Welcome back, Hideo Kojima.
It’s been a long wait, but Death Stranding is almost upon us. Once again, Hideo Kojima will be wowing players with his eccentric genius, and this time, he’ll be doing so with a brand new IP, and a brand new world. Death Stranding looks dense, complex, weird, and massive, and it goes without saying that it’s probably one of the most highly anticipated games on the PS4 this generation. In the lead up to the game’s launch, there’s a lot about the game to dig into, and in this feature, we’ll be taking a look at fifteen crucial things you should know about it. Without further ado, let’s get started.
Death Stranding takes place in the near future, where the planet has descended into a vortex of chaos after mysterious explosions. These explosions have kicked off a series of terrifying, supernatural events, known as the Death Stranding, with horrifying, ghostly entities known as Beached Things – or BTs – roaming the landscape and threatening the very existence of life. Social order has crumbled, and people have drawn into their shells, living in isolation, with cities and towns cutting themselves off from the outside world as they look to survive in their new reality. But it’s not just the BTs who’re a threat to the world now. There’s also the Homo-Demens, a group of military separatists in control of Edge Knot City, who want to remain independent and will stop at nothing to make sure of it.
In this backdrop, we play as Sam Porter Bridges. Sam has tasked by Amelie – the daughter of the United States’ president – and by Die-Hardman to travel from the East Coast to the West Coast and make America whole again, by reconnecting cities and bringing them back into the fold, so that they can stand together once again as they look to face and survive the threat of the BTs.
Hideo Kojima games have always been known for their massive casts of colourful characters, and though Death Stranding isn’t Metal Gear, that much, at least, is not going to change. We’ve already spoken about Sam, Amelie, and Die-Hardman, played by Norman Reedus, Lindsay Wagner, and Tommie Earl Jenkins. Other than them, Mads Mikkelsen also stars as Cliff – who seems to be an antagonistic figure, but has remained largely shrouded in mystery till now – while Troy Baker plays Higgs, the golden mask-wearing leader of the Homo Demens. There’s also Deadman (bearing the likeness of Guillermo del Toro), Fragile (played by Lea Seydoux), Mama (played by Margaret Qualley), and Heartman (who bears the likeness of Nicholas Winding Refn).
We’ve mentioned BTs a few times, but what exactly are they? Short for Beached Things – as we mentioned – BTs are otherworldly supernatural entities that have somehow become stranded in the world that we live in. The origins and nature are something Kojima hasn’t spoken much about so far, but we do know that they’re clearly antagonistic, and a major, major threat to humanity, and seek to catch and devour humans. There’s several different kinds of BTs, too. There’s Gazers, floating, spectral figures that can be found after Timefalls; there’s Hunters, who chase and hunt down people after Gazers have been alerted of their presence; and there’s Catchers, large monstrosities that seem to be the biggest of the threats of all BTs.
Hideo Kojima has made many, many bold claims about Death Stranding in the last three and a half years, but the boldest of them all is that the game belongs to a completely new genre. According to Kojima, it’s still an action game, but it’s not like any action game we’ve ever played before, and is instead doing something completely new that’s setting up a new genre of action titles. He calls it “Strand game”, which, incidentally, brings us to our next point.
SOCIAL STRAND SYSTEM
What exactly is the Social Strand System? We’ve heard Kojima talked about it more than just a little bit in the last couple of years, but what the hell is it? Well, the closest comparison would be to the multiplayer elements we see in Dark Souls. In Death Stranding, players are playing a single player game, but their world is one that multiple other players interact with as well. You can see things and items left behind by players, players can leave each other vague messages using signs, while you can also drop likes for these things. In fact, collaboratively, players can even transform the terrain in the game’s world. Speaking of which…
TRANSFORMING THE WORLD
This, it seems, is the biggest impact the Social Strand System will have on Death Stranding and its world. Players can eventually transform the world of Death Stranding by building things such as roads, highways, bridges, and safehouses, where before there was nothing at all. Roads and highways and bridges are built if a lot of players traverse over the same paths a lot, and once they’ve been built, the name of the player who made the biggest contribution is shown. You can also drop likes for these structures to help improve them even further. Players can together also build safehouses, and you can help with their construction by dropping supplies where they’re being built.
Death Stranding’s central premise boils down to Sam travelling from one cost of the United States to the other, making delivering and stopping at various cities along the way, so it makes sense that a huge, huge chunk of the game is going to rely on traversal. Players will be navigating around obstacles in the environment by using tools in their inventory and charting courses to decide what’s the best path to take. From managing your inventory to contending with survival mechanics to facing off against the various threats the game’s world will throw at you, it’s clear that the simple act of getting from point A to point B isn’t going to be quite so simple.
STEALTH AND COMBAT
But it’s not all about going from point A to point B, of course. Death Stranding’s world is plagued by the supernatural threats known as BTs, and Sam will have to employ stealth to get past them if and when he comes across them. If he gets caught, the BTs will pull you into an upside down world, where you’ll have to fight against monstrosities to find your way back. And it’s not just the BTs you’ll be fighting against either. Human enemies are also going to be a threat, and from shooting to melee combat to stealth, there’s multiple ways players will be able to take them on.
We mentioned inventory management earlier, and it’s going to be a bigger part of the game than you’d think. Delivering cargo is the name of the game in Death Stranding, and you’ll need to bring along everything from ladders to ropes to boots and a whole lot else to help you do just that. More importantly, you’ll also be tasked with making sure you’re actually physically placing them properly on Sam’s person, so as to make sure he can maintain his balance when he’s travelling.
We’ve been seeing these bottles babies – called Bridge Babies, or BBs – in Death Stranding trailers for years now- so what exactly are they about? Well, people can plug into BBs, who then allow them to sense and see any BTs that might be in the vicinity. BBs can do that because they’re borne of still mothers, and as such, have a connection to “the other side”. There’s still quite a lot that isn’t clear where BBs are concerned, but we do know that when it comes to gameplay, they’ll be helping Sam during stealth sections involving BTs. Meanwhile, Sam will also have to take care of his BB by soothing it when it gets agitated for some reason or the other.
NO GAME OVERS
One of the most intriguing aspects of Death Stranding is that there are no game over states in the game. If you die or get caught by BTs, it isn’t game over. Instead, you find yourself on “the other side”, an upside-down realm where you’re then forced to fight your way out and back to the real world. If you die here as well, you still return to the real world, but that place in the real world where you got caught turns into a crater.
It’s not going to be all harrowing and intense where Death Stranding is concerned. Sam can also enter various safehouses scattered throughout the game’s world, all of which have a private room for him. Here, he can rest up and recuperate, clean himself up, tend to injuries, and prepare himself for the next stage of his journey. In the private room, players can also deck Sam out with cosmetics like sunglasses and hats, or interact with various things scattered across the room.
Hideo Kojima was able to put Death Stranding together in a surprisingly short amount of time, in spite of starting from scratch, and a huge reason for that is that he didn’t have to create his own engine. Death Stranding is built on Guerrilla Games’ Decima Engine, which was also used for Horizon: Zero Dawn. Of course, Kojima has also collaborated with Guerrilla throughout the development of Death Stranding to make changes and improvements to Decima.
POSSIBLE PC RELEASE
Back when Death Stranding was first announced, it was believed that the game would release on PC as well – though not at launch – but overtime, it seems PC has vanished from the conversation. Death Stranding has been billed as a PS4 exclusive (though there was a period quite recently where its exclusivity tag disappeared- before reappearing again)- but given the fact that Kojima Productions is, after all, an independent studio, and that a PC release was on the docket at least initially, there’s a chance that Death Stranding does eventually wind up on PC as well. It may not necessarily happen, but at least there’s a chance.