Death Stranding Director’s Cut (Steam Deck Review)

Howdy hidey ho!  I want to note something before we begin: the game has a sort of “issue” not related to the Steam Deck: without custom config changes, you have a choice between 720p and 1080p with nothing in-between.  More on that later in the presentation section.  So, you probably know this game’s about making deliveries.  But is Death Stranding more than just a glorified courier playground?


GAMEPLAY

…you’ll find yourself in some harrowing situations…

Yes, you are indeed a courier.  You deliver people’s shit.  You might write the game off completely right there between its purposely cryptic trailers and the idea that it’s a “walking delivery sim”.  But here’s the thing: if you stick it through, it does decide to make things interesting.  And I’m not just talking vehicles: there’s actual combat as you become better equipped to handle the threats to your precious deliveries.  Think “armed courier”, and it all makes more sense.  Unfortunately, this comes with a major problem: all of it is janky as hell.  It doesn’t actually matter if you’re on foot, or riding a trike, or shooting at anything that moves: it’s an unpolished experience through-and-through.  This is exacerbated by a painful interface that makes managing your equipment more of a burden than the actual equipment.  To be clear: the gameplay issue isn’t being a courier, it’s actually DOING the things the game throws at you (often thanks to shockingly poor physics).  But, and there is a “but”, the game does somewhat make up for this in an unusual way: variety.  When I said it does decide to make things interesting, you’ll find yourself in some harrowing situations in the late game.  If there’s one thing I’m going to say that may come as a shocker, it’s that they made being a courier quite interesting if you push on.  “Walking delivery sim” my ass.


CONTENT

…there’s an entire multiplayer meta-layer!

And push on I did: the credits rolled easily over 30 hours later.  Some of my time was testing performance (again, more on that later), but this is no short romp.  And of course, even when it’s over, it tosses you right back in post-game and lets you continue doing more deliveries.  But that’s not even the surprising part: the surprising part is that there’s an entire multiplayer meta-layer!  By placing structures, other players can also use them in their games.  You end up all helping one another over time, and not only have I clearly helped others, but also benefitted.  The game gives you plenty to do and isn’t just some short, cinematic one-and-done.


PRESENTATION

…enjoyed the moments of respite just taking in the environment…

This is probably the part you care about most on the Steam Deck, and we’ll first start with what my testing boiled down to: three choices.  You either play it like I did in 720p at graphics maxed capped at 30fps for stability, or you crank it up to full 1080p at default graphics capped at 30fps for visual clarity, or you leave it at 720p at default graphics with an unlocked framerate for an average of 40fps.  You might not find this impressive at first, but once you’re seeing the non-prerendered cinematics and how well the Steam Deck holds together even when the action turns up, the performance is rather admirable.  However, it’s worth noting major stutters occur near high concentrations of player structures/signs.  Once you’ve made your decision to stop tinkering with the graphics, though, you’ll find that the environments are quite well put-together, too.  I rather enjoyed the moments of respite just taking in the environment all alone.  A human and nature, as one might call it.  But now you’re wondering about the star-studded cast, and that’s also another surprising benefit: with such a cast comes far better acting and dialogue delivery.  But NOW you’re wondering what all this is even about because that remains unclear.  Well, I refuse to spoil it, but I AM willing to tell you the basis that may pique your nerdy interests: it centers around extinction theories (layered with some existential theories for shits and giggles).  Except, much like gameplay, this comes with a major problem: you don’t find out pretty much anything interesting until you’re heading into the final hours.  So if this piques your interest, you’ll have to drudge through at least 25 hours to get there.  Yikes on story pacing…


CONCLUSION

…it was definitely a different experience…

To my surprise, the game really did turn out to be more than just a glorified courier playground.  In fact, this variety was unexpected between core exploration, combat, and just delivering things.  It’s too bad that I have to knock the game so hard because clearly the budget did not go to making any of these things polished experiences, and instead went to paying for celebrities.  Fortunately, that does pay off in better dialogue and story delivery; unfortunately, all of it that matters is pretty much at the end.  But if you can put up with all that, the game will last you quite a bit of time… and you might even stumble upon some of my structures to help you out if other players maintain them.  I can say this for certain, though: it was definitely a different experience even if it wasn’t quite a good one.

I give Death Stranding Director’s Cut

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