Kojima Production’s Death Stranding has finally arrived – acting as one of the biggest exclusives of 2019 for Sony’s PS4 console. It’s positively massive, boasting 40+ hours of gameplay across a vast world that aims to tell a brave, impactful story.
It’s also weird and wonderful in the ways you’d expect from the minds behind Metal Gear Solid, surprising at every corner with a mixture of compelling characters and truly unpredictable gameplay mechanics. It’s a bit overwhelming at first, so Trusted Reviews has put together a set of essential tips and tricks to help you conquer Death Stranding.
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1 – Always be aware of your surroundings
Traversing the plains of open-world games is normally a matter of moving forward until you reach your destination, occasionally stopping upon the way to pillage loot or duke it out with some enemies. The act of movement is trivial, the ground seldom proving to be an obstacle that stops adventurers dead in their tracks. Death Stranding is a very different beast in this regard.
Every step is a challenge, with the battered and broken roads of America fraught with jagged scenery and impasses that challenge Sam ‘Porter’ Bridges at every turn. You need to hold both shoulder buttons to maintain your balance, changing things up accordingly depending on whether you’re hiking up a steep hill and falling praciously down a slope. Slip up, and Sam will come tumbling down with all his cargo in tow.
Because of this wild unpredictability, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings at all times, a feat made easier by making frequent use of Sam’s scanner. The danger of terrain is made clear by a variety of colours – red being the most precarious. If you’re carrying cargo you wish to remain unharmed, avoid these areas entirely while on missions. Travelling with a vehicle is equally as dangerous, with dodgy terrain stopping most means of transportation in their tracks if you’re careless. What we’re saying is don’t go driving a massive truck up a mountain.
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2 – Know your enemy
You’ll encounter a range of different foes throughout Death Stranding, all of which can be dealt with in their own unique way. MULES are rogue porters who’ve abandoned the trade, choosing instead to pillage any unfortunate souls who happen to pass by. These pesky buggers will be alerted to your presence the second you’re within range of their scanners, so take advantage of tall grass to stay hidden, or roar through a fast vehicle to leave them in your dust.
Or, you could sneak into their camps, pinching all their stolen resources for yourself. Be warned, this option isn’t without risks. MULES aren’t going to kill you, but they will leave you unconscious without a penny to your name if you’re caught. BTs are far more dangerous – ghostly spectres who can drag poor Sam into the afterlife if he fails to escape. Hold your breath when prompted, and cut umbilical cords to send them packing to the afterlife. Yes, I’m very aware of how strange that sounds.
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3 – Prepare for each delivery in advance
After accepting each mission you’ll be taken to a screen to both arrange the layout of your cargo and fabricate any equipment you might need during the excursion. During my playthrough I often found myself ignoring the second option, assuming I’d be right as rain with the limited resources already in my inventory. Turns out I was wrong. Incredibly wrong judging by the hours it took me to climb a mountain without the correct equipment.
Don’t be like me. Depending on the mission you’re embarking on, fabricating items you know will be necessary. Grappling hooks and ladders will be essential when navigating cliff sides or rivers, while smoke grenades and non-lethal firearms might be needed if you’re planning to encroach on MULE territory. There’s a time and place for everything in Death Stranding, which is what makes its mechanics so compelling to experiment with.
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4 – Embrace the online features and help out other players
Everyone and everything in Death Stranding is connected. This theme is not only prevalent in the narrative, but also plays a massive part in moment-to-moment gameplay. After connecting each region to the chiral network, they will fill with signs, buildings and other creations left behind by other players – all of which can be used at your leisure.
I’ll never forget the countless ladders and grappling hooks left behind by ‘CaptainDongs’ during my initial playthrough, helping me through an abundance of tight spots during deliveries.The same can be said for vehicles. The feeling of satisfaction that comes with finding a stranded vehicle amidst a rainstorm to drive you to safety is immense – and it’s a euphoric reaction you can give to other porters, too.
Whenever you use a ladder, grappling hook or abandon a vehicle on your mission it can be used by another player in their world, potentially helping them out of a scrape. If that’s the case, they’ll reward you with likes – the currency that defines Death Stranding.
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5 – Rest up in Sam’s private room
In each major settlement you can retire to Sam’s private room – a place where you can restore stamina, let your bridge baby rest and even have a cheeky little rest. It’s essentially a Norman Reedus tamagotchi where you can shower our protagonist and even make him use the toilet – the products of which are turned into grenades for use in battle.
Be sure to use the mirror, where you can force Sam to make a variety of weird expressions while taking screenshots of him. It’s exceptionally weird, and exactly what we’d expect from Hideo Kojima. Oh, and there’s also a terminal for reading emails, catching up on journal entries and soaking in every tidbit of lore Death Stranding has to offer.
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6 – Play at your own pace
Death Stranding is a long game – with my initial playthrough clocking in at roughly 45 hours, and that’s largely ignoring optional deliveries and additional exploration outside of the main narrative. After Chapter 3, I mainlined the campaign and didn’t look back, occasionally stopping to soak in the frequently gorgeous sights. With the power of hindsight, I do wish I stopped to smell the roses more often – a tip I’d pass onto anyone hoping to dive into Kojima Production’s debut project.
I wouldn’t feel pressured to run through the narrative, since there’s no penalty for stopping to complete side quests and explore each region to your heart’s content – whether you’re keen to level up porters or simply find hidden collectibles dotted across the landscape. On the flipside, once the campaign has wrapped up you’ll be dropped into the world and free to do whatever you like. With the exception of linear, story-driven segments – Death Stranding accomodates you when it comes to pacing and progression.
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7 – Try to avoid killing people
I didn’t touch a gun for the first 12 hours of Death Stranding, encouraged to deal with adversaries in non-lethal means or avoid them altogether if I could, and it always felt right. Death in the world of Death Stranding comes with significant consequences. If a corpse isn’t cremated, it will inevitable cause a ‘Void-Out’ of almost nuclear proportions. This will populate the area with BTs, making return adventures more treachorous than ever before.
That, and the world is dark enough already, and it feels like the non-lethal ways of taking down foes are far more plentiful than your usual assortment of grenades and assault rifles. Whenever I encountered a terorrist cell or infiltrated a MULE encampment, I’d knock them unconscious, steal whatever wasn’t nailed down and move on with my day. No bloodshed, since in my head Sam isn’t a killer, but simply a man trying to stay alive in a twisted society.