GameTech: Death Stranding is a divisive, beautiful journey packaged in a cool world

GameTech: Death Stranding is a divisive, beautiful journey packaged in a cool world
‘Death Stranding’ is like an album that on first hearing is difficult to listen to, but gradually reveals itself as an enjoyable experience.

SOMETIMES, the journey is more important than the destination. And sometimes, we just want to sit at home eating a bag of jelly beans, while thinking about more jelly beans. Life is only as significant or special as we make it.

Death Stranding, the long-awaited game from Hideo Kojima, presents exactly that challenge to the player. On the one hand, Death Stranding could be seen as a something of a slog, a simulation of servitude. On the other hand, it can be viewed as a visionary piece of art that nails its themes perfectly.

As many predicted, Death Stranding is indeed a post-apocalyptic delivery man experience. The game almost entirely revolves around delivering packages across a desolate but beautiful landscape, as the protagonist Sam Bridges attempts to ‘reconnect’ a broken America piece by piece. At the beginning, Sam can only traverse by foot, but eventually he will acquire the ability to build structures like roads and bridges, and even pilot vehicles. In short, the game is a metaphor for isolation and being disconnected from society, and making those connections again.

It’s a beautiful game. The landscapes are sparse but stunning. The soundtrack is moody and thoughtful. The animation and attention to detail is top notch. It bears all the hallmarks of a Kojima production in its cinematic qualities and use of symbolism.

The question, naturally, comes down to whether the gameplay is just as beautiful. On that note, we think many people will differ.

Death Stranding is a game that asks for your time and patience, as its systems unravel over the course of dozens of hours. It begins with Sam barely able to run across a rock landscape without wobbling from side to side, balancing his load on his back, but eventually progresses to a much more manageable journey, aided by online players who can leave you gear and structures to assist along the way.

Yes, there is action, but the experience isn’t built around it. Sometimes, Sam will run into bandit camps and other times he faces off against the world of the dead, but neither sections are what Death Stranding is really about. Kojima has created an undeniably cool world, but this isn’t Metal Gear Solid level of drama or impetus. This is about one man’s metaphorical journey to find and create connections again, in which he sometimes protects his delivery packages from fantastical enemies.

In that sense, Death Stranding is a bit like an album that is initially difficult to listen to — with off-kilter timing and a lack of hooks — but repeated listening leads to an understanding and enjoyment you didn’t expect. Alternatively, it’s just a genre of music you will never like, as it sounds like rocks tumbling down a hill.

For that reason, we’re very glad Death Stranding got made. It’s that rare kind of big-budget game that is genuinely divisive and the work of an auteur. We can’t tell if you will enjoy it — it’s a journey you need to take for yourself.

OUTER SPACE

Meanwhile, a much safer bet is the excellent The Outer Worlds, the spiritual successor to Fallout: New Vegas, as it was made by the same development team. In this case, the journey is to outer space, to intergalactic colonies that were privatised by corporations. You wake up on one of the planets, ready to role-play the heck out of a galaxy far, far away.

Well, the good news for Switch fans is that the title has now been confirmed for Nintendo’s hugely popular title. In financial report, publisher Take Two stated The Outer Worlds was coming to Switch ‘during our fiscal year 2020, which means before April.

STADIA LAUNCH

Meanwhile, a potentially more significant release date is that of Stadia, the streaming game service from Google.

Stadia will release with 12 games, with 14 more coming before the end of the year. Launch games include the excellent Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, the even better Red Dead Redemption 2 and the Tomb Raider Trilogy. Other notable titles coming before the year’s end include Final Fantasy 15, Borderlands 3 and Football Manager 2020 . There are many versions of Stadia lined up for sale in the year to come, but the initial Founder’s Edition will cost around €130 and come with a three-month subscription, a controller and a Chromecast.

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