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Death Stranding: How Connections Save Us

With the package on his back and the quiet BB strapped to the front of his stomach, our hero, Sam Strand, braves the wilderness of a world long since destroyed. Each step is met with the uneven pavement of rock and stone. Pushing through the river, the BB cries from fear, and when he finally reaches the other side, it begins to rain.

Timefall. It ages you. Ages anything it touches, including the packages on your back. Sam quickens his steps hoping to be out of the rain before his packages become inert, useless. Luckily he has some repair spray on his shoulder, but it, too, is breaking down in the rain. Suddenly,  The Odradek comes to life and spins widely. BTs are near, looking like black dust particles. They come into view as you grow close, and if caught, they pull you down, and a boss fight ensues. Sam stays low and quiet, holding his breath, passing each BT, and traversing his way across the mountainscape.

As you free yourself, the terrain opens, and music plays. The melancholy lyrics of Low Roars Patience come over the scenery and fills you with certain peacefulness. The song finally ends when you reach your destination, a survivor out in the wild who is cut off from the rest of civilization. Sam delivers their package and puts them into the Strand connecting them to the rest of America.

A Game Of Connection

The themes of Death Stranding are simple, connection. The ties bind us, humans, to each other and those we love. Elements of the game, from its story to gameplay, are bound by a unifying idea – that of the “strand” or connection. Kojima, the game’s creator, believes that humans have constructed “walls” between themselves and have grown accustomed to isolation. He hopes that in playing Death Stranding, players come to form new bonds with other players around the globe and that they come to understand the importance of forging new connections with others.

The games asynchronous multiplayer, named the Social Strand System, enables online players across the world to indirectly help one another. Roads, bridges, and safe houses can be built across the Social Strand System, and players may contribute to the construction of such structures. The paths walked by other players across the Social Strand System may be observed and traversed to reach destinations. Well-trodden paths will smooth over in time, allowing faster travel down them. Players in their travels may use helpful structures, vehicles, equipment, and signs of other Sams. 

A Connection Of Music

As I stated in my opening, you, Sam Strand, travel across the wild of America. It’s sometimes sad and quiet, and when the silence becomes deafening, music adds wonder to your adventure. It makes traversing the mountains or, later in the game, the snowy mountains even more wonderous and pleasant.

The official soundtrack of Death Stranding is composed by Ludvig Foressell, who worked with Kojima on Metal Gear Solid V. The soundtrack is comprised of several original tracks and music created by artists such as CHVRCHES, Khalid, Major Lazer, and more. The game opens with the first mission traveling to the song I’ll Keep Coming by Low Roar, which is just one of many songs planted through the game.

Connected To Action

Though players have melee combat and firearms to deal with enemies, lethal violence against living enemies is not encouraged. Killing an enemy will cause a Voidout where everything within ten miles dies. It’s like an atomic bomb goes off. Players can incapacitate or restrain enemies or attempt to circumvent them entirely and may run, jump, crouch, walk, or use vehicles to navigate the world.

As the game progresses, more weapons open up to you, such as many non-lethals, which come in handy fighting MULES (people who lost their minds and hunt packages). By the game’s end, I had machine guns, shotguns, and even a rocket launcher.

Connected To The Boss And Story

Every villain in the game has some connection between the main character and the story. Kojima weaves a unique and fantastic story being, a master storyteller who knows from his days of making Metal Gear Solid how to create impressive out-there villains like the one pictured below who is your main protagonist for most of the game, who not only looks fantastic but as usual has an interesting name.

Homo Demens is his name, and he has only one function, as it appears for the first few hours of the game: to cause chaos.

Every character you meet, most played by a famous actor or actress, is well thought out and conceived. Each one conveys a strong back story of their life as you proceed to do missions for them. For example, a character who goes by the moniker of Mama was pregnant when a bomb exploded and killed her baby. Now, said baby is a BT connected to her by an invisible umbilical cord she doesn’t want to let go of. It’s just one of many out there, but still compassionate explanations each character gives you—a single part of a larger whole that makes up your journey to restore and connect America.

“Once, There Was An Explosion, A Bang Which Gave Rise To Life As We Know It. And Then Came The Next Explosion.”

Death Stranding

A key theme in the game and its namesake concept is cetacean stranding – the phenomenon of cetaceans stranding themselves ashore. The event is more encompassing in Death Stranding than in reality; however, several other forms of marine life are stranded on the beach, including Crustaceans and fish.

The Death Stranding began when the beach, the world between the afterlife and the physical world of the living, became entangled with the living world. Immediately following the Death Stranding, the soul (termed the ‘Ka’) of any human who dies remains tethered to the body (termed the Ha.) This connection results in the soul attempting to reunite with the body, causing the body to necrotize as it is infiltrated by matter from the other side. BTs are beings from the other side who have become ‘stranded’ in the living world.

It is the end of all things. It is the end.

Connections Solidified

The game came out at a time when we, as people, were less connected to one another. Covid had trampled on our lives, and we turned against one another. The game sought a world where we need each other, where connections are as meaningful as the air we breathe. Genuine human connections are the one thing that can save us, and this is what the game puts forward. Between all the action and package delivery, the game shows us people wanting and needing connection.

Check out if you haven’t played it or seen the game in action. You will not be disappointed.

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