After 120 Hours of Death Stranding, I Still Can’t Recommend it to Anyone
"Hey... have you heard about Death Stranding?"
Death Stranding is one of those games that I just can’t get enough of. You’d think after trekking across the same environment, through two separate save files, across 120 hours with a platinum trophy to boot I’d get sick of the game loop. You’d think at some point I’d realize that maybe there’s more I can do in the real world like lose weight and make or reconnect with friends. Like an addict I pull away, and then I’ll hear the soundtrack, or see some imagery from the game and I’ll be right back into the mindset of wanting to be back there. Connecting the cities of America and delivering packages.
And yet, despite how much I absolutely love the game, I can’t recommend it to anyone. Not a soul. But maybe there’s someone out there with an open mind, and a similar soul that will read this and consider buying it when it goes on sale again…
I can’t recommend the game, despite the fact that:
The soundtrack is amazing. Without it, the entire game wouldn’t be as elevated as it is. It accentuates the highs and the lows. When you’re feeling lonely, the soundtrack is there to push the boundaries of what you know to be alone. When the games trying to sucker punch you with feelings of isolation and depression it’s there. The soundtrack is stitched so much into the soul of the game that turning it on in real life makes me feel like I’m back there in the game world. It feels like I’m delivering packages, like I’m some package delivery specialist in real life (if you work for your local mail carrier and listen to the Death Stranding soundtrack, I’m begging you to comment your experiences in the replies)
It’s got a bat-shit insane narrative that I can barely fathom and let alone completely understand. And yet, at the same time in the parallax of not understanding and understanding, there lies one of the most interesting and captivating narratives I’ve ever experienced in games. The world especially, that Kojima Productions builds around this doomsday apocalypse, and around these ghostly BT’s and the supernatural can be absolutely cringe at times no doubt, but it takes the crown as some of the most fascinating world building and storytelling I’ve seen in a sci-fi property in years. Hell, in my entire life.
I find the gameplay loop engaging and incredibly fun. Taking on as many jobs as my grubby hands can handle, checking weather data, plotting a route, and taking just barely enough equipment with me to get by activates the neurons in my brain just like any other RPG does. Increasing my standing with the lone survivors of the world and unlocking better equipment are akin to upgrades, and boy when a game has upgrades, for some reason, that tickles the dopamine receptors in my brain that much more, and the upgrades here just make you feel all the more capable of doing more jobs, and getting more likes. The “Like” system is amazingly fun, and remarkably well implemented for something that without context sounds borderline cringe, but it’s one of the few and only game mechanics, in any video game period, where I have actively made decisions based on what I thought would help other players. Then when I’d log in to thousands of likes pouring into my account like a pachinko jackpot for my expertly placed bridge, it just furthered my addiction to the system.
The cast of characters are well written and even relatable at times. There are some cringe characters and some even cringier lines, but to a degree it almost makes them more human, and realistic, than if they were cold cut and straight to the point.
Lastly, I can’t recommend the game, despite the fact that it’s one of the most emotionally connecting games I’ve ever played. Never have I felt more validated as a human being, and a person existing in the living breathing world, than the times that this game pulls an emotional chord that resonates with my entire existence for reasons I don’t quite understand. How they’re able to reach through the screen and make a game based on how I feel as a human being in general is some of the strangest and cathartic things that have ever happened to me.
And while I can think of positive after positive, there’s still the hurdles that hold me back from recommending it to just about anyone because:
- It’s hard to recommend a game that is a 40 hour minimum to completion (and that’s hauling-ass)
- It’s hard to recommend a game that (for many) picks up after the 6-8 hour mark
- It’s hard to recommend a game that is “Oops all fetch quests” (basically)
- It’s hard to recommend a game that (for many) doesn’t have immensely satisfying combat
"And I don't know why people always hate on the vehicles, I had a lovely time."
And even with all these positives and negatives I’ve still gone out of my way to shill for the game, having bought the the digital deluxe twice over, and since it's release I've been a "salesman" for it, trying to get others to play it and see it for the masterpiece that it is. “Have my PSN login credentials”, “I’ll add you to my Steam family share”, “I just upgraded it to the PS5 version, and I don’t own a PS5... but you do.” Nobody takes me up on my offers. And that’s fine. Everyone has their own preferences on what they like and don’t like, and what is or isn’t a masterpiece. But sometimes, I just want to talk to someone about it. That ever happened to you?
But I just have to come to grips and realize that Death Stranding… Will just be a thing between me, BB, and Hideo Kojima. And the countless annoying super-fans I see on Twitter, I suppose, paha. But if any of this has peaked your interests… Check it out on PS4, PS5, Steam or EGS (all linked below) and let me know what you think...
"Pictured: Me and the only two people who will listen to me ramble about Death Stranding"
What’s a game that you love that you can’t recommend to anyone? Or alternatively, what’s a game that you’ve tried to get others to play, but haven’t been successful at it yet? Let’s get some more fans of the things you love around here :)