Since its reveal during E3 2016, people have been asking, “What is Death Stranding?” The cryptic trailers released along the way have had people scratching their head about what it is you do in Death Stranding, what gameplay will be like, what the story will be, and how multiplayer will work.
While there’s still a lot of unknowns when it comes to Death Stranding, over the last few months we’ve finally gotten some answers on how it will play. We’ve also got a rough outline of what the story entails, and even though it’s still very weird, we know it won’t be entirely abstract.
We’ve put together everything we know about Death Stranding below in an easy-to-read and accessible form. There’s a lot of missing pieces as the game is still a month from release, but you should be able to get a good picture of what Death Stranding is about from the info in this guide.
Editor’s Note: There are story details on Death Stranding below. These may constitute as spoilers if you’re wanting to go into the experience completely blind.
Death Stranding Story
Death Stranding‘s story was a massive mystery up until the middle of this year. We knew the main character would be Sam Porter Bridges (played by Norman Reedus), and it would somehow involve linking together the United States after a cataclysmic event. However, it wasn’t until the massive unveiling of the game at Gamescom and Tokyo Game Show that things started to fall into place.
There’s still a ton of blanks concerning the plot of Death Stranding, but the core of it has started to become less nebulous.
What’s Death Stranding about?
Sometime in the near future, the world has been shaken by a phenomenon called The Death Stranding. This event has caused Beached Things (BTs) to “strand” themselves on Earth from “the other side.” The info we have so far seems to indicate that the BTs are highly hostile to humanity, and their presence is accompanied by timefall, a rain that causes organic matter to age and decay rapidly.
Humanity has been thinned, but still exists in large numbers concentrated on enclaves spotted throughout what was once the continental United States. One of the goals in Death Stranding is to connect these settlements by joining them to the Chiral Network. The existence of these communities indicates that some sort of effective countermeasures to the BTs has been discovered. As such, by joining together, it’s assumed that humans could retake the world from the BT and possibly stop The Death Stranding.
While the United States has collapsed, a corporation called the United Cities of America has taken its place. A second connected corporation, Bridges, has sent a team across America before in an attempt to reunite the country, but it ended in failure when Amelie, the then president of the UCA’s daughter, was kidnapped.
The playable character and protagonist, Sam Porter Bridges, is asked by the head of Bridges, Die-Hardman to cross the country, starting from Capital Knot City (either Washington D.C. or New York) and ending at Edge Knot City (San Francisco or Los Angeles). Along the way, he implores Sam to connect each settlement he finds to the Chiral Network so that the United Cities of America can be truly united.
Unfortunately, not everyone wants the country to be reunited. Edge Knot City is controlled by a separatist militia called Homo Demens (“man man” in Latin). Homo Demens has gone as far as killing whole towns of people and engineering Death Stranding related explosions called voidouts, which has left a barrier of craters that divides the former United States in two. Making things more complex is that fact that Homo Demens is holding Amelie hostage as insurance against Bridge’s attempts to unite the remnants of humanity.
Sam agrees to the task, but will be opposed by Homo Demens, BTs, and the lack of remaining infrastructure. Your goal will be to unite humankind, but what you’ll find along the way is still mostly a mystery.
Who do you play as in Death Stranding? | Sam Porter Bridges
Sam Porter Bridges, as his name suggests, is a porter who works for Bridges. Not a lot of Sam’s past has been revealed, but as the player character, we know he’ll play a major part in the events that occur in Death Stranding.
In the trailer above, it seems like Sam has had some negative experiences with Bridges in the past. It appears as though he wasn’t always a porter, and may have at one point been a higher ranking member of Bridges. He expresses great reluctance at taking on the mission presented to him by Amelie and Die-Hardman, and seems to harbor resentment towards both of them.
We know Sam eventually takes it on his shoulders to head west and expand the Chiral Network. It may be that he’s selected because of the unique anti-BT qualities of his blood. In the gameplay demo from TGS, we see that many weapons in the game are produced using his bodily fluids. When you stop at a safehouse, some of his blood is taken when he sleeps, and it’s labeled “DOOMS Blood.” It’s possible that some unique genetic property is what grants Sam his seeming resistance against BTs and Timefall.
Who is your enemy in Death Stranding? | Cliff, Higgs, and Homo Demens
The mysterious Homo Demens stands as the primary antagonist is Death Stranding. Specifically, you’ll be opposed by Higgs, the man in the gold skull mask, and Cliff (played by Mads Mikkelsen).
Higgs seems to be Sam’s counterpart in Homo Demens. Like Sam, Higgs is immune to the effects of BTs and seems to have some ability to control the manifestation of BTs and Timefall. He is shown equipped with a BB Pod similar to that of Sam, but with key differences that might mean it’s carrying something other than a Bridge baby.
We know almost nothing about Cliff. He’s one of the earliest characters shown and can summon skeletal soldiers to do his bidding. The soldiers are connected to him via strands and may indicate that Cliff uses some sort of perverse form of the Chiral Network. We also see Cliff speaking with what seems to be a Bridge baby with affection. Whether this means that Homo Demens has their own Bridge Babies, or that Cliff is in Capitol Knot City at some point in the game isn’t known.
Mules, on the other hand, don’t seem to be aligned with anyone. It’s said they suffer from a condition called Delivery Syndrome, which drives them to steal cargo compulsively. If you so choose, you can invade their camps to look for items that have been stolen from other players. However, if you approach them while carrying any boxes, they will attempt to steal it. They do lay ambushes for players but aim only to burgle, not to kill. The Mules are vulnerable to BTs and timefall, and will not enter areas that contain either.
What is a Bridge Baby, and why do you carry the BB Pod in Death Stranding?
One of the things that marked Death Stranding as a “weird” game out of the gate was the fact that people were seen wearing an unborn baby in a pod-like a piece of gear. These mysterious babies were the subjects of memes and intense debate on the internet for years before we finally found out what purpose they serve.
The BB Pod is meant to emulate the environment of a stillmother’s womb. Bridge babies are the unborn children of brain dead women who are kept in stasis in Capitol Knot City. The fact that their bodies are living while their brains are dead means that their unborn children can serve as a conduit to the world of the dead.
Because BTs usually are entirely invisible to humans, a connection with a Bridge baby using the BB Pod allows Bridges operatives to detect BTs. The pod simulates the conditions of the stillmother’s womb, which in turn keeps the Bridge baby connected to the world of the dead. When Sam rests, the BB Pod must be synchronized with the data gathered from a stillmother’s womb to ensure the connection remains stable.
Unfortunately, Bridge babies seem to become unstable over time. In a clip between Sam and Deadman, Deadman indicates that Bridge babies are regarded as a piece of gear. However, it seems like part of the game will center on the relationship between Sam and his Bridge baby, and from what we know so far, he regards it as more than just equipment to detect BTs.
What are BTs, and what is a Voidout?
Beached Things (BTs) are creatures that have stranded themselves on Earth after The Death Stranding. It seems as though they may be people or animals that have died and crossed over to the world of the dead, only to once again find themselves in the land of the living.
BTs show aggression towards the natives of our dimension and attempt to eat them. When a BT eats a human, living, or dead, it seems, a voidout occurs, which produces a massive explosion. It’s these voidouts which have caused the former United States to be peppered with craters. While Sam and Bridges try to avoid voidouts from occurring, Homo Demens is known to cause them intentionally to further its own devices.
There are many forms of BT that you’ll meet throughout your journey through Death Stranding:
- Gazer: Floating BTs that can detect Sam through sound. These can’t be killed but can be immobilized by certain weapons. Gazers serve as an alarm for other stronger BTs.
- Hunter: These BTs are the ones that leave the handprints seen in trailers. When alerted by the Gazers, Hunters will create a tarpit around Sam and attempt to drag him into it. If they succeed, you’ll have to face down a very strong BT known as a Catcher.
- Catcher: These BTs are the real threats in Death Stranding. They’re big, they’re strong, and if they kill Sam, it will cause a voidout. This means that if you’re not careful that swaths of the map could be eliminated and turned into a crater.
Death Stranding Gameplay
Many aspects of the gameplay are still a mystery, but in the TGS demos, we got a chance to see a small part of how Death Stranding will play. Hideo Kojima has said that the gameplay starts slowly in the beginning and that the game won’t hold your hand. He said that everyone would start lost, but by the halfway point, everyone should be comfortable, and that’s when things get really fun.
What do you do in Death Stranding?
In Death Stranding, you, as Sam Porter Bridges, have three goals:
- Cross the former United States, linking settlements with the Chiral Network.
- Supply the linked settlements with supplies needed for their continued prosperity.
- Reach Edge Knot City and rescue Amelie from Homo Demens.
A big part of accomplishing these tasks is left in your hands. You have to load out Sam and balance cargo just right so he doesn’t get fatigued, ensure his feet remain healthy by swapping out his boots and avoid the dangers of the world post-Death Stranding.
From what we’ve seen so far, Death Stranding involves a lot of exploration and navigation. The world remains largely disconnected and uncharted, so Sam is a pioneer of sorts. Not only are you networking settlements, but you’re also rediscovering the former United States and charting safe paths for travel. Since the world is so dangerous, as part of your journey you’re bringing essential goods to the remaining cities as a porter, and protecting your vital cargo is where a lot of the danger is centered.
Since so much of the world is impassable to vehicles, Sam must carry cargo on foot a lot of the time. He’s equipped with a powered exoskeleton (which can be changed out for other models or upgraded), which allows him to carry much more weight than a typical person could alone. Balance plays a big part in choosing a loadout, and you must make sure Sam’s load is evenly distributed or face stamina and balance penalties. If you’re too heavy on one side, it might make climbing or fording rivers more complicated, and if Sam falls, your cargo can detach and spill. Each item you’re porting has a health gauge, and if it reaches zero, it is destroyed and becomes useless. Timefall also damages your cargo, which means that in addition to the mortal threat BTs cause, being around them can ruin your vital goods even if they don’t manage to grab you.
While Death Stranding has action and combat, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be “action-packed” in the traditional sense. A good part of your struggle will be simply navigating and fighting the elements. Since you’re heading into uncharted territory, the game allows you to chart routes based on elevation data. The map will show you where you need to go, but it’s up to you to handle routing. There’s no GPS here, and you’ll need to learn to process the information given to you about the terrain between Sam and his objective if you want to make it to your destination in one piece. While the eastern part of the former US seems relatively safe, the Annihilation Belt spanning the Midwest and beyond will likely be much more foreboding, especially considering that you’ll probably have to cross the Rocky Mountains to get to Edge Knot City.
Is Death Stranding open world?
One of the most exciting aspects of Death Stranding is its open world. While Sam will have specific objectives given to him, the player will be free to explore the world at will. Unlike many games, this freedom will have some consequences. In an interview, Hideo Kojima gave an example that blew our minds and further cemented that Death Stranding might be something extraordinary.
Kojima’s example has a side quest centered around an old man. Sam may stumble across his shelter in the world and connect it to the Chiral Network. When he meets the older man, he finds out he has a condition that requires regular medication. You can choose to return frequently and deliver the medication, which keeps the old man alive, or you can choose to ignore him, and he’ll die. The catch is, as you proceed through the game, you’ll gain more and more freedom to explore, and you’ll get further and further from the old man’s shelter. That means that the longer you play, the harder it is to fulfill the commitment of bringing him his medicine.
This example quest is something that reflects the central theme of the game: strands or connections. Will your connection to the old man drive you to help keep him alive, or will you ignore him or drift apart as you head further west?
Death Stranding Multiplayer
One of Death Stranding‘s key features is its multiplayer. There’s no direct play between individuals. Instead, the game utilizes a form of asynchronous multiplayer that Kojima has dubbed the Social Strand System, which allows each person playing to have an impact on everyone else’s game.
What is the Social Strand System (SSS) in Death Stranding?
The Social Strand System allows players to help each other and shape the world of Death Stranding through their actions. This multiplayer system activates when a region is linked to the Chiral Network. Once that occurs, you’ll begin seeing the effects of other players all around you like so:
- Footsteps will appear in areas frequently traveled by players.
- Ladders and ropes that other players place will be left behind for you to use if you choose.
- Lockers, shelters, and other structures can be built and used by players in other games.
- Unwanted items can be left behind in lockers for other players to take.
- Markers will appear showing where other players slept or urinated.
- And more.
Almost any action you take that affects the Social Strand System can be liked by other players. These likes form a sort of currency, though we’re not sure what exactly they’re used for yet.
How will multiplayer impact the world of Death Stranding?
Repeated actions by multiple players can have a permanent effect on the world of Death Stranding like:
- If enough players walk a particular path, it will begin to turn into a road.
- If enough people sleep or urinate in the same spot, a “surprise” will happen.
- Players can work on major engineering projects together like bridges over rivers and large structures.
If the Social Strand System works as it sounds like it will, the world of Death Stranding will be very different a year down the road than it was during release.
That’s all we know about Death Stranding as of right now. With a little over a month left until release, the questions we still have should be answered soon.