That was weird. I said that a lot during Death Stranding. I really don’t know how to describe the game. It’s kind of a even more out there take on the Postman. Fundamentally, it’s a game about connections and the bonds that tie us together. Strangely, that part works better than any other in the game. Perhaps that’s due to the strange times I found myself in while playing.
Many on Twitter noted that the Corona virus lockdown was strangely similar to the world of Death Stranding. I think we’re all glad the world hasn’t actually become as weird as a Kojima game. Still, it’s hard to deny the rise of virtual interactions, importance of home delivery and the lack in of in person contact during this time. Certainly many people have lived with the idea that Death is out there in 2020.
As you might guess from the title, death is a major theme of the game. Dead bodies bring destruction. If they’re not cremated, they will trigger a large explosion devastating the area nearby. The game begins with a race to a crematorium. Obviously, these structures need to be well away from where people live given the risks involved. The outside world is overrun with crazed scavengers, violent and deadly ghosts and weather that can quickly kill you. People live underground. Either they live in small city states or in isolated bunkers.
No man is truly an island, so trade is still necessary. It’s crazy dangerous out there, but a few brave souls deliver the goods that keep people alive and society running. I’m sure you can guess what your job is in the game. Fortunately, at least in a manner of speaking, you can’t die. Unravelling what happened to the world and what caused your own deathless state are the overarching goals of the game. More practically, you deliver goods and expand a new ‘chiral’ network that links people together.
This is a Kojima game through and through. That means lengthy, unnecessarily complex explanations, long monologues, futuristic, almost magical technology and human depredation. Do we need to discuss the importance of the distinction of the difference between the body and soul? Well, we must use the ancient Egyptian terms to make things less clear. Characters must have a name and a nickname that will later make sense. Did I mention that even walking around can be dangerous? The fact that Kojima games work despite the craziness is clearly a sign of brilliance. However, this is not the game that’s going to change your mind if you think that they’re too off-putting.
The core gameplay loop, is simple and satisfying. Pick up goods, traverse terrain, avoid obstacles, and deliver goods to make people happy. If you make people happy enough, they’ll agree to join the network. Once they do, you’ll be able to upgrade the infrastructure to make traversal easier in the future. You’ll unlock new tools and vehicles along the way. It’s never easy, but it keeps getting better. As you journey, you’ll get to know the characters out there and eventually uncover the answers you’re looking for.
I could talk about your allies and antagonists, but really, it’s better to experience them yourself. Most of them are sympathetic and understandable even if they and their stories are insane. In some ways this is the most pure Kojima game. The one big difference is that you’re not supposed to kill your human enemies. Obviously, setting off a series of megaton explosions is not rebuilding society. Even one incidental kill means a lengthy and dangerous side trip to a crematorium. Happily your ghostly opponents can be put down and represent most of the combat in the game. Just make sure to use the right tools in your arsenal on the right enemies so you don’t create a mess.
Amazingly, everything about the game is satisfying even the long, convoluted ending that gives you most of the answers you’ve been searching for. The question is are you willing to put up with the craziness to get there? I was and thoroughly enjoyed it even though thinking back on it makes me shake my head. It’s essential for Kojima fans and an excellent palate cleanser cleanser for anyone else with the patience to learn (and sometimes just experience) the game.