In 2016 at E3, Hideo Kojima revealed the new game he was working on in fantastic fashion: a trailer of a naked Norman Reedus waking up next to a crying baby, the baby disappearing and covering Reedus in black tar, and Reedus standing up and looking out over an ocean at five floating figures. Death Stranding.
For the next three years until the game’s release this past November, “what is Death Stranding about?” has been a question continuously asked by enthusiasts in the gaming community. Later trailers did not do much to help clarify: from Mads Mikkelsen commanding troops in a sewer to Reedus witnessing an invisible monster carry another person away, the point and plot of the game was shrouded in complete mystery.
Well after 52 hours I’ve completed the story of Death Stranding so I can tell you what the game is about. I can also tell you, surprisingly, that a lot of the weirdness that was shown off in trailers actually makes sense in the context of the game. Kojima, if nothing else, managed something very few others are capable of: drumming up interest and intrigue for a brand new IP without revealing any of the plot, really.
But did he make a good game?
That’s what I’m about to review. I’m going to spoil some things about the game (although nothing major related to the story), so if you want to go into the game completely blind it’s probably a good idea to skip this. But for the rest of you, read on.
We’ve got a somewhat special episode for this week’s Make Me A Gamer! Since last week was a four-day holiday weekend for TMan and HarveyZ, they recorded a special, slightly shorter than usual episode that focuses specifically on one game: Death Stranding! HarveyZ watched TMan play for an hour or so and then they discussed it for half an hour!
TMan had played through Episode 7 of Death Stranding and spoils gameplay (and minor story elements) throughout the episode, so if you want to know as little as possible about the game feel free to skip this episode. Otherwise, we hope you enjoy! This is a new format we’re trying out and we may do similar, shorter burst episodes focused on a single game in the future!
This weekend TMan is going to be at PAX Unplugged, which means expect another shorter, half-hour episode next week as well which will be numbered as 52-2: together they will be the length of one full episode!
Are you looking for an ear feast before Thanksgiving (if you’re American)? Well Make Me A Gamer has you covered! Enjoy a brand new episode of TMan and HarveyZ doing what they do best: talking about games and getting random facts wrong!
WARNING: The first about 9 minutes contains the spoiler for The Mandalorian that you probably already know about as well as spoilers for Game of Thrones. Skip to 8:58 to miss all the spoiler related discussion.
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So I’ve been thinking a bit and I’ve decided that video games need to rethink the “game over.” In fact, I think the idea of a fail state in games is an unnecessary holdover from the games where you had lives and continues. Yes, having a game over and having to restart from a certain point adds challenge to the game. But in general, with the way games are developed nowadays, often times the fail state just adds aggravation to what is otherwise a wonderful gaming experience.
The problem, of course, is that most games are based around death. Killing enemies to progress is a large chunk of gameplay loops, and the easiest way to add challenge to the loop is for the enemies to, you know, kill back. Health bars/indicators/numbers are the main tracking agent and when you hit 0, time for a fail state to show you didn’t live up to the challenge!
But, and bear with me here, what if that wasn’t the case? What if we figured out a way for games to keep their challenge but eliminate the need to make the player feel bad because they didn’t shoot the guy with the one-hit KO attack fast enough? What if we eliminated the silly QTEs that if you missing pressing a single button you have to do an entire sequence over again?
I’m going to talk about some games that have recently opened my eyes to how good a lack of a fail state is, and how some games have been hindered because of fail states, and how some games have given you an illusion of a fail state but don’t actually have one and that’s what games should try to live up to.