I've beaten the prologue and first two episodes, so I figured it's time to share my actual thoughts. Death Stranding is a very messy, imperfect and often alienating game that seems to go out of its way for you not to "enjoy it," yet I am mostly loving my experience. I get sucked into the mood, the immersion, the quiet, serene beauty, melancholy, yet connective world that, at times, I have surprisingly emotional reactions. The "needle drops" with huge vistas get me every time. The narrative elements really work for me.
The first major boss battle, though like everything in Death Stranding, is wayyy too easy (even on Hard) yet is a true spectacle unlike anything in gaming.
But I cannot blame anyone for struggling here. The controls are sometimes clunky, but the bigger issue is how Kojima rewards, or rather how he doesn't, players for their long, somewhat tedious, tumultuous journeys delivering banal cargo. So unlike, say, Dark Souls, where after hours of frustration and monotony you get a big rush, a hologram pats you on the back and says good job. You don't get (much) new gear. You don't get decent cosmetic upgrades. Story elements come slowly (pure Kojima ofc). You don't even see how the cargo you're delivery is helping these little areas.
There's no emotional element. It's dispassionate, which is the point, but it also means when you're delivering medicine it isn't to save a particular character's life, or help rebuild a town or city like in Red Dead Redemption 2, where you see the fruits of effort and labor. The game is "retraining" you to mostly get enjoyment out of the actual gameplay while withholding reward, and while I get a lot out of that, it also makes Episode 2 feel unreasonable slow and tedious for seemingly no reason. A little of this would have gone a LONG way and alone would've likely resulted in a better metascore.
To make things worse still, the stealth and combat gameplay is extremely "simple" and very very easy. Once you get gear that helps you defend yourself, the game's already easy action/stealth sections become laughably easy to do. The first big boss battle, as I said, is stupidly easy and the mechanics are stupidly simple. I wonder how much of this is the consequence of budget limitations vs Kojima's own imagination.
I know that was long, but I've been bottling this up over 15 hours of gameplay. Somehow, despite all that, I am mostly loving this experience for all the novelty and power it brings and can't wait to play more.