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Death Stranding – Final Verdict

By: Tristan Reyes

Platforms: PlayStation 4

Release Date: November 8, 2019

Developer: Kojima Productions

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment

MSRP: $59.99

ESRB: M for Mature

Death Stranding is Kojima Productions’ first release since Hideo Kojima's departure from Konami in 2015. Since then, he's been able to put a team together, get a lot of support, and finally release this mysterious and intriguing game that has been teased to be both strange and thought-provoking. Some think that all of this time and production put into the game with the help of one eccentric game developer makes this game truly unique while other believe that Kojima’s ideas start to make no sense with possibly no gameplay.

Death Stranding - The Plot

Death Stranding takes place in a post-apocalyptic America where the dead seem to be stranded. After an incident known as the Death Stranding, ghosts known as BTs start to appear, the rain caused everything to age, and death can cause voidouts—an event where the dead body enters necrosis and causes a massive erasure of the surrounding area. On top of this, a group of terrorists known as the Homo Demens were able to use this new phenomenon to destroy most of American civilization.

Now, a man who is known as a legendary porter around the eastern coast, Sam Porter Bridges, is called upon by the Bridges—a.k.a. The United Cities of America—to put out a network that will allow people to communicate and help each other. With the help of Bridges, Americans who Sam helps, and more importantly BB, Sam will venture out into the dangerous land of America in order to connect America from the East to the Pacific West coast, all while hoping to find his sister again.

Death Stranding - Telling an Unusual Story

While the main synopsis seems to cover a lot about the main story, there is so much more to it than what is told to players at the beginning of the game. Furthermore, at some points the game manages to tell players exactly what the story is about, even if it outright feels odd for it to do so.

For example, a character near the beginning of the game tells Sam about Strands. Players will learn that the main idea of the game is about putting the world together through the Chiral Network, which is putting Strands between the cities—known as Knots—in America. It's right on the nose for the most part, but translates well into gameplay at times.

Death Stranding

For example, after a long conversation with a certain woman, she will outright tell Sam that she is able to fast travel him at any of the facilities Sam manages to connect through the Chiral Network. The game's lack of subtlety in these parts is both its strength and weakness, but the way the story is told works well and remains entertaining through the many hours of cutscenes.

As for the amount of cutscenes, expect a lot of exposition at the beginning, as the game mainly needs to show off the world before digging into the main mechanics.

Death Stranding - Mainly Deliver

At its core, Death Stranding is a game about delivering packages between settlements while avoiding the dangers of falling over, bumping into rocks, and losing cargo in the nearby river. Yes, Death Stranding is all about delivering all the cargo Sam can reasonably carry to the next destination, which happens to be a lot. The amount of cargo itself is an interesting system, as it forces players to care more about the equipment Sam should carry.Players will have to choose between whether or not to forego equipment for more cargo space, or break out the floating carrier to haul more items, all while being grounded with no vehicles.

As Sam travels, players will have to keep on their toes and make sure they don't lose any cargo. It's easy to trip, as Sam is able to stack packages unreasonably high, making his balance waver in dangerous environments. The first area introduces players to rolling grasslands, but as the game continues, gamers will have to deal with rocky areas, snowy mountains, and arid environments. The Timefall caused America to evolve and degrade in a strange way, so players will visit all types of biomes.

Death Stranding

While making deliveries, Sam will come across structures made by other players that will usually be placed to help him. The game's bigger feature is that these structures will grow and evolve as players decide to deliver materials to them. These include postboxes to entrust deliveries to other players, Timefall Shelters to protect Sam from the rain, and even safehouses that will house a garage and private room. If these structures were helpful, Sam and other porters can give likes to these objects in order to show their usefulness. In bigger areas, roads will eventually be made that will one day make a zone easier to cross. It gives the game a huge sense of personal and group progression that feels rewarding.

Additionally, after delivering cargo to their destination, players will get a ranking based on the cargo delivery while levelling up a player’s stats. This can increase everything from Sam's cargo load to how stable Sam can move around rougher terrain.

Death Stranding - BTs and Combat

Combat is pretty straightforward. If Sam encounters a MULE, a porter-turned-bandit, he can either run away or knock them out with enough melee expertise. When Sam gets the Bola, he can take down enemies with ease as long as he kicks them to knock them out. As players progress, MULEs will have camps in more complicated and rough terrain, so combat will get a bit more difficult, but not overwhelming.

The real problem are the Beached Things that inhabit certain Timefall-ridden areas. The BTs are those who are stranded in this world after death. In turn, they try to bring anything near them to their world. Dealing with BTs is pretty fun in terms of stealth and combat.

Death Stranding

Sneaking around the BTs requires a lot of patience and use of Sam's equipment. Sam has to stand still in order to actually see a BT with the help of his Bridge Baby, and if he gets too close, his scanner will work reliably and show the direction of the nearest BT. Additionally, Sam will be able to subdue BTs using a variety of grenades and equipment.

If Sam gets caught, however, he will be transported to the center where the miniboss will spawn, forcing Sam to fight. These battles provide a bit of a challenge and stress, as these minibosses can cause a Voidout if he dies, creating a large crater in the immediate area. If players are stocked well and know how to handle these fights, they can be trivial. Though, if players decide to fight these minibosses unprepared, they will have a harder time, but will get supplies from other gamers who fought the creature.

Death Stranding - Graphics

Death Stranding is one of the most graphically impressive games of this console generation. Just about everything looks amazing; from the grassy, rolling hills to the remnants of an old city, and even the Monster Energy Drinks, which are fully textured, down to the more important nutrition facts.

Moreover, the character models are visually impressive. Kojima Productions used a ton of motion capture technology to get the tiniest nuances of character expressions, which makes sense considering most of the game is about watching these characters talk. Pair this up with some of the amazing performances the actors put into their roles and it turns into an interesting and mysterious film that keeps players visually captivated.

Death Stranding

Death Stranding - Soundtrack

The original score is some of the more well-composed music that adds a haunting and serious atmosphere to both the cutscenes and gameplay. Along with the original score is the game's other soundtrack from composers, such as Low Roar, who deliver some pretty fitting music in-between travelling to new outposts. For the most part, the music meshes well with this world.

Death Stranding - Conclusion

Death Stranding is a unique game with a good, heartfelt message: Work together. While the gameplay isn't for everybody, there is some genuine enjoyment in successfully delivering packages after planning out a path and getting to Sam's destination.

Also, with how interesting the world is and the surprises that lurk therein, the story can be enjoyable, if not being blatantly obvious on what it's trying to convey. Unfortunately, the gameplay is pretty much all over the place in terms of difficulty—sometimes the BTs will put up about as much of a fight as the typical MULE Sam faces in the world.The game is extensive, with around 9 hours of cutscenes and 20-40 hours of gameplay depending on how gamers go about playing. The tale is not for everybody, but for those that stay for the ride, they will be surprised with the game's unique storytelling, fun gameplay, and social media-inspired system.

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Suspenseful, but repetitive.
Stunningly gorgeous.
An orchestral masterpiece.
Multiple playthroughs for different experiences.