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Hear Me Out: Final Fantasy XV and Death Stranding

 As my previous post stated, I played a marathon weekend of Death Stranding. It was an amazing experience, and I was talking to a friend about it, they asked if the product placements they'd heard were so in your face, took you out of the game at all?


Let's be completely clear. The product placement in Death Stranding would be offensive in any game that I could actually take seriously. Whenever you stay in your private room, there are always six cans of Monster Energy Drink prominently displayed on a table. You can drink them to get a temporary bonus to your stamina the next time you venture out. The graphical fidelity of these cans can not be understated. I bought two cans of Monster to go with the marathon experience, since I'd been warned about it. The cans on the screen, looked somehow more real than the can I held in my hand. While you wander in the world, you carry a flask that you can drink from to recover your stamina. It is a flask full of Monster Energy Drink, even more, it is somehow treated, such that you can refill it from any water source, and the contents are transformed into more Monster. The second bit of product placement is for Norman Reedus's motorcycle reality show, Ride with Norman Reedus. Norman Reedus voices the main character of the game, and his likeness is used as well. So it's weird, that when you take a shit, there is an ad for his television show on the privacy screen.


What does this have to do with Final Fantasy XV? Well, when my friend asked about the product placement in Death Stranding, I remarked that it was no worse than the Nissin Cup Noodle brand instant ramen cups you can buy in Final Fantasy XV. I quite liked FF XV back when it came to PC, but never finished it, and so reminded, I fired it up again. I had completely forgotten that there was an even more obtrusive product placement in, which was Coleman camping gear. You regularly camp in FF XV, and every piece of gear is clearly branded with the "Coleman" logo. But the similarities between the two games don't end there, they're both these weird, kind of melancholic, lonely journey stories, where you help lots of isolated people along the way.


To recap each game:


In Death Stranding, you play as Sam Porter Bridges, who is a deliveryman in post apocalyptic America, you slowly journey across the continent, creating a network to connect people living in isolated underground bunkers, while delivering packages. People live underground because of horrible supernatural monsters that come with unnatural rain storms that cause things to age and corrode.


In Final Fantasy XV. You play as Prince Noctis, on a leisurely road trip/bachelor party across the continent to his arranged political wedding. You're ridiculous car is built for luxury far more than for speed, and so it is a lot of slow travel between isolated rest stops on the highway. In between these havens of human habitation, are all manner of horrible beasties, which you can frequently take side jobs to wipe out for the populace. In fact, all of these people are actually your subjects, and thus it's your royal duty to help them.


Both games feature slow through gorgeous landscapes, and lots of introspection. Unlike Sam, Noctis has a retinue of bodyguards and minders, but despite the frequent banter, the game still manages to feel lonely and isolating. Are these people really your friends? Or are they just there for a paycheck, or out of loyalty to the crown? Regardless, outside of your quartet, you're very much alone. The rest stops are infrequent islands of human interaction, and the humans that are there are so far removed from the big city you started in, let alone royal life, that you seldom feel like you're having any kind of real interaction with anyone.


It's really bizarre how two totally conceptually different games, with wildly different gameplay, managed to cultivate such very similar feelings.

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