The State of Stranding Address

  • Death Stranding is one of the strangest and perhaps divisive games to come out in recent years and I don't know whether it's a classic or condemned piece of media. The stellar artistic direction and its cinematic qualities seem to be set against gameplay that is about delivering cargo. In short I've always found that critics and gamers alike seem to love Death Stranding for its non-gameplay aspects way more than the gameplay itself. Am I right there or is there something in the gameplay that makes the game itself special?

  • I don't think I ever played a game that makes hiking and walking around so engaging. Like, it can be hard to traverse some of the more steeper, challenging terrains. It's obviously not for everyone because it's not "fun" in a traditional gaming sense, and heck, I'm not even totally in love with it, but I always appreciate things like this, where the developers try to make something interesting out of things that aren't inherently engaging. I think Kojima himself has mentioned this in a interview, and it's not a totally new idea in the gaming space, but games have been so focused on action/violent gameplay for so long, and I at least respect any attempt at fighting against that.

  • I enjoyed DS for the gameplay and atmosphere. The narrative and storytelling I think are borderline pathetic, honestly some of the worst I've seen. But that's a me thing, I don't like Kojima as a writer, he comes across as bad fanfiction. His themes are interesting but that's it.

    Videogames in general don't have great writing and I'm fine with that but both Metal Gear 2 and 5 were games I dropped because I just couldn't deal with the writing. I do love Snatcher and DS was unique enough to endure the melodrama, high school level philosophy and the absolute corniness.

    But I really really like the core gameplay on DS. Thought a lot about it after finishing the game, how emergent it felt and how some moments in particular are so well put together.

  • I'm deep into my second playthrough, the Directors Cut this time and I must say that I love all aspects of the game, everything from the gameplay to the story. On paper, I 'd probably admit that the game doesn't sound like much fun at all, but when sitting down and playing it I always get sucked in immediately. There's something extremely addictive about its gameplay hook, despite the obvious repetitiveness.
    The story is very slow to get going, almost to the point that you could criticize the overall pacing I guess, but it gets really good towards the latter part of the game.

  • I love Death Stranding despite never finishing it, but I do want to dive into the Director's Cut.

    An example of this games appeal: My good friend who likes micro-management in video games picked up Metal Gear Solid V in 2015 and put in over 100h of gameplay, loving every single minute of it. He had never played any MGS game before but was blown away by how much fun he had in MGSV.

    Skip ahead to Death Stranding's PC version and he was once again blown away. Death Stranding probably has just about as much if not more micro-managing than MGS V and I think for a lot of gamers out there, that detail oriented management sim / RPG factors make this game function on many deeper levels outside of the core traversal mechanics. He told me when you start getting to gathering resources to build your own roadways to interconnect the world, he was just sucked in and never looked back.

    So I think taking somebody who wouldn't normally play a game like this or a Kojima game is a pretty big testament to how impressive the game is. Personally, I loved the game even before you start getting roads or vehicles. Death Stranding is one of the few games the feels almost entirely unique in an industry where video games are starting to feel hegemonized in their systems and controls.

  • My take is precisely the opposite. I was enamored with DS's meditative gameplay and kept playing well beyond platinuming the game. I found those lonely treks up snowy peaks overburdened with cargo to be one of the most meaningful and novel gameplay experiences I have ever had. I think DS is one of my favorite games of the last decade, maybe more, but I could not stand the presentation outside of gameplay. Kojima's inclination towards frequent cinematics overflowing with nonsensical exposition conveyed by actors who clearly had no idea what they were talking about just made my teeth grind. My jaw was agape in the final sequence on the beach where waves and waves of middle school caliber plot is just thrown at you at the 11th hour. At no point does this game's presentation show rather than tell. Kojima is clearly a genius but he is badly in need of an editor who tells him that you dont need 20 pages of dialogue to convey something that can be said in a paragraph. The final acts of DS were written like Hideo Kojima got bitten by a radioactive Hideo Kojima and everything I felt for the characters at that point was just numb. Once the game ended and I could return to the world, interrupted only by the occasional email from a grateful porter, I was so much more engaged.
    Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the game here. I would also follow Kojima to the end of the earth just to play one more game from him. I just really think he needs to reign himself in because his directorial largess often gets in the way of his incredibly novel games.

  • @ozymandsss

    Good take. Honestly, I think a lot of this comes from Kojima's process. For MGS V and Death Stranding, I believe he was Writer, Director, and Producer. Writer writes, Director directs his crew and makes creative calls based on efficiencies in the pipeline and cuts what cannot reasonably achieved in the schedule, and the Producer does a lot of what the director does but has a greater focus on securing budget, using the budget, and deadlines. When one person is all three of those jobs, it's possible to do all three of them well, but you probably don't approach them all equally.

    So I have a feeling in both MGSV and Death Stranding, Kojima wrote first. Then he put his Director hat on and got the gameplay working and the production pipeline flowing. But then he has to put on the Producer hat as deadlines approach and you say to yourself... can I get away with leaving this as-is to hit the deadline?

    I think he would've liked to edit down MGS V and Death Stranding to have better endings or reduce more, but he probably just weighed the pro's and con's and left the content as-is and moved onto the next more important job like major bugs.

    Now, that's a two way street. You don't have to edit things down after the fact when you produce efficiently from the get-go and cut anything that isn't needed before it goes into Production.

    All this to say, he probably doesn't need an editor for his literal writing. I think he probably needs an experienced Producer ABOVE him in the hierarchy.

  • @ozymandsss Spot on!