It’s been a wild ride with Death Stranding. I went from being really intrigued by it to not being sure if I was gonna get it, to buying it and thinking I would get bored of being an Amazon delivery boy real fast. And then I got very excited by the prospect of building highways and delivering pizzas (exciting stuff, I know). Anyway, I’m expecting a pizza delivery sequel/spinoff for the next game.
I was confused by BBs and BTs and chiralium, but much of the game felt plenty familiar, with fetch quests and stealth and common tropes. My first real WTF moment came in chapter 4, which drastically changed the game for me. It was a surprisingly fun chapter for me, considering it reminded me of games I don’t typically play. And it changed things up from the normal gameplay, where the main game mechanic is walking and managing your inventory.
Speaking of which, the walking mechanics were a reminder of how we take an action as simple as walking in a game for granted. Usually we just have to controller the character’s direction, perhaps occasionally pressing another button to climb or jump or swim. But you can’t just carelessly run around in Death Stranding. Going too fast downhill or over rough terrain puts you at risk for falling over (and damaging whatever you’re carrying). You have to keep your balance, especially when you’re carrying lots of packages . It keeps you constantly engaged with the game.
Admittedly, I didn’t love this mechanic, but I thought it was interesting. If it was something I had to do the whole game, I don’t think I would’ve liked it as much. Thankfully, along with those highways, the game introduces vehicles which give you a break from this mechanic.
Another big mechanic in the the game was timefall, a rain or snow storm which accelerates time for anything it touches. In most cases, this causes damage to packages and equipment. And where there’s timefall, there are usually dangerous BTs hanging around. But it’s not always a negative thing. Timefall farmers use the acceleration of time to their advantage, growing wheat much faster which allows them to provide staples like bread to a world where supplies are limited. They also brew a nice Timefall Porter. Fun fact (which I learned from the game) – porters are thought to be named so because of their popularity with cargo-carrying porters (like Sam). It’s little details like this that make me really appreciate a game.
What really stood out in the game for me was the relationship between BB and Sam. Death Stranding is a game about making connections between people across the United States in a world where we’ve lost the internet (which I think is a fascinating contrast with the way people accuse the digital world of severing personal connections). But the strongest connection you make in the game, is the one you (Sam) make with BB. You’re constantly reminded that BB is just a tool, and yet it’s all too easy to get attached. BB is your constant companion, helping you detect BTs and staying out of danger. And you have to keep BB from getting too stressed when you get into dangerous situations, soothing it by rocking it back and forth and whistling.
The game obviously sets you up for this bond with BB, but it created and attachment that took me by surprise anyway. It was such a nice touch to add “BB looks happy” text when you’re speeding down a zip line or a highway, and not just when you’re soothing it. Honestly, BB and Mads Mikkelsen’s character (who I will say nothing about to avoid spoilers) are what kept me invested in the game.
This game is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s certainly a weird and unexpected adventure.