While there was a lot of hype for Death Stranding, it's rather disappointing to see it miss so many opportunities to do something great. The walking and balancing mechanics are an interesting addition, but it's hard to not feel bogged down by the convoluted story and frustrating moments in between it all.
Due to the fact that Death Stranding comes from Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima, many gamers want to know if it’s similar. Well, no. Death Stranding couldn’t be further from Kojima’s tactical espionage franchise, making this a completely different, unique, and one-of-a-kind experience. But does that translate into a good game? Yes and no.
In Death Stranding, you play as Sam Bridges (mo-capped and voiced by The Walking Dead‘s Norman Reedus) who is essentially a futuristic delivery-man who has to deliver packages across a barren United States devastated by a cataclysmic event. That’s basically all the info you’re given, and throughout your missions, you are then given snippets about what happened and why there are ghosts floating around, inky monsters, and what the ultimate goal of your deliveries are. It’s all pretty bizarre and Kojima-esque, and while it is intriguing, the game overburdens players with a wealth of acronyms and information that doesn’t come together cohesively. Yes, you get an explanatory ending, but it doesn’t feel as satisfying with all the unnecessary dialogue in between the important bits.
As for the moment-to-moment gameplay, you’ll mostly be travelling between two points, either over rocky terrain, slippery green fields, or up snowy mountains, requiring you to use the left and right triggers to help you balance and keep your cargo in tact. The cargo itself can be stacked and added differently, with the weight of each item having to be kept in mind – this adds a strategic element to how you prepare for each excursion.
As the game progresses, the trips become more treacherous, so you have to utilise equipment and gear. Players can place ladders across cliffs or rivers, and access higher areas by using these items cleverly. The game’s asynchronous multiplayer comes into effect here, where other players’ ladders and gear can be found around the world, giving you a helping hand where possible.
While the actual walking and balancing is the real core of the game, there are some combat moments to overcome. Human enemies known as mules will attack you to prevent you from completing your mission, which can be overcome using stealth, distractions, or some basic hand-to-hand combat; while BTs (essentially ghostly apparitions) also appear from time to time and need to be avoided. These moments are a welcome change to the extremely slow pace of the game, but after a while, they end up feeling more of an annoyance than a fun gameplay stretch.
While there was a lot of hype for Death Stranding, it’s rather disappointing to see it miss so many opportunities to do something great. The walking and balancing mechanics are an interesting addition, but it’s hard to not feel bogged down by the convoluted story and frustrating moments in between it all.