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I just finished Death Stranding by getting the platinum trophy in the post-game. That was a one-of-a-kind experience about isolation, connections, and survival that I don't think will ever be replicated or fade from my memory...and at 130+ hours (for my run), it's something I'm never playing again.
Death Stranding is my first Kojima game, so I wasn't ready for his particular brand of weirdness and obsession with details/references. The character names, the soundtrack choices, the imagery and cinematography, Sam's understated characterization and relationship with his BB, Mads Mikkelsen; all these things blend together to create a whole new type of narrative, one where the night-irreversibly fucked-up apocalyptic world around you balances surprisingly evenly with the quirky and bizarre people inhabiting it, who are presented as naturally as someone casually reading a newspaper on a park bench. Just about every actor works wonders with their character, major or minor - only a couple got on my nerves throughout the entire game, and the rest were all memorable in their own way, each with a certain obsession or characteristic that their entire personality revolved around yet never left them feeling one-note (Cliff is a standout example of this, and the role that made me truly appreciate The Mikkelsen). Per the overarching story, I'm really glad I went into this only having seen the first gameplay trailer because I really did not see most of the plot twists coming, especially in the last 5 hours of the game, and enjoyed them all the more for it. Having recently gone through an extended period of isolation from my loved ones due to two mind-numbing jobs with terrible working hours, the narrative's themes of debilitating isolation, the importance of connecting with others even if you're not necessarily on the same page as them, and Sam himself slowly but surely growing a bit more open to others over time really hit me hard. It was a learning experience, in many aspects.
I also wasn't expecting a completely new gameplay system in the form of the cargo delivery and balance systems, but after a couple hours I got the feel for it and really started having fun. It takes a bit for the vehicles and guns to be made available, but once they are your options really open up for completing deliveries, though I won't deny that there were still a few points of frustration (one that made me quit for a solid 3 weeks to do other stuff, another that had me switch over to Firewatch and beat it in an afternoon just to feel a sense of progression). What few boss fights there are feel pretty damn hype because of how dialed-back most of the game, and the combat by extension, normally is.
That being said, as much as I appreciate this game and as much enjoyment as I got out of playing it, I am never, ever starting a new game. I've gotten all the trophies (which is thankfully quite possible to due in a single playthrough, since you can change your difficulty at will and nothing is missable) and, having read all the emails and interviews, feel quite confident that I've experienced the entire game...so I'm not gonna dedicate another several dozen hours to trekking through it all over again, unlike other long games I've played through multiple times like Kingdom Hearts II, Darksiders 2, and Fallout 3. It was a very fulfilling journey and one I don't regret embarking on, don't get me wrong - but I can only justify sparing 3 months for such a game once. But I do recommend it to anyone interested in a new experience.
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