In a previous article on GAMES CAN we discussed the merits and beauties of Death Stranding. The impetus for writing that text was the awards and nominees of both the game and the director, Mr. Kojima, plus some minor events. At the end of it, we have promised to deliver a part two, dealing with the negative aspects of gameplay and other flaws that we experienced in our playthrough. This is part two and it is all about the downsides of Death Stranding’s strange mechanisms and rules. Stick around, especially if you are among the game’s haters camp. The article has two sections of major and minor issues and the motive for this part was the recent news about the completion of an extended edition.
Major Issues Number One
Waaaaaaay tooooooooo Loooooong
Most and foremost, Death Stranding is LONG. Though the word ‘long’ has different meanings in different genres and contexts, and it is subject to personal preference, but we all have a concept of it in our minds, against which we compare and contrast. By all the standards, Death Stranding is long, and what’s worse? It makes it seem longer by some techniques and tricks that for my life I may never find out why! There are some contributing factors: the core of the gameplay, i.e., WALKING, is uninteresting enough on its own, so much worse when complemented by bad weather, mountains and running streams, enemies, and sometimes nonsensically weird missions such as delivering warm pizza to a far place located near the no-man-lands of northern territories. For God’s sake why?!
To add insult to injury, there are the corny and cold dialogues, more like monologues, between Sam and everyone which in the case of Distro-center masters are repetitive after a couple of visits (and I do not know why the game insists on it every time till the very end!) and in the case of story-oriented characters are sometimes so unnecessary and uncalled for that they just fall flat and the power of communication with others will be left only to the cut-scenes. Now, unfortunately, some of the cutscenes are also suffering from that very problem; not only they are long, but are also not helping anything advance and seem to be forced into the whole pack in order to prolong the mainline or add to the quantity of character pack. The trace of too-longness is apparent in every corner of the game, starting from the very core gameplay up to the roof which is no other than cinematic cutscenes that are mostly interesting but also long.
The worst case-study in both the matters of cutscene and dialogue is nobody else but the dear Diehard Man, the person who works as the boss/coordinator in the game, thus, has a lot to say and explain and is almost always on the phone to ‘let you know something.’ This is a traditional trait in Kojima’s works; if you have played any of the Metal Gears (except the Survive for sure!) you might have probably experienced the long phone calls or over-the-radio communications that different people had with Snake. Also, you have had your share of long cutscenes! The problem of long and mostly unnecessary explanations in different formats (calls, written guides, emails, interviews) is an issue with Death Stranding and adds greatly to the sense of tedium and monotony of the game.
There is another issue that opens the door to more boredom: the sometime-absurd missions and the typically illogical situations that require the player to do some really crazy things with no other motive than reaching the next nod of the plot. As mentioned above, one such example is when Death Stranding forces you to deliver a pizza, before it gets cold, to a remote area. Or when it makes you go a long way back or gives you certain types of cargo that require special forms of carriage and delivery, many of which has nothing to do with the main storyline and are by nature side quests designed to introduce more side quests. The game is in a constant plea for more longevity, a process that is like an irritant in the suit made for us by the developers.
Major Issues Number Two
Too Much Unnecessary Stuff is There
Why would I care how much water my character digested during the campaign? It is an interesting piece of information but how does it help the gameplay? Why would I care about all the numbers and details and calculations of my mission when all that matters is my level? What difference does it make if I’ll be a swift deliverer or a legendary postman if at the end of the day I will be devoured by BTs? Why should Mama read aloud every explanation for every piece of equipment? Why should Diehard Man remind me of the special conditions of my delivery every time? Why should Heartman explain for me every little or big hypothesis he has for the many phenomena in the world, while all I need to worry about is reaching mountain tops and delivering cargo? The list of the not easily answerable questions can go on for a couple of paragraphs.
Don’t Miss: Death Stranding, A Year After | BTs
There are unnecessary elements in gameplay as well, the like of which we witnessed in earlier Kojima games, especially in MGSV. In Death Stranding there are premade animations for a certain type of actions: getting on or off the vehicles, going to sleep and waking up in the private room, interacting with anything in the private room, loading cargo into the receiver section of centers, loading off cargo on the ground, putting building materials in pavers, consuming an energy drink, recycling materials, and some more. Besides, there are certain gameplay mechanics which require repetitive actions and are always the same. These include soothing BB, opening Mule post boxes, constructing anything, sending out autonomous robots, and some more. Every game has such mechanics, but in the case of Death Stranding, the overall effort of the game to make itself longer is what makes every little repeat and brief animation seem more tedious than it really is.
Major Issue Number 3
Why are all Kojima’s protagonists naïve, simpleton, passive, and easily tricked into anything by anyone? From the very beginning to the very near to the end we see Sam as an almost-mute person, swayed westward by the whim or the wish of many characters; sometimes ordered to deliver vital medicine, sometimes obliged to take a pizza and bring it to its destination before it gets cold. And Sam, he just obeys without the smallest dissent or question and he does not care who is charging him to do what. There are cutscenes where Sam is silently watching or listening; in none of the Distro-centers he utters a word; he trusts everyone, or at least that’s how it seems. He is useful to everyone but not a single soul in the game proves of any benefit to him except BB who is the mirror of Sam, a pocket mirror. The very characteristics of Snake are also present in Sam.
Apart from that, the motives and goals of the missions are often irrelevant both the protagonist’s general aim and to the line of the narrative, so much digressive that in one or two chapters it is as if the main storyline is put on hold in order to carry on a subplot or just a whole different endeavor. Notwithstanding the pizza thing, more than often in the game you may ask yourself what does this mission has to do with making America whole? The answers are: this would help by prolonging the process, by introducing new areas, by showcasing different details the developers crafted into the world of the game that you HAVE TO SEE. Numerous missions in Death Stranding are there to strengthen the lore and logic of the status quo and the way forward in the game, missions without which (developers might have thought) the player may question the seriousness or depth of the situation or the necessity of all the trials. A postman is ordered to go search for ancient rocks in snow-covered mountains full of BTs and under heavy timefall snow and make it back in order for the dear Heartman to have something in hand when he is explaining the record of earth’s extinctions to Sam! Why?!
Minor Issue Number 1: water/nature is bad
In Death Stranding, anything liquid is an annoyance, except the energy drink. If it is rain, it is the ruin of cargo; if it is a stream, it is the loss of stamina, cargo, battery, and BB’s calm. If it is raining it means there might be BTs, mud, slippery surfaces, and above all, DESPAIR. This sense of the danger and hostility of water can be extended to the nature in the world of Death Stranding; it is so savage and unforgiving that it seems the earth is taking revenge, which might probably be the case. Not a big deal altogether, but beware that Death Stranding could make you dislike nature, especially natural liquids of all kinds.
Minor Issue Number 2: distribution lacks balance
Death Stranding can be divided into three main parts according to the plot: part one where the player gets to know the world and rules and dabbles in little bits of everything, often awe-struck of the magnificence and strangeness of the world; part two where stuff gets more serious and the player becomes more adept, the equipment improves, characters show deeper layers and the sense of gravity and magnitude magnifies; part three, where the only forward-going element is the story and the only motive for the player is reaching the end and finding out what happens because nothing new is found and he feels tired. The problem is, action, suspense, encounter, fight, and story chunks are not distributed throughout these parts evenly or proportionately. The biggest bite of fights and encounters are crammed in the last part, probably to keep the player going and ‘making it all worth it’ so much that even the action becomes a bit repetitive; the tedium of the first part changes place with boredom in the third part, a problem which seems to me to be related to the issue of too-long-ness of Death Stranding.
Minor Issue Number 3: what happened to earth
Why aren’t there any animals except for butterflies, some birds, and the sea creatures? We know that due to technical factors, including animals into the ecosystem of the game meant a lot more work and also more complications in gameplay and in processing, but why didn’t you put in some little explanations in the emails or interviews then? And more importantly, why there was no ‘night’ not even in a cutscene? Again, we know that technical factors and all, but there could have been at least a hint to the issue. Developers have wandered to ancient and modern theories about body and soul, but no account of the absence of animals or day cycle after the catastrophe.
Minor Issue Number 4: the credits was murder
I am not going to go deep because it would be the utmost spoiler, but it is needed to say that the credits was among the top five torturous features of the game!
That’s it, case closed. In two parts we have covered a bit of Death Stranding’s beauty and almost all of its flaws. In the end, it is no less than a landmark in the history of video games; it is definitely not perfect but is absolutely a great step toward perfection in the industry. If you decided to play it, do it on a big screen, the bigger the merrier. Let us know with which features you agree and with which you don’t and feel free to add any more bad features to this list, in the comment section. Viva Kojima!