Now that we are reaching the end of the current generation of consoles, it is an excellent time to recognize that triple-A titles haven’t innovated much in terms of gameplay. We have barely seen new ideas or proposals that have left certain standards, a formula that theoretically predicts to please as many players as possible, and thus ensure the commercial success of a product that has invested tens of millions of dollars. Many did not understand why some of us looked forward to Death Stranding, Hideo Kojima’s new game that until recently had hardly shown anything tangible, and that even today many still do not understand what it is. And the answer is straightforward: it was the promise of something different, something surprising, and also signed by an author who, like you more or less, has been in the industry for over 30 years creating best quality titles, with very elaborate stories and always trying to innovate game-play mechanics.
And if that was what you most expected in Death Stranding, something different or extraordinary, your expectations will be leftover, as we are facing one of the most original games of recent years, with an overflowing personality, a waste of creativity and ingenuity overturned in a memorable adventure. This does not mean that it is free of errors, it is so ambitious and tries to cover so much that it commits not a few clumsiness , but blessed problems when it comes to something so refreshing and that it dares to do different things with that called ‘open worlds’, that so many times we have travelled in recent years, but almost always in such formulaic and predictable ways.
If in the early hours you get caught with its peculiar playable proposal , a carrier simulator in which you have to deliver goods and reconnect humanity in a post-apocalyptic world, in the latter you end up falling in love with its history, one of the most unusual and Round we remember in a video game, with an unforgettable ending. And even if it causes us a little blush to have to explain this, Death Stranding is not going to please everyone in fact, it will cause a lot of division of opinions, because not all games have to please or satisfy all players, although it is true that great productions have accustomed us to it. It will be difficult to assimilate for many who do not like “the new from Kojima.” A new Kojima without the ties of Konami and the weight of the Metal Gear saga, which shows us that he had a lot of ideas that he wished to express in something very different from what he had done so far.
What games will we remember within a few years of the current generation of consoles? It is soon to know, but we are sure that Death Stranding will be one of them. We do not know if it will be a success, if it will set the trend or remain in an isolated event, or if we will see a title as daring as this among the big blockbusters, but its courage makes us harbour some hope in what is to come in the next years. Because Kojima has not reinvented the wheel with this work, but he has shown that you can take already established elements and mix and present them differently, to offer something unique.
We are faced with a work so original and conceptually ambitious, in the narrative and the playable, that it is almost impossible to cover everything it offers in a simple analysis; first because there are too many things to tell, and second because we do not want to tell you many of them, that it is better that you discover when you play it. Thus you are surprised as we are. So we are going to try to explain to you the best we can what exactly Death Stranding offers
A trip to reconnect the world
Any follower of the Metal Gear saga knows how important the story is in the games of Hideo Kojima, although precisely his last work before leaving Konami, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, failed in this, being a playable delicatessen, but with multiple narrative deficiencies. In Death Stranding the Japanese creator has written what is possibly one of his most in-depth and most rounded stories, science fiction and fantasy story that addresses an infinity of almost unattainable themes, but the pillars of the work being some as transcendental as life and death, and the relationships and links between human beings. All this without giving up their usual extravagances or unexpected touches of humour, which give it an unmistakable touch, and fascinating characters, with a fascinating story behind, very much like Metal Gear.
Far from the excesses of the past, in which he came to make cinematics so long that they got bored, the story of Death Stranding is very well written, and its scenes and dialogues are contemplated with great pleasure, both for how well-directed they are and for How interesting is always what they are telling you. Connect more or less with its peculiar playable proposal, which we will explain later, the story is so compelling that it perfectly pulls the game , you always want to continue playing to know a little more, since it manages in a brilliant way its multiple mysteries, and everything flows into a merely brilliant ending, which will be remembered for a long time.
And what is also great is the organic way in which the narrative and the playable go hand in hand; Everything we are told in the story has a reflection on the gameplay, and vice versa, all the mechanics or game systems have a narrative explanation. In this way, it is almost impossible to discern what is the exact origin of the torrent of ideas with which you are overwhelmed from the first minutes of the adventure, whether narrative or playable, because everything fits perfectly.
Because of its nature as an ‘open-world’ game in which exploration is one of the pillars, and therefore each one will play at its own pace, there are times when the narrative load is much greater, as at the beginning and especially at the end of the adventure, but the story is never neglected or neglected , and in addition to multiple cinematics you are unlocking documents that delve deeper into the characters and the world around you, expanding the lore of a universe that It is even more complicated than it may appear to the naked eye, and it manages a series of very ingenious concepts that make you think and reflect .
In such an ambitious and complex story, and with so many characters, it is clear that there are things that we have not liked, although we cannot go into too much detail without doing spoilers. To give an example, the villain of the function, somewhat flat and typical, we believe that it does not contribute much, and the characters that we meet around the world, with whom we “reconnect”, we think are a bit wasted, should tell us things more exciting and that enriched the story, and that even served to get to know Sam Bridges a little more, a protagonist sometimes somewhat taciturn. But that said, we believe that if something is going to like Death Stranding, without too much discussion, it is its history, surprisingly round, and it shows that they had been cooking for many years. It is in the playable where there will be much more controversy, by offering something very unusual, and that it will not be suitable for all palates.
Walker, there is no path, the path is made by walking
It is here that we arrive at the most tricky part of explaining, what is the gameplay of Death Stranding. In a superficial way, it is straightforward, it is a carrier simulator, having to transport goods from one place to another, to travel North America from east to west, reconnecting the population centers that have survived a holocaust, the Death Stranding, that has ended almost everything, and that has changed the living conditions on Earth forever. But of course, the complicated thing is to explain why taking long walks through a vast open-world is so satisfying and entertaining, when precisely that is something that is not usually liked, or that is criticized in many sandboxes, “the walks.”
And it is because of the fact that almost never a game had tried to base its gameplay on those paths, in which the point of walking is a stimulating mechanic, being your objective to take the cargo safely to its destination, in the way that you consider more suitable. This is achieved thanks to a system of sublime animations and physics since you feel every kilogram on the character’s back, and the simple act of walking without falling through the vast, abrupt and beautiful scenarios is enjoyable. Before embarking on the road, we have to manage inventory thoroughly, choosing where we want to take each tool and merchandise in the body (spread across the back, legs and arms, even the hands), in a menu perhaps too complicated or not very intuitive, but to which you end up getting used to and understanding why it is so convoluted, by offering so many possibilities. Of course, do not fear, because you can automatically adjust the load on the body of the character with an option, so you should not devote more time to this facet than necessary if you do not want to.
This part of management and planning before embarking on a trip is vital, since carrying a ladder or a rope can more or less make a difference in your mission. Still, each element that you carry has a weight, and it shows because if you carry too many kilos, the character moves slower, gets tired and above all, it is easier to get out of balance and fall. Therefore, there is a risk and reward game, having to decide how much weight you want to carry and the consequences that it can have, since many times you want to maximize a trip and take advantage of making two deliveries, or picking up lost goods and other resources that you find along the way, but being too much ‘greedy’ may end up playing against you.
Once you have managed the goods and tools that you want to carry, and you have more or less planned a route on the map, it is time to embark on the trip. It is when you have to kick the scenarios and analyze the terrain on which you are travelling You move, seeing the chances of slipping or falling by its inclination or the type of surface, as well as the flow and force of the water when you go to cross a stream or river, if you do not want to drag or lose the goods. The orography is one of your great enemies, but it is not the only one that you will find on your trips.
As much as we explain the possibilities and the mechanics that accompany us when we go through the scenarios, there is a “physicality” in the control of the character, some sensations of weight and inertia, which are only transmitted through the command, and that are very complicated to explain in words, but that makes it very satisfying to control Sam, feeling the full weight of the goods perfectly. It is not only that it moves slower, but with any change of pace or sharp turn you can fall, and you have to balance the weight if you are going to the side, or know how to stop if we are starting to take a runway pending; the truth, we had never seen anything like it .
And it is evident that being on walks during the more than 50 hours that history can last and that does not become dull sounds like something almost impossible. Still, it achieves it because from the first minute to the last, new mechanics do not stop appearing and playable news, without stopping, and when you have not assimilated the latest, they are already offering you something new. This, together with the exciting and mysterious story, makes it surprisingly addictive, although seen from the outside, it may seem like a simulator of country walks.
New tools, vehicles, weapons, infrastructure, factors to consider as enemy threats or inclement weather such as wind or snow, the game does not stop throwing new ideas to your face regularly, is a waste of creativity. Some of the ones that we liked the most we don’t want to tell you so that they surprise you as much as it has happened to us, and that still without entering the field of online, one of the aspects where it shines most.
Once we have completed a distribution, the quality of our work, the speed with which we have done it or the impeccable that the merchandise has arrived is valued , and between these and other factors our carrier level increases, unlocking some advantages, although the game never gives much importance to the progression of the character, and yes to the team that we are unlocking to facilitate the task, very important. For example, different types of exoskeletons that allow us to carry more cargo or move faster, or non-lethal weapons to defend ourselves against the attacks of the MULAS, porters who have lost their heads and who want to steal our cargo. But what makes the game even more entertaining and surprising is its asynchronous online component, which allows us to collaborate with other players to make our lives easier.
Reconnecting the players
Although he has not yet explicitly recognized it, we do not doubt that the idea of this game, at least in part, had to come to Kojima after seeing the original online component of the FromSoftware Souls, because Death Stranding offers an evolution of this, but elevated to the nth power. Players can leave all kinds of messages on the stage, to warn of dangers, to indicate roads, point out resources and collectibles or give encouragement, and some of these signals give us benefits, such as catching our breath. And what’s more interesting, players can build roads, by stairs, ropes and other elements, which can be used by other users, with whom we create these links through the internet.
In a very ingenious way, whenever we reach a new territory we will find it completely virgin, without signals or objects from other players, and it will be when we have connected a terminal to the chiral network when we put that area of the map online, and all these appear elements. Thus, it does not matter when you go to play Death Stranding, that the epic of your trip will not be affected, and in another perfect way, the elements and infrastructures that we build deteriorate over time, and if the players do not keep them. They take care of them, using resources for it, they will end up disappearing in a few days.
There is a limit of structures that a player can build in each zone, as well as the amount of elements that we can see from other users on the map, so that it is not crowded with messages and objects, and it is surprising how well this aspect works , we loved it , and it gives a lot of life, giving rise to a kind of emergent narrative with everything the players are doing and how they communicate with each other. How well born is to be grateful, and when you find a message or path that you liked, you can like or like., which are increasing the popularity of that element and receiving the player who put them there. They really do not work for anything practical, as in social networks, but it gives a lot of pleasure when you make a path or build a shelter and check that other players are using them and that they are grateful for it, just like when you put a cool photo on Instagram or a message on Twitter that triumphs, something Kojima knows a lot about.
The structures you build require a certain number of materials, which you can get in different ways, either by completing orders, exploring the world or even stealing them from enemies. And we want to be cautious when it comes to mentioning the things you can build, because so far there have been very few, such as stairs, ropes and shelters, but there is much more, and it is incredible what you can get to lift, from bridges to cross rivers to some structures so large that they need the collaboration of several players to take place. In particular, one of them that facilitates the displacements seems to us one of the most satisfactory game mechanics of recent times, and it has made us crazy. The interaction with other users does not end here since you can also share vehicles such as motorcycles or vans that others have used, as well as the merchandise that they may have lost along the way.
Sometimes you find packages lost by other players, who have not been able to take them to their destination for whatever reason, and collaborative deliveries can be made, and put all their grain of sand to get the goods to their final destination. As with other online items, there are no great rewards for it, and it is more an act of goodwill than anything else. But the great thing is that in a very natural and not forced way, you want to reach out and help other players unselfishly, in a way that we had not seen the same in another game.
Holding my breath
But not everything is to build bridges, build roads, fight against inclement weather or orography, and other threats await us on our trips. The most critical enemy that you are going to find is timefall, a rain that accelerates the passage of time and in which the stranded beings inhabit invisible and very dangerous creatures. These beings can only be detected thanks to BB, that charismatic unborn who accompanies us in a capsule, and that indicates the presence of these ghosts through the odradek, a scanner that is oriented towards their appearance and also warns us of their proximity, increasing the cadence of your activity. In these areas, in which the game it almost becomes a survival horror, we must prevent stranded entities from catching us, while we use a very ingenious mechanic to keep our breath so that they don’t listen to us, and taking into account that during time-fall our merchandise deteriorates, So we can’t stop too long.
Going through time-fall is really tense and exciting, by repetition these moments end up losing impact, they become routine, since they evolve practically nothing throughout the game, and instead your tools and weapons do, and you get some resources to deal with stranded entities, which make things even more accessible. And well, we still have not explained what happens if one of these entities catches you, who drag you to an area where you have to fight against a fearsome creature, which can defeat you, but not kill because death is not the end in Death stranding… Yes, it’s a bit complicated to understand all this, but that’s the game, and we don’t want to explain more about the account so as not to spoil many of its surprises.
All these concepts that we have explained so far (and the many that we have not counted), may sound too stressful, many things to consider, but it should be clarified that it is not a very difficult game, despite having to be aware of the multitude of factors. For example, footwear wears down on walking kilometres, and we have to change it from time to time if we do not want to end up walking barefoot and bleeding for it, and the character is gradually running out, we must hydrate and rest, now that if you don’t lower your ability to carry weight, and your resistance to running or crossing rivers. Despite this, it never pretends to be a very demanding survival game, and all these systems are bearable. This charges a price, and it is the fact that some of these mechanics feel wasted, they remain in mere anecdotes, although this is something that Kojima had already done previously in his work, introducing a multitude of playable elements to enrich the experience and make it seems very complicated, although many of them at the time of truth are not given too much importance.
The “direct” action does not match the size.
In addition to the decline, we also run into the MULES, some types that try to steal the merchandise we carry, by all means, although not lethal since it is not highly recommended to kill anyone in the world of Death Stranding since It has harsh consequences. It is here, in the direct confrontations against enemies, where the looser part is undoubted, since somewhat chaotic and slightly “colourful” and fun situations are created, and that is not up to the elegance and finesse of other aspects of the adventure. Although there is a fundamental stealth system, and you end up getting different types of weapons to deal with enemies, it’s incredible how the body continually asks you to avoid confrontations, which is something that starts from the narrative itself.
Although you can significantly avoid the fighting, the adventure offers several mandatory action scenes, somewhat “vulgar” compared to the aspects where it shines brighter, the lazy final bosses being especially dangerous, something surprising coming from Kojima. Starting from the fact that there was no need for this type of confrontation, if any, they were screaming to be much more original , in keeping with the tone of the rest of the adventure, and not some fighting to get involved in such wild shots, when we have seen in the Metal saga Gearclashes against bosses a thousand times more creative. It is curious that an adventure that you can end without killing anyone, as we have done, and that overflows so much creativity in so many aspects, occasionally spreads some mediocre action scenes, making it clear that they are particular moments in a game That is very long.
Tomorrow is in your hands
The story of Death Stranding , if you get to the point, can be finished in about 45 or 50 hours , although the duration for each player will be very variable, considering that it is a game of exploration and lost for hours by the scenarios We do not focus totally on the story because we were in a hurry to finish it, since as you know we have had about three weeks to play it quietly, but because the story is so exciting and addictive that you always want to know a little more, and you can’t stop playing and want to move forward in the plot . When one of these two parts leaves, at the end of the story, since they allow you to continue playing, you realize to what extent the narrative was pulling the game.
Because if it has not been clear so far, it is not a traditional open-world adventure, with its usual list of side missions and activities, and everything is based on delivering goods from one place to another, there is no mission design as it is We know, “only” the adventures you live when travelling from one place to another, totally unpredictable and that depends on the experience of each player. Yes, there are some collectibles in the form of documents, and specific incentives to be “complete,” such as getting the five rating stars in each position of the chiral network and thus unlocking all possible equipment. But at least to us, once the story ends, we have not wanted to continue playing, and that is not necessarily bad when it has left us so satisfied, having lived an adventure that we will never forget.
We have been surprised by many things about Death Stranding, but one of the least we expected was that it was visually so spectacular, making excellent use of the Guerrilla Games Decima engine, which we already saw in Horizon: Zero Dawn, but which you can see that they have made a few improvements. The sharpness of the image, the solidity with which it moves, the quality of the textures, is outstanding, as well as the lighting, which offers prints that at times are photorealistic, and all this in a very polished game, with impeccable performance and without having witnessed bugs or annoying loading times.
It shows a lot of intelligence behind the design, as it has not incorporated elements that would have complicated things, such as that there are no animals with which we can interact, or the absence of a day and night cycle, which will have significantly facilitated visual work for artists. And it is true that the scenarios seem very desert, but there are historical reasons for this, and the truth is that they have a lot of charm, it is as if we were exploring a different planet to Earth, or what is the same, Iceland, place in the They have been inspired.
More important than the beauty that ceases to be or not, that it is and much, is its entire system of animations and physics of the character, which is the pillar of the gameplay, and that is tremendous, giving a new meaning to what is walk in a video game, and not float through the scenarios as in other sandboxes . To this, we must add the traditional cinematic brand of the house, very careful and spectacular, and with some facial recreations of the superb characters, who transmit all their emotions as we have rarely seen, something essential in such a sentimental and exciting story.
And although for these characters the faces of real actors such as Norman Reedus, Mads Mikkelsen and Léa Seydoux have been taken, it is necessary to highlight and much the essential and always outstanding work of Yoji Shinkawa , the artist who has designed the characters and creatures, still of exquisite good taste and imagination, the authentic right hand of Kojima, which even on this occasion has participated in the playable design.
The sound aspect is also up to par, with a great work of Ludvig Forssell designing the sound and composing the soundtrack , which is accompanied by a multitude of licensed songs from groups such as Silent Poets, Churches and especially Low Roar, a group of which , without exaggeration, there is practically all his discography in the game, something that seems an exaggerated tad, and we would have appreciated a greater diversity of artists. In any case, the symbiosis that is sometimes established between music, gameplay and images produces fascinating moments.
A memorable game
Brave, original, surprising, unique , all these and many more qualifiers can be used with Death Stranding , a breath of fresh air in the field of large productions, an anomaly that makes you recover the hope that different things can be done, without the need to reinvent the wheel or create new genres, merely getting off the established roads and creating new routes in interactive leisure. With a magnificent story and a unique and different playable proposal, the great moments lived in this magical epic, of course imperfect, will remain with us forever, like almost all things worthwhile in this life.
An adventure capable of “reconnecting” those players who are tired of always playing the same, and that will generate opinions as angry and contrary as attractive since it will not leave anyone indifferent, something that I wish they did many more titles throughout the year. Kojima, in its pure state and in its creative fullness that we hope that now, who is in charge of his own company, can continue to surprise us without ties with games like this in the coming years.
We have prepared this review with a review code for the PS4 version provided by Sony.