I soon died go gasopods. Gasopods are mildly annoying creatures in the starter zone who release gas bombs if approached. You can easily avoid them, you can run away the bombs before they explode and you can run out of the gas when starting taking damage. Well, they are in the starter zone for a reason.
I completed the game in 125 hours on the hardcore mode (1 life only). I did not die to gasopods. Nor to Reapers, Ghosts, Dragons, Warpers, Crabsquids, lava and other mean bad things. How could I die in the starter zone?
Because I couldn’t care less to look around for gasopods. Because I was busy doing whatever I was doing to notice the gas bombs. Because I didn’t even pay attention to the HP meter. Why? Because I didn’t care, because there was no risk. The death came as surprise, but not as shock. I was somewhat annoyed for losing like 5 minutes of “progress”, but that’s it.
When playing in hardcore mode, I looked around all the time. I minded my surroundings because meanies could kill me and take away dozens of hours of progress. I didn’t look at the other screen without pausing first. I didn’t build or harvest without making sure that the area is secure. I didn’t walk around without my repulsion cannon.
In short: I was there. I was immersed in the world. I was swimming in an alien ocean looking for resources instead of “grinding mats lol”. The danger made it real. There was no place for sloppiness or “hold my beer” class nonsense.
Death penalty is necessary for the World to be a World. For the dangers to be real. For the player to pay attention to the surroundings. To care what kind of creature comes around (as opposed to dismiss them as “thrashmobs”). After dying to simple gasopods, I have no doubt left that a game without death penalty is a bad game.
PS: the rising star of the gaming scene, PUBG has a pretty strong death penalty, you are removed from the actual game and you lose rating. Yet, it’s a rising star with much more players than the “inclusive and accessible” games without death penalty.