Death Stranding nailed one of the most important aspects that most open world games, especially RPGs, miss. It was proper, immersive, world traversal. D.S accomplishes this by giving the player total freedom to explore the beautiful landscape while also introducing game mechanics that add to the immersion.
Players were given the freedom to pack whatever hiking equipment and weapons they needed, but it was up to the player to choose what was actually necessary to bring for their trek. You have to climb down a mountain to make a delivery? Maybe pack a few ropes just in case. Crossing through MULE territory? Spare some room for a rifle. Fast travel was a mechanic that existed in D.S but it was very limited and players were pretty much forced to physically travel from place to place. This gave D.S an authentic sense of scale and adventure.
Most importantly, travelling in this world felt real. You can’t just sprint to your destination because then you’d risk falling and ruining your packages. You actually have physically to balance your character at times by holding the left and right triggers. You have to take breaks in between deliveries to catch your breath or drink some water. If it starts raining, you quickly have to find some shelter to pass the time (rain in this game erodes your packages). It felt like the environment was just as much an enemy as any of the other NPCs. A game like Red Dead Redemption 2, lacks this in my opinion. The surrounding world is beautiful, sure, but it just feels like a backdrop, and not an actual physical world. It feels ‘flat’ in comparison to D.S. To get to your destination, all you’d have to do was set a waypoint and mindlessly spam X/A while your horse did all the work for you.
Overall, Death Stranding isn’t some brain dead walking sim, it’s an actual engaging and fun experience. One of my most memorable experiences in D.S was going through an intense 30 minute delivery sneaking through ravines and tall grass to avoid MULES, and sneaking past BT territory all while trying to keep my packages safe. Just before reaching my destination, I had to climb over a mountain and just as I reached the peak I was rewarded with one of the most beautiful views a game has to offer. I was able to see the sunkissed hellish landscape that I had just traversed through. I took the time to sit down (an actual mechanic in game) and take in the view. It was a unscripted and simple event, yet it was very impactful and felt like a reward for the hell I had just gone through during my delivery. It’s moments like that which define the Death Stranding experience for me, and it’s sad that most people won’t even give D.S a chance.
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