When Industry Veteran Hideo Kojima announced that he was going independent and his first venture into this ever growing industry will be in the form of a game called Death Stranding, which turned out to be a collaborative affair with the newly formed Kojima Productions and Sony Interactive Entertainment,many people like me expected it to be a blockbuster affair.
Not only we were expecting an over the top Hollywood style action game ( Thanks to Kojima’s past endeavor and his keen interest in the classic Hollywood movies), but also something that would incredibly blow our minds, thanks to the legacy Mr. Kojima was carrying around on his shoulders.
But what we got after 4 years of cryptic teases was an incredibly introverted and introspective depiction of a video game that not just pushed boundaries through its profound cinematography, top notch performances from its lead casts, an addictive gameplay loop and a melancholic soundtrack but also made us wonder what it actually means to be a part of a crumbling society.
Death Stranding features a dystopian society where the people have built walls around themselves, where the mysterious other world entities( called BTs) haunt its picturesque and hauntingly beautiful landscapes, where getting caught up in a rainfall means you’re probably dead since the rain fast forwards time everything it touches.
Amidst the chaos and serenity of such a world is our lonely protagonist- Sam Porters Bridges played by The Walking Dead star- Norman Reedus. Now, Sam is no hero unlike Snake from the Metal Gear series, neither he’s given any iconic monologues or phrases that you may remember after the credit rolls 50 or 60 hours later in Death Stranding.
Instead, he’s a character that will grow on you not as a unique, memorable or a complex character with catchy dialogues, but someone as your very own. In short, Sam’s flexible and introverted nature has such powers that you may start seeing him as yourself.
Crafting an exceptionally well written, complex character that you may look upon in your life later on (Like Arthur Morgan from Red Dead Redemption 2) is incredibly difficult, but creating a character with such a malleable aura that grows onto you completely and makes you experience the story not from an outsider’s perspective but from your very own eyes is an incredible feat of its own.
Death Stranding revolves around a plethora of real life problems and issues such as political gambling, terrorist organizations and a fractured society that is unstable thanks to natural disasters and its distant human inhabitants.
The game’s 30-40 hours long emotionally enthralling narrative does a fine job crucifying the various issues of the modern day world and tries to make us aware of the inevitable that is approaching our society as time moves on.
Kojima’s powerful vision to depict themes about a disoriented society, about human connections, about fatherhood is not just masterfully executed via its narrative but also its gameplay which is not only Death Stranding’s biggest achievement but also why it makes it so much more powerful and an important video game.
At its root level, Death Stranding is a game about strands. This is prominently seen in its gameplay as well, but not in the way you may think. The game features an asynchronous multiplayer component, semblance to the one seen in the Dark Souls games but even better.
What’s noteworthy is that Death Stranding is a metaphorical maze of a game, which is injected deep into its veins whether its the story or the gameplay. And the moment this clicks, one realizes that its not the heavy cargo Sam is hurling on his back all the way across a broken United States, but rather an emotional baggage that is not just his but other people you meet along the way whether in the form of NPC’s or other players online.
Delivering other people’s cargo to the place where they belong, tumbling across an isolated one in the middle of nowhere and delivering it to its appropriate destination and hence receiving praise in the form of the social media likes is immensely satisfying, because helping others in the real life is satisfying as well.
It’s what we humans do best. Reconcile and help each other. If not for this asynchronous multiplayer, players wouldn’t have been able to feel the need to connect and help others.
Just like in Death Stranding, where I and countless others built roads, bridges, weather stations along the way so that other players can safely carry their cargoes easily to the appropriate destination, is what is expected from us to do in real life as well, especially in a time period where the crime rates have gone sky high and the social media is filled with nothing but hatred and toxicity.
Like Amelia spammed in Death Stranding, it’s time we come together as a human society to help each other as living alone is no different than being dead.
None of the other artistic mediums is capable of depicting such a powerful message and this is what makes Death Stranding such an important AAA video game in an age where the big publishers and devs are too afraid to take risks outside of the battle royale genre.
Hideo Kojima and his team deserves all the love and praise for staying true to their vision even though Death Stranding is not the masterpiece we were hoping for. It’s a flawed game with a variety of drawbacks but in the end, what matters is the feeling it has invoked inside all of us which is not going to fade anytime soon.
While you’re here, you should absolutely check out our Death Stranding Review for more in depth analysis of the game.