Hideo Kojima is a master at making objectively good games. It’s not a question, it’s fact. He’s a risk taker, making games with mechanics that don’t have a “one size fits all” approach. From the early Metal Gear series, to the P.T. Demo, Kojima has proven time and time again that he knows what it takes to make a good game. His greatest games push incredibly deep narratives, multifaceted, and compelling.
Then Death Stranding came out and made waves among the gaming community. Although it sold well, the game just wasn’t as well-received as it could have been. Strong positive reviews aside, hard-core gaming critics and casuals alike raised eyebrows at this odd title. While most of the reviews seemed to be positive, of them slammed the game for having uninteresting point A-to-B slog with questionable story telling. Others complained about the fiddly controls in the game. Even I have to admit a few of the mechanics were pretty annoying.
At the time, the occasional annoyed rants from the larger review sites only fueled my desire to play it. I didn’t really know what I was in for. My expectations weren’t incredibly high. Personally, I feel that the higher my expectations are for something, the more I let myself down when those desires aren’t reached.
After all, game developers don’t owe me anything just because their artistic vision didn’t meet my own criteria for what a good game should be. That said, I have three basic criteria for any game I play.
If a game can meet these standards and I still don’t like it, then it’s my fault. If I ended up buying a game I don’t like, and that’s not something I can blame a developer for.
My three rules are the following:
- The game must ultimately be playable. No game breaking bugs, visual eye-sores, or glitches that will severely hinder and impede my game-play experience.
- The game must be reasonably priced for what it has to offer. If I shell out money for a game, I want to know that I’m getting a quality experience that at least reflects that price. I don’t mind paying large amounts of money for a shorter game-play experience, but, that experience must be worth something.
- The game must be accessible for me play on some basic level. I have a fine motor-skill disorder. That often means games like Dark Souls kill me repeatedly on hard mode. That said, I can still play, beat, and enjoy the game. I don’t ask for an easy game. However, I expect the controls to be fluid. The subtitles must be easy to see and to read. The mechanics of the game must choreograph properly what’s happening on screen.
For example, if something’s about to shoot at me, I want an obvious sign of that someplace. I don’t want to be sniped and have no obvious way to tell. If I’m about to get a “game over”, I want a clear and consist metric that’s about to happen.
I think that those three criteria are essential for any good game. With the building blocks in place, any game has a chance to be a fun, interactive piece of media.
Having completed Death Stranding, I’ll say this: For adults, Death Stranding is worth playing at least once.
This is not a children’s game, and it doesn’t try to be. This game was crafted for an adult gamer, with a firm sense of self, and a firm grasp of morally grey ideology. Parents should use caution when buying it for their mature teenagers. Do your research first, and don’t just pluck this game off of the first shelf you see.
The controls are a little clunky, yes. There is absolutely no disputing that. However, if I can figure them out and navigate the game with Dyspraxia, then the controls must not be a complete failure. They are repetitive, but that serves a narrative purpose. It’s not complete and total garbage. They’re just not the greatest, either.
Multiple layers of subtext in the game will always be important, and Death Stranding uses mechanics as a metaphor. Yes, perhaps it is a bit overdone. Yet, everything in this game seems to have been placed there intentionally, and the story is captivating in its own strange way. I adore the opening quote at the start of the game, and the somber opening song.
The themes are dark and heavy, the game reflects that masterfully. The world is beautifully crafted, and the design is completely immersive. The mechanics aren’t always easy. There are times when the game falls a little short, but it isn’t a bad game.
If you start to look at the game as a complete narrative experience, it’s actually quite good. If you haven’t played it yet, pick the game up when it’s on sale. Give it a try. You may end up liking it too.
This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets, where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course. I’ll see you next time.
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