The smoke has cleared a bit, and this controversial game from Kojima had one of the most divisive receptions of this generation. Death Stranding, in retrospective, is hard to explain. It is the main reason many critics find it hard to recommend for everyone. At its core, the game is an action game with some survival elements. Although, the action is not presented in regular fashion here. Death Stranding is its own thing and sticks to its set tone and formula throughout the whole game. Let’s unearth the formula and antics of this Kojima title, join us in our Death Stranding review!
The Death Stranding
The story of the game is initially as cryptic as the trailers of the game. We won’t dwell too much into this as revealing details that would start piecing things together would be a massive spoiler. For starters, the first meaningful pieces of information begin to pop up around the first ten hours. In the beginning, you are as clueless as you were when originally watching the game reveal back in 2016.
However, it is revealed at the very opening that the Death Stranding was an event. This phenomenon left the Earth in its current state. Because of this, Sam Porter Bridges (Norman Reedus) is entrusted to bring cargo to all those places that are now isolated. The narrative does an excellent job of giving you just enough to keep on going and getting all the puzzle pieces together.
This situation permeates all throughout Death Stranding’s many chapters. The narrative pace is pretty slow at the beginning of the game. Fortunately, it picks up its pace at around the halfway mark, with some moments in the game feeling unnecessarily long.
This initial long-run is intended for players to pick up the varied mechanics of the game. Still, this could have been a shorter walk, making it less tedious to get to the exciting bits of the story. We can say though that the story is worth every moment. Everything in Death Stranding has meaning, especially the bonds and connections with those around you. Which, leads us to the Strand system.
The Strand System
Connections mean everything. United we stand, divided we fall. All these are at the core of Death Stranding. The Strand system is what makes this videogame unique. As well, Kojima has repeatedly stated that the focus of the game is adding value to these interactions. At the very beginning, Death Stranding gives you a sense of loneliness.
It depicts a devasted world that split humankind beyond the point of recognition. Slowly, bonds are formed with characters like Deadman (Guillermo del Toro) and Fragile (Léa Seydoux). These bonds go beyond as you move forward, leading to the Strand system. This gameplay mechanic allows players to see and use structures other players have built in their world and even ‘like’ them as if it was a social media experiment.
Gradually, these structures and bonds matter a lot. The more players support each other at building structures and even maintaining them or improving them, the faster and more relaxed you get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B.’ In a sense, the main point of Sam’s efforts is helping bring everything and everyone together.
In other words, the more collaboration there is, the easier it is to complete Sam’s mission of reconnecting people. The Strand system is a pretty unique approach. It gets rid of the sense of isolation in the vast world of Death Stranding, which, in review, is seemingly lifeless.
What will become of us all, at the end of time?
The game looks stunning, to say the least. The team at Kojima Productions did a fantastic job in this implementation of the Decima engine. The sheer amount of detail in this game makes it a graphical prowess on its own on PS4. From the very beginning, the landscape feels immense and daunting. Namely, it resonates a lot with the kind of scenes you could find in a documentary. The photorealism of most of the world is impressive. As well, the cinematic moments in the game show an incredible production value and keep you engaged the whole time.
The music in Death Stranding is so good that we even did a small review about it. You can read our thoughts about Death Stranding’s soundtrack right here. From its licensed music to its incredible score, the soundtrack in this game surely is one of the most effective ones. There are plenty of scenes that wouldn’t cause the amount of impact they have if it wasn’t for the perfectly queued musical score.
The music chosen for the game truly brings me back to those snowcapped mountains and green plains in Death Stranding. Each piece is cued at perfect timing, adding a much deeper sense to the already magnificent views. If you have a good surround system or quality headphones, this game is the ideal excuse to take advantage of them.
Mads Mikkelsen, Norman Reedus, and Léa Seydoux
The amount of cinematics in Death Stranding is considerable. Though, each of these cinema-style moments is crafted with care and great performances. It is worth noting how much effort was poured in this project by each of the performers. Mads Mikkelsen, Norman Reedus, and Léa Seydoux, in particular, delivered incredibly memorable moments in the 40+ hours campaign.
Aside from them, the rest of the cast, Margaret Qualley, Troy Baker, and even Guillermo del Toro, had compelling, in-depth characters and performances. The story and world of Death Stranding wouldn’t be as unforgettable as it is without all of these talented artists.
Death Stranding is truly a masterpiece. It is a welcomed game at the end of PlayStation 4’s lifecycle. Along with games like God of War, it proves that Sony exclusives are still aiming for originality and production value. Yes, the game’s pacing could have had a better start. But, this also serves as a total immersion in a truly unique gameplay mechanic that cements Death Stranding’s originality. The Strand system is not only an entertaining mechanic, but it is also the core and heart of this game.
After spending so much time with the game for this Death Stranding review, I can understand why some journalists stated they couldn’t recommend this game to everyone. It is undoubtedly an experience tailored to convey a message in its way, and for that reason, it won’t be everyone’s style. Kojima’s vision is palpable and sensible all along. Death Stranding is not only a game you play in, it is a long-lasting impression of a message that is relevant now more than ever.
Release Date: November 8, 2019
No. of Players: 1 Player
Category: Action-adventure Game
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Kojima Productions
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