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In a lot of ways it's amazing Death Stranding even exists.
The game often prioritizes the mundane over the exciting,
intentionally evoking strong feelings of loneliness
by having you trudge through desolate areas all by yourself.
Such isolation ties into the core theme, which is all about bringing others together
and how strong human connection can be.
It's easy to make parallels between what's going on in this fictional world
and our own tech-riddled lives.
The fact that Death Stranding tries to explore and question so much is refreshing,
but sometimes the game overindulges, and not all of its ideas hit as they should.
There's a whole messy knot of things going on both within the narrative and the gameplay,
for better and worse.
You play as Sam, a porter who spends his days bringing all manner of goods
from one part of Death Stranding's fragmented world to another.
And really, delivery is most of the game.
There are countless stretches where there's little other than the quiet, an objective marker,
and the road you choose to get there.
It's a sort of intentional boredom that can be off-putting, which seems to be the point.
Delivery becomes a job, and like any job, there are times when you don't want to do it.
However, by having tedium serve as such an essential part, it makes small moments stand out more.
Since Sam spends so much time on foot,
arranging cargo efficiently is crucial.
Carelessness leads to damaging whatever precious things you're carrying.
The same is true of the small decisions made along the way.
Stray packages are littered all over, and if you want to help out by picking them up, you can,
but doing so means increasing your load, potentially slowing you down and making it easier to lose balance.
Many times the quickest way to a destination isn't the safest,
and regularly scanning the environment to see the depth of a river or difficulty of the terrain
helps you safely put one foot in front of the other.
Using simple tools such as a rope to rappel down a mountain or a ladder to cross a chasm can be vital,
but knowing when to best use them as well as how many to bring along is all part of the strategy
since they add to the overall weight.
Death Stranding does a commendable job of slowly layering new obstacles
on top of the basic challenge of traversal.
Weather conditions get worse over time, distances get farther, and loads become trickier to manage.
Outside adversaries such as the ghost-like BTs and the fanatic MULES also become more prevalent.
There's always something to deal with, whether big or small,
and like the Metal Gear Solid games, Death Stranding provides room for experimentation,
offering an array of tools that, while not essential,
offer flexibility and create the sensation that whatever delivery style you land on is your own.
The game's biggest strength comes from not how it promotes individual creativity, but
rather with asynchronous collaboration.
Objects like ladders and ropes that you use to make the road easier
appear in the worlds of other players and vice versa.
If someone uses a tool of yours, the game notifies you,
and players can even "like" the object repeatedly.
It's satisfying to serve as an invisible hand,
and the way Death Stranding is designed makes it hard to ever truly take it for granted.
Because there's often so little around, seeing the evidence of someone else can be comforting,
and you feel appreciative of whatever it is they placed into the world,
not necessarily because you need it, but because it punches through the wall of isolation
the game is so good at constructing.
There are times when you do need it, though.
If you're caught in a bad situation for one reason or another,
a total stranger can almost feel like some sort of guardian angel.
It creates a tangible sense of community,
where you're appreciative of the kindness of others simply because they're being kind,
or at least it's easy to interpret that way.
There are countless other games where you play with others,
but few make the act of interaction so celebrated,
allowing it to feel a bit deeper and more meaningful.
How Death Stranding emphasizes interaction also helps the gravity of its own message.
Time and again, the game states how people need to come together in order to survive.
Yet because you get to live that experience firsthand just by playing,
it's easier to take into real consideration.
To put it bluntly, Death Stranding is trying to practice what it preaches.
Unfortunately when the game strays away from its best concepts, the end result is generally underwhelming.
Although we're limited in what we can show, boss fights look and seem like
they should be these incredible moments, but they end up playing out as anything but.
In fact, whenever Death Stranding leans in on shooting,
any tension or interest completely evaporates because of how rudimentary these sections are.
It essentially amounts to pointing and blasting away within a small box.
For how basic it all is, these moments can be needlessly stretched out.
What's worse is the game throws the same bad ideas at the player repeatedly,
making it more tedious over time.
Kojima has partly built a reputation on his inventiveness with action and boss fights, but
that quality is sorely missing in Death Stranding.
The same is largely true of dealing with MULE camps or sneaking past BTs.
MULEs hunt you down since they're obsessed with stealing whatever cargo you're carrying.
They can catch you off guard, especially if you're in a zen-like state while peacefully delivering packages.
Yet whatever excitement could pop up in these encounters
deflates upon discovering how quickly MULEs crumble.
Small armies of them can be dealt with by only using a rope.
It's practically an identical situation with BTs.
How they're presented is legitimately unsettling.
Trudging around these often invisible, otherworldly forces is an excellent concept,
as is the fact that they chase after you through handprints they aggressively stomp into the ground.
Yet despite the effective presentation, they're really not much of a threat.
As long as you move quietly and efficiently hold your breath,
there's little worry of being caught.
The game doesn't dramatically change things up with BTs either.
Once you know how to get past them, they're simple to circumvent every time.
Death Stranding has a tendency of making something look interesting without necessarily following through.
As expected, the narrative is a lot to unpack.
Everyone is isolated in the aftermath of a cataclysmic event,
and it's your job to reconnect the United States by establishing a countrywide network.
Sam has a clear objective, but the game is always teasing at something greater and more insidious.
It often flashes intentionally confusing scenes that almost dare you to try to piece it all together.
Of course, the hope is that
there's some sort of emotional payoff after spending so much time in the dark,
and there definitely is.
For all of the twisting and turning the game does, a lot of it comes together with surprising clarity by the end.
Part of what makes some of the mystery and eventual reveals work
comes down to the strength of individual performances.
The big name actors and motion capture technology are used to great effect.
A lot of emotion is communicated nonverbally, and moments of particular anguish feel palpable
because of the expressions seen on screen.
Music is also used fantastically and with great care.
It's rare that the meticulously pieced together soundtrack is utilized at all,
and you spend an abundance of time in silence.
Yet when a quietly stunning track does appear, the contrast makes these moments all the better.
The method perfectly mirrors how you interact with other players and the world itself.
There are things about the storytelling that are hard to let go of.
Sometimes Death Stranding's story can't seem to decide whether it wants to leave you out at sea
or beat you over the head to the point of bruising.
There are moments when it spends so many words to say very little.
A big reason for this problem is the repetition with how things play out.
Major characters sort of push you along from one objective to another
until you eventually hear their tragic backstories.
It's not that this background is uninteresting, but how you get there can feel unnatural.
The game needs more connective tissue between its big emotional cut-scenes,
which is hinted at through optional emails.
These messages can be just as interesting as anything else
and are one of the very few ways you get an idea of how this world is viewed by the people within it,
which helps ground the story.
Yet reading through countless emails is not the most gripping way to get a sense of things,
so it's hard not to want some of these ideas or moments to get a bigger spotlight.
Fragile ends up being one of the best characters because of
how much quality time you get to spend with her.
Other characters can feel like tutorial givers, info dumpers, or objective issuers,
whereas Fragile feels more like a person who slowly develops in parallel with Sam himself.
Death Stranding contains aspects that could have been better.
It's also easy to cherish your time with it.
It's exactly the kind of game that opens your eyes to how nauseatingly safe most games are.
Death Stranding shoots for the moon, carelessly tossing away convention in ways others wouldn't dare.
The game wants you to be uncomfortable, confused, bored,
and to reflect on those feelings, to sit with them for a while.
There is a sense of fearlessness here that's hard not to respect
and that most aren't given the opportunity to attempt.
Death Stranding is an easy, easy game to complain about or even be angry at,
but it's also a lot more fascinating than many other, more conservative works.
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Death Stranding - Easy Allies Review

205 Folder Collection
張言楷 published on November 2, 2019
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