I've made a new connection in this rocky, streaming hellscape where no one should live. A man known only as Film Director lives here and he's in need of my services. He wants me to bring a mass of defective cartridges for the chiral 3D printer used across the our burgeoning network back to the local home base of Lake Knot City. The full order is 522 kg, one of the biggest orders I've seen to date.
It's big enough that the MULE truck I've been using won't fit the entire order alongside the packages I've been carrying. I abandon the truck, loading everything onto my back and the two floating carriers I have stowed away. And then I make the nearly 3,000 meter journey to my destination. It's a slow, cumbersome trek, but that's my job and I do it well.
Death Stranding is an odd game. I haven't been the biggest fan of Hideo Kojima's work. I dislike his storytelling and how he presents his characters. It's all rooted in my time with Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, where I stayed up far too long and received that long, rambling treatise of an ending as the morning sun rose in my window. None of the games since have worn away my general cynicism surrounding Kojima's work, with the exception of P.T., which I don't feel is long enough to count.
Death Stranding has me jumping back to it every night though. It's eating up my free time, as I tell myself that I'll deliver one more package, or finish up one more road. It's a slow, methodical game, one that prizes the work over the destination. Yes, Sam may fight terrorists and the otherworldly threat of the BTs, but the meat of the gameplay is in delivering packages."Walking simulator" is a pejorative in some circles, but Death Stranding is a game that's really about that simple act. It wants you to live in the walking, in moving curios and necessities for place to place.
This approach has been met with a mixed reception, and I find part of that is because most of the game is rooted in what people think of as open-world busy work. You walk to a place and make a connection, which opens up features in the surrounding area. Hazards, both firmly consistent and utterly random, seek to prevent you from checking off the next objective. Death Stranding is not always exciting. You will see the same stretch of scenery multiple times over.
Still, I've always enjoyed that in other open-world games. The mental checklist of regions to open, people to meet, and items to collect is where I find fun. The Ubisoft model isn't necessarily a strike against a game for me. I'll zone of a section of an open-world game and then slowly finish every available task there, then move onto the next zone. I've cleaned out most of the Assassin's Creed games, with only Assassin's Creed: Odyssey being big enough that I wasn't able to wrestle the whole world under my control. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Batman: Arkham City, Marvel's Spider-Man, The Witcher 3, Grand Theft Auto 5; I've finished them all, finding every bit of meat on the bone. I derive satisfaction from the small, consistent steps that make up that ultimate success. I understand that others may find it tedious, or crave more novelty, but that's not my thing.
This extends beyond games. I enjoy the mindless tasks that make up our daily lives. I like gardening, though I haven't been able to for a while. I used to love mowing the lawn. Washing the dishes is an evening treat. Every little bit, every repeated action, leads to a job well done.
So that's how I play Death Stranding. I know standard orders are repeated, but I do them anyway. If I find lost cargo on the ground, I pick it up and try to get it to its proper destination. I routinely dive in the Share Locker or Postboxes to see what lost cargo from other players is available. Hell, many of my runs have purely been to see those items to their final homes. I'll load up on materials and truck them out to auto-pavers to build roads. I'll walk routes and see where they can be improved for others, dropping a generator here or a timefall shelter there. Every little thing makes the world of Death Stranding better for myself and others.
In that sense, I feel like I get Sam Porter Bridges. Everyone other than him is working towards something bigger and grander. They have ambitions, to bring America back together or get revenge. The others are heroes and ideologues.eSam's just a man trying to do his job.
I get that. I honestly feel that way about my own work.. I do the work to the best of my ability and seek to do better in the future. I've described myself as workmanlike, and sometimes, I honestly think that's what's needed. Sam and I, we're on the same page.
Before I left Chapter 3 in Death Stranding, my Sam was Porter Grade 204, having traveled 162 kilometers and delivered 5.62 tons of cargo. When I finally decided to progress the story again, I knew that I had likely overstayed my time in the region. But I was soaking .in the feeling of connecting the highway again, or making sure a hefty order was delivered. That's where the meaning in Death Stranding was for me, not necessarily the machinations of Higgs, or the grand words of Die-Hardman.
"I have served. I will be of service," the eponymous hero says in John Wick 3: Parabellum. That's how I live my life and how I play my games. It's great to have a game that feeds into the mentality in the way that Death Stranding does.