This week at Gamescom, a lot of gameplay has been revealed for Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding, and though the character spotlights and gameplay footage help connected a few dots, it creates as many new questions.
At its most basic level, Death Stranding is a third-person action game set in a world where humanity and civilization were torn apart by a number of cataclysmic events connected to mysterious entities called BTs. The main character, Sam Bridges, is a porter who travels from location to location delivering various packages and the occasional dead body.
Until now, we’ve had more questions than answers about the world of Death’s Stranding and Norman Reedus’s character Sam Bridges. Even Death Stranding's title has raised a few questions about its exact meaning. We now know that Amelie, a character introduced in the release trailer, is actually the new president. Her goal is to connect the remaining cities to a Chiral Network, reconnecting people and rediscovering lost information, as hinted at the end of Deadman’s character spotlight video where he mentions much is still not known about babies and hopes to uncover that information as the Chiral Network is expanded.
In that same spotlight we learn that the baby Sam carries with him is the child of a still mother, connecting the baby to the “other side,” and that by attaching it to Sam’s suit, it gives him the ability to detect the ethereal predators called BTs that we’ve seen attack and take the living when they find them. When the baby's stress level becomes too high, the only way to lower it again is to connect the baby to an artificial womb. That womb is linked to the womb of the baby’s actual mother located back in the capital. After "synchronizing the data" the baby's stress levels lower again.
At the end of the character spotlight for Ludens Fan when we see Sam walk off a cliff and upset the baby, he has to spend time soothing it, even going so far as to turn his shoulder lamp into a slowly spinning mobile. This suggests that managing the baby’s happiness will be an integral part of gameplay, because if the baby isn’t happy, it doesn’t function properly, which means the player is walking blind in a world full of floating BTs.
Another gameplay mechanic we see in the Ludens Fan trailer is witnessing Sam urinate on a mushroom. At first this begs the question “Why?” but in conversations with the ever-elusive Kojima, multiplayer will serve a theme of connection that the game is all about. He even hinted that if multiple players pee on the same mushroom, something will happen.
The world is clearly well constructed, with all elements deeply connected, even if gamers can’t exactly see why yet. There’s been fear it’s simply going to be a “walking simulator” game, though previous videos have shown combat. Some players have complained of the bland environment design, while others have noted the lack of living things as a telling element to the greater story.
Regardless of where one sits, Death Stranding is clearly striving for something different and time will tell if Kojima is able to pull it all together into a great experience.
Death Stranding releases November 8th for PS4.