Gunlord’s College Saga, Episode 107 (Aug 28- Sep 3, 2022): Week 1 of my final semester!

Busy, busy, but not super busy…

STUFF TO DO:

COM 441:

Forum 1 – DONE!

Forum 2

Forum 3

Forum 4

Forum 5

Forum 6

Forum 7

Forum 8

Forum 9

Quiz 1

Quiz 2

Quiz 3

Quiz 4

Final Exam

COM 443:

Project 1

Project 2

Project 3

Project 4

Project 5

Project 6

Project 7

Project 8

Quiz 1

Quiz 2

Quiz 3

Final Project

Sunday:

A- day, played some Death Stranding and that was all. Did a bit of cleaning too (new shower curtains) so that was nice.

Monday:

Made a phone call, and even better, FINALLY beat Death Stranding! A- day.

Tuesday:

Read the next chappy of Send My Regards to Kenshiro, LMFAO it was great, first time I’ve laughed out loud reading a manga. Our hero convinces the hikkikomori guy to become an IRL pirate, much to the dismay of his parents XD XD That was all, pretty good day.

Wednesday:

Went out to eat, chilled at home, got my first discussion forum for COM 441 done. A- day.

Thursday:

A- day! Went out to my first COM 443 class, then read next ep of Kaiju No. 8–Kafka’s training hard but he gets a chance to hang out with Mina for the first time in a long time, where she reveals she always looked up to him since she was a kid. But also, one of the shapeshifting new monsters, in the guise of like a goth girl, apparently makes her move, mind-controlling–or something?–a bunch of people in a crowd in the city D:

Friday:

A- day! Went out for my beloved wontons and that was it :3

Saturday: 

A- day, stayed at home and puttered around.

GENERAL WEEK RANK:

A-, not much to be said.

THINGS I HAD TO FINISH THIS WEEK:

College work.

THINGS I HAVE TO DO NEXT WEEK:

Moar college work.

EATAN:

WATCHAN:

Nothin much.

PLAYAN:

FINALLY finished Death Stranding this week.

Long story short, this game has some incredible visuals and concepts, but its flaws become completely crippling by the end. I put over 130 hours into it, so I can’t say not to buy it, but I REALLY hope they fix these flaws in the sequel.

I’ll try not to have too many spoilers in this review. Death Stranding seemed like a bizarre game from the famous Hideo Kojima from its first footage and previews: Kojima, known for cool stealth action games (Metal Gear Solid, of course) was working with Norman Reedus of zombie horror fame on what seemed to be something both futuristic and…also involving weird babies and bizarre creatures. When the game finally came out, it was a little more mundane. It turns out it’s actually a…delivery game! I won’t call it a walking simulator since there’s a good deal more than that. Essentially, in the not so far off future, a bizarre event called the Death Stranding has led the souls of both dead humans and animals to manifest in the world. These ghosts, called “BTs” hunt down the living (assisted by the production of thick black tar which slows people down), and when they catch a person, it causes a huge explosion (because apparently souls are made out of antimatter) called a “voidout.” This was naturally a pretty apocalyptic event, which so devastated the US that massive chunks of the land were completely obliterated, and now the U.S at least is reduced to a handful of small cities and individual “preppers” living in doomsday shelters that are all isolated from each other.

You play as Sam Porter Bridges (played by Norman Reedus) and your job is to reconnect the cities and individuals, building “bridges” between them (this theme of connection is huge in Death Stranding and a little overdone, which I’ll describe later) on behalf of the new government, The United Cities of America (UCA) and your courier company, also called Bridges. You do this primarily by taking a device called a Q-pid and bringing it to the computer terminal of every settlement or individual you find, which connects them to a future version of the Internet called the Chiral Network, which allows them to not only transfer information like the Internet does, but also use nanomachines or something to fabricate most things people need, which really helps with security and quality of life. Not everything though, there are some foods, medicines, etc. that can’t be “chiral printed.”

That’s where you come in. As Sam, you have to carry these deliveries on your back to wherever you need to go, and it’s up to you to figure out how to navigate the many hills, rivers, and other obstacles in the blasted new American landscape. You’ll have to gather resources to build ladders and climbing ropes to get you around some of the treacherous terrain, made even worse by the fact that many of your deliveries are extremely heavy. They can also be fragile, meaning if you pile them high on your back, you run the risk of tripping and breaking them, so a lot of the game revolves around pressing the RT and LT buttons (on a controller) to keep your balance! Thankfully you can produce vehicles to make things go faster (there are no planes though due to atmospheric effects of the Death Stranding), but those have their own risks, as they run out of fuel and you need to build generators around the landscape to power them. And there are antagonists. Early on in the game you have to fight MULES, crazies who’ll use non-lethal methods like stun rods to knock you out and steal your cargo, and then terrorists, who use actual guns to just straight up kill you. Then you have the ghosts, the BTs, who wander the landscape trying to get you, if they catch you not only do you die immediately, but a big chunk of the land is also destroyed in a voidout, which makes it much more inconvenient. Worst of all is that the ghosts are invisible UNLESS…you have a BB, or bridge baby. A BB is a little baby born from a dead woman (called a stillmother) and hooked up to a little artificial womb, which allows them to accompany porters. When hooked up to a porter’s sensor system (in game that allows you to easily see cargo and stuff), they can sense the BTs and help you see them and sneak past them (or blow them away with special weapons created from your blood, which they’re weak against). This is because the BBs are between the worlds of life and death, being born from dead women, so they can see ghosts. Finally, the BTs cause “timefall,” which is essentially rain, but one that rapidly ages anything it touches. You’re immune, but your cargo isn’t, so you often have to make deliveries absolutely as quick as possible before the timefall completely corrodes it! Finally, as you progress through the game you also meet a mysterious antagonist, Higgs, who looks really cool (he has a golden skull face mask and an ‘evil’ version of your BB and sensor) who can control BTs, sending a few massive nonhuman ghosts as boss fights to prevent you from reconnecting America, and another ghost, Cliff, who summons you into various warzones throughout history as another boss fight (tho I won’t say more than that due to spoilers).

So yeah, there’s quite a bit of challenge here, which makes the game more than just a walking simulator. As implied above, there’s also a bit of combat–though the game STRONGLY encourages non-violence, because if you kill even terrorists, that produces BTs (and those automatically hunt you down and kill you, you can’t beat them like you can normal BTs), you can knock out your enemies with punches and kicks, and get tranquilizer guns and stun bombs, as well as a stealth mechanic that lets you sneak past unwary guards or blind BTs (who hunt you through sound, so if you’re quiet you can get past them).

So, what’s good about this game, enough that I put 130 hours into it? The first is the online content. As you play through the game you get “likes” which is pretty much experience points you can use to improve your health, speed stats, etc. However, while you can’t interact with other players directly, you CAN help them by either leaving useful equipment in lockers around the world at the cities and settlements, taking up cargo other players lost, OR building various buildings–starting with simple ladders and climbing ropes, but eventually turning into large bridges, generators for vehicles, and eventually the most advanced ones, which are nice safehouses, awesome ziplines that can allow you to zip across the entire map in minutes by the end of the game, and similar things. When you build them in your world, they show up in the worlds of others, and if players find them useful they give you likes! There’s also stuff like an online racetrack and special ranked missions, but that aspect of the game, helping others with building the best routes across the blasted US, is the best. It’s astonishingly engaging to get a delivery, figure out what route you should take (if there are a lot of terrorists or BTs on the map, it’s best to take a longer but safe route, for instance), what you’ll need to get there (ladders, or building materials for bridges and generators, etc), and then actually make the journey. And when other online players you haven’t met directly lrave you useful equipment or build nice routes, it’s really satisfying. The programmers for the online content deserve a HUGE round of applause, they did an amazingly good job, it’s similar but more elaborate than the asynchronous stuff you’re familiar with from the Souls games, so they did an amazing job expanding a system like that and putting their own spin on it. Excellent work!

The journeys themselves are often wonderful. The game not only looks beautiful graphically, but its postapocalyptic environment captures the same sense of beautiful melancholy that SHadow of the Colussus did. Although you do occasionally meet other characters aside from terrorists and BTs, for the most part you walk or ride your vehicle through the hills and forests of postapocalyptic America alone, and the beauty of your surroundings juxtaposed with the sense of loss, along with stunning bits of fantasy scenery, like the inverted rainbows which show up during timefall, really scratches the same itch SotC did. The graphics artists (like the famous Yoji Shinkawa, Kojima’s old buddy from the Metal Gear games with Konami) should take a bow too!

The voice acting and models are also great. Norman Reedus is wonderful as the protag, especially as he grows as a character over the course of the game, but all the other ones are great too, including Tommie Jenkins as Die-HARDMAN, and even some cameos like Guiermo del Toro as a scientist guy and I even saw Conan o Brian as a secret character in an out of the way shelter, LOL. But yeah that’s all great.

Finally, I have to say that Hideo Kojima may be known as an “auteur” or an artsy guy who wants to make movies rather than games, but Death Stranding proves he hasn’t forgotten that games are supposed to be fun. Over the course of the game, along with your cargo, you can also find little computer chips and stuff that when you bring them to a shelter or city’s computer, it unlocks data entries in the options menu that consists of snippets of random info about things Kojima likes, ranging from pottery and glassware to shoutouts to the bands he asked for music in this game and the other TV shows and games actors like Reedus and Jenkins worked on (and also a lot of crossover content with stuff like Cyberpunk and Half-Life for the steam version I played). It’s so nice Kojima gave the folks who worked on this game a little extra boost, really shows he’s a true bro and also makes the game feel extra SOVLFUL

So, what are its problems? Well, the big one is the controls. They arent bad at the start of the game, and indeed it generally played smoothly for me (though occasionally it spazzed out, however I read this is a problem for my brand of XBOX controller specifically so I can’t blame the devs for the controller’s problem). However, in combat especially, it seems like each button does way too much. The X/square button, for instance, is used to punch, pick up, throw, mount or dismount a vehicle, and some other things, which is also contingent on holding the RT or LT buttons to hold objects in your right or left hands, and the triggers are ALSO used to aim and shoot AND throw grenades. Additionally, Sam isn’t really made for combat. His punches and kicks are sort of clumsy, and he’s not very fast, he has no dodge moves like quicksteps or rolls (only one melee parry when equipped with a specific weapon), not great jumping ability, and so on. This makes sense for most of the game, as he’s just a courier rather than a soldier or operative like Solid Snake from Metal Gear, but the problem is that the very end of the game centers around boss fights. Again, won’t spoil exactly what those bosses are, but playing through them was absolutely infurating. What should have been the climax of the game became an absolute chore because the combat was so unwieldy, with the too-high number of functions each button had combining with Sam’s awkwardness to make an immensely frustrating experience.

This experience kind of ruined the story. Again, after hours of feeling like I was fighting the controls rather than the enemy, the triumphant victory felt more like the end of a chore rather than a great experience. This is worsened by how…well, ridiculous and complex the plot is. I won’t spoil anything, but despite the amazing performances of Reedus and the rest of the cast, and some genuinely moving demonstrations of Sam’s growth as a person (he starts cold and untrusting and eventually opens up to all the people he’s helped, which is fitting for the games themes of connection), there’s so much weird jargon, and the theme of connections *so* overdone, I felt myself wanting to just skip all the cutscenes rather than enjoy them.

Still, this game is just packed so full of SOVL that I can’t regret buying it, putting 130 hours into it, and recommend other folks do the same. I just hope they improve the combat in the next game. One idea: Maybe have a ‘combat mode’ when you get close to an enemy. Normal mode would have the controls be like the rest of the game, but when you near terrorists or BT ghosts, your character would change his stance. You would have two slots specifically for a weapon, a main arm (rifle, launcher, whatever) and a sidearm (pistols, maybe even machine pistols, or other similarly small guns). Pressing one of the directional pads, rather than opening up a radial menu, would automatically toggle between weapons a la the Souls games. The B/square button in this mod would be a dedicated dodge move or “get into cover” depending on context, where you would actually be able to hide behind large boulders or walls and fire from behind them, just like in Metal Gear Solid 2 actually. But, oh, well…anyways, that’s my review.

BOOK READAN:

Nothin much.

MANGA READAN:

What I said above.

WRITAN:

Just a few more project things :>

BUCKET LIST PROGRESS

1: Finish up a second big project – About halfway done with this, actually

2: Get Dragonar onto its BDs-Done for the most part with my stuff at least.

3: Maybe finish up a 3rd big project related to Berserk-This will be on hold for a loooong time while Mori-sensei finishes it up.

4: Maybe do something with Wayward Son I’ve wanted to do for a while, but also extra. Very close to done with this actually.

5: Obviously, get all my affairs in order–will, etc.

6: Finish a FOURTH big project I’ve had thoughts about for a while. Won’t say much more about it other than it involves Visual Novels.

7: *maybe* finish up a fic I’ve always wanted to put out. But this is really extra.

8: Read the end of Girl Genius. At least I got to see Lucrezia kicked out of Agatha’s mind, so that’s something.

9: Play Front Mission 5.

10: Play Brigandine: Grand Edition. I think I’ll work on these emulation related things when I get a new computer–a new deskie, I mean. I do have a new deskie, though, but I’ll hold off on the fun stuff until I’m done with everything else.

Onwards and upwards…

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