doing it to bring vital items to those in need. Not only that you’re also “delivering” the coding that makes the whole country able to be united through the neural network. Connecting the country allows for the failing human race to have a chance at survival after the apocalypse. People aren’t always easy to convince so those delivery missions are to help you win them over some of the time. 

Hiding under a timefall shelter

Utilizing a Timefall shelter


Traveling changes throughout the game but the fluid movements even when attempting to make it up a mountain are really convincing. Not only that but the realism is so well done that it is sometimes just frustrating! Sometimes I just want to be able to do crazy things in a game that there is no way to do in real life. This isn’t the game to fulfill those fantasies. 


Some negatives from the game were really not expected when I started playing. The monotonous nature of running things back and forth got old really fast. Especially when you’ve already maxed out your level with a certain location and all the effort you’ve put into that delivery are for nothing. Surprisingly what really made the deliveries boring was completing the roads between locations. After the road was complete there was no challenge to get the items back and forth so it was entirely just a matter of taking the time to drive there. 


This fact compounded with the insanely long cut scenes really made the game difficult for someone like me to play through. I swear some of the cut scenes felt like they were ten minutes long. It was really frustrating for someone who doesn’t have long segments of time to play and loses half of that time to a cut scene. Although the story was interesting I kept avoiding playing because of the cut scene issues. Instead I would just play games that I knew I could get a decent amount of playing time in during the short period of time that I could play. 

 completing an order

Completing an order


The story itself was another frustrating thing about the game. Overall it was a very interesting story but there were about three times that I can think of off the top of my head that I was positive were the end of the game. Things that honestly could have been the end of the game and wrapped it up well with very little adjustment from what they actually did. That’s again made more frustrating due to the fact of the cut scenes’ length. In the end I felt like the final finally was actually less interesting than some of the other versions that were false finallys. 


After having beaten the game some time ago I still think about jumping back into it again. For me that’s always a good sign for a game and Death Stranding was interesting enough to urge me towards it if I had any real free time. Unfortunately I don’t think that Death Stranding would end up being as interesting during the second playthrough. Unlike replaying a game of Skyrim, Death Stranding is going to be basically the same each time you go through it. 


To sum it all up Death Stranding is a fantastic game with a lot of new elements in it that I really enjoyed. Although it wasn’t a perfect 10/10 it was worth the money and time I invested into the game. For a completionist the game can get a little boring and frustrating as there are a number of tasks that are not needed to be done but your urge to complete everything will compel you to do it anyway.

The story line was captivating although in the end it did feel like they had too many ideas for it and couldn’t decide on exactly how they wanted it to end so they worked in everything. 


The negatives of the game really work down to its repetitive nature but that is somewhat avoidable if you manage your time correctly in the game. Without having to constantly go back and forth for deliveries that aren’t going to benefit you, a lot of time gets freed up.


The long cut scenes are also somewhat of a negative based on your playing style. Knowing that there are times where you’ll just be sitting there essentially watching a movie and not being caught off guard by it may help appreciate it a lot more.


Pros:


Unique “cooperative play” in the game 
Unbelievably beautiful scenery
Compelling world and plot


Cons:


Cutscenes feel too long
Anti-climatic ending
Repetitive nature of the game can get monotonous.


TLDR


Death Stranding is a very unique gaming experience. You are essentially a delivery person who is brought about to help fight off the apocalypse. During your travels you’ll encounter a number of enemies from the living to the spirits of those that have passed. With a new cooperative gaming style that means you’ll never actually see the other players that may have helped you, you might just find yourself looking at your gaming experience a little differently.


 

Written by Sandoozee
Co-Founder of Time Wasters. Couch co-ops, games that can be made into drinking games, and anything open world. Grew up on Nintendo but I have been putting considerable time into the Playstation 4. Nintendo will always have my heart.
Favorite Game: Currently - Death Stranding. Forever - Ocarina of Time

 




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