We've Now Watched Over An Hour Of Death Stranding Demos, And We're Still Confused
Death Stranding, the long time passion project of acclaimed game director Hideo Kojima, has long stood as perhaps the most exciting-yet-confusing upcoming project in gaming.
It's been in development for years, during which its creator has remained relatively tight lipped on just about everything to do with it. We knew it would be open-world. We knew it would combine elements of sci-fi and supernatural horror. We knew it would feature a bunch of different real-life TV stars including Mads Mikkelsen and The Walking Dead's Norman Reedus.
But Kojima rather stealthily left the rest for us to figure out by ourselves. For those unaware of the Japanese designer's legacy, Kokima's name comes with an almost unparalleled gravitas in gaming circles. As the main creative force behind the Metal Gear Solid series, he displayed an ability to tell thoroughly human stories with a certain level of surrealism that made him a god amongst gamers.
A long-time partner of Konami, he left the development studio in 2015, signing on with Sony Interactive Entertainment and disappointing legions of horror fans by leaving a Silent Hill remake he was developing in a state of permanent incompletion.
Pretty much since then, Death Stranding has been his passion project, and it looks pretty much like peak Kojima. The only prevailing question left on player's minds was what the f*** it was actually about, despite the lengthy reveal that the game got at E3 last year.
Kojima eventually dropped the game's release date as part of another 8-minute trailer (surely some kind of record for a game), and despite giving a brief overview of the world and its deeply weird themes, we were still left largely in the dark as to how the game worked.
The trailer fleshes out some elements of the story without really explaining the context behind any of them. What we do know now is that Death Stranding takes place in a post-apocalyptic USA, which Norman Reedus' character is forced to traverse in order to bring connection back to a fractured human race.
This exploration seems to be where a bulk of the game play takes place, set in an open-world where you have to climb mountains, cross valleys and brave the elements to reconnect the 'strands' of society.
All along the way, he's forced to deal with militant separatists trying to track them down, along with a phenomena called the Death Stranding, which seems to intrinsically link the past and present, throwing up all manner of supernatural, undead elements in the process. There's also some weird s**t going on with babies that you can plug into to access the past, but that's where everything loses us.
The only semblance of explanation has been given by Kojima himself. "People have created “Walls” and become accustomed to living in isolation," he wrote.
“Death Stranding is a completely new type of action game, where the goal of the player is to reconnect isolated cities and a fragmented society. It is created so that all elements, including the story and gameplay, are bound together by the theme of the “Strand” or connection."
The video also confirms the game's rather stacked cast. Reedus and Mikkelsen indeed take up the roles of protagonist and antagonist, while Bond girl Léa Seydoux, The Six Million Dollar Man's Lindsay Wagner, famed video game voice artist Troy Baker, Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn, and Pan's Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro will all feature.
"As Sam Porter Bridges, you will attempt to bridge the divides in society, and in doing so create new bonds or “Strands” with other players around the globe," Kojima continued. "Through your experience playing the game, I hope you’ll come to understand the true importance of forging connections with others."
Since then, there's been a constant drip-feed of info about the game and how it's going to be played. It looks increasingly like Kojima has gone down the route of making a 'playable movie,' with the director himself even announcing that the game will have a 'Very Easy' mode that will allow players to essentially watch the game's story with minimal stress and interaction.
What still isn't particularly clear, however, is how the story works. Nearly an hour of gameplay footage (which you can watch below) has been released since E3, all of which has only really served to muddy the waters when it comes to the role of each character. They have, thankfully, released a synopsis, which says:
“In the near future, mysterious explosions have rocked the planet, setting off a series of supernatural events known as the Death Stranding. With spectral creatures plaguing the landscape, and the planet on the verge of a mass extinction, it’s up to Sam Bridges to journey across the ravaged wasteland and save mankind from impending annihilation.”
We also know that the concept of death in the game is going to be completely turned on its head. According to an interview he gave to IGN in 2017, Kojima firmly stated that “death will never pull you out of the game,” instead explaining that dying in Death Stranding will instead transport you to something of a purgatory, which you can explore and collect items from until you're ready to return to your body.
"At that point, you’re not dead or alive," said Kojima. "It’s the equivalent of that screen that says ‘Continue?’ and a counter ticking down towards zero.”
"Unlike most games which set you back to a point before you died," IGN go on to explain, "Death Stranding acknowledges your defeat, and seems to even embrace it. You’re transported back to the world after your death -- like in Dark Souls or roguelikes -- where your actions maintain an aura of persistence."
Do we have any idea what's going on yet? Not really. Are we still irrationally excited? Definitely. In more gaming news, these are the highest-rated players in FIFA 20.