America is broken and it is up to you to reclaim it. This is a tall order. Many people believe this, but you are not sure that you do. Many lonely, dangerous walks and extremely heavy lifting will be required and it is not clear what America means in the first place. For some reason you went anyway, traveling through wetlands and rocky hills on foot without knowing fully or understanding where you were going. Besides the monsters you can't quite see, there is virtually no one else most of the time – just you and your thoughts, one foot in front of the other.
On one level, the Deadly Thread is for America. But your real goal in establishing yourself all over the country is to help people, unite them and build relationships, not because of the vague concept of America, but because of the help of the people in it. Death Death is relentless in its zeal and optimism ̵
Hands Across America
Rebuilding a country is as simple as getting to every faraway city, outpost, and individual in one network, the bones of which were laid by a pseudo-governmental organization called Bridges. Like Sam Porter Bridges (played by Norman Reedus), all you have to do to win people is bring them packages; most people never go out because of mysterious monsters called BTs, but unlike most people, Sam can sense them enough to sneak past them and take important cargo to their destination.
Deliveries can be difficult. You are rated for your deliveries in several categories, but the condition of the cargo can lead or break, and many factors work against you. Landscapes can be extremely punitive, from expanses of exhausting rocky hills to rivers that are too deep and wide to cross without assistance. In addition to BTs, you also have to contend with Timefall, a type of rain that quickly accelerates aging and worsens most of the things it touches. Prolonged exposure to Timefall can damage or completely ruin your load, as it can slip and fall, be hit by an enemy, or in some cases just be too rough with it. Even the smallest rocks can pass you by. In order to keep your footsteps, you need to pay close attention to where you step, keeping your balance with the triggers while on rough terrain or when carrying many things.
However, once you reach your destination, you are filled with praise. The recipient will probably thank you for your face (albeit as a hologram), and then give you a series of likes on social media. You are inundated with a multi-page results screen that lists all the likes you received for delivery and in what categories, plus an overall rating for the delivery itself, no matter how small – a positive gain up to 11. These likes after do this funnel in each of the delivery categories as experience points and while leveling up you can carry more weight or better maintain your balance among other benefits. Supplies also fit in with each city, post or person, and as this increases, you get better equipment and sometimes gifts to reward your efforts.
In short, you give a lot and you get a lot in return, There is a relatively small number of mandatory deliveries to advance the story, but at first glance there are an unlimited number of optional deliveries and I often find myself picking up orders for every place I am at way. This is a cycle that is easy to sweep; no matter how difficult the delivery or how far, you will at least be greeted with gratitude, you will probably feel fulfilled by completing a difficult delivery and you will often be provided with the tool to make future deliveries a little easier. Most importantly, however, growing your relationships with people is how to get them online, and networking is what elevates this basic cycle beyond simply satisfyingly fulfilling tasks and receiving rewards.
The Chiral Network is a kind of rundown internet that allows you to print 3D objects, which is incredibly useful and a powerful incentive in itself. When you are at a terminal connected to the chiral network, you can print ladders and ropes for passage, new boots while yours is worn, repair spray for damaged containers and generally anything else you need to safely deliver cargo as long as you have a plan for it. You can also print a portable printer that builds structures for you in open areas covered by the network – things like bridges, towers and generators, the last of which are crucial when you start using exoskeletons and battery-powered vehicles.  The Chiral Network also gives you access to the online component of the game, which is absolutely mandatory. You never see other players in the flesh, but their impact is all around you; Once an area is online, you can see structures and objects left by other players during their own journeys, as well as useful characters that are put only for those who come after them. You can take the lost cargo of someone else and deliver it to them, knowing that someone else can find yours at one time and make you the same courtesy.
In the best moments of Death Stranding, the relief and gratitude you can feel for someone you don't even know is an unparalleled multiplayer experience. At one point in my game, I was chased by MANY, human enemies who love to steal loads. I was on a time-laden motor, sensitive delivery, almost battery-free, and completely outfitted to deal with external threats. In a panic I drove my bike into the ravine. As I slowly made my way up and out, I watched my motorcycle battery sink into the red and was afraid to clog with all my load and without a vehicle, still quite far from my destination. I turned and found myself in the charging zone of a generator set up by another player, as if they knew I would need it in the right place at that moment. They probably just put it there because they need a quick charge, but for me it was a lifeline.
You can give and receive likes for these player and player structures, as with standard deliveries, it is a strong incentive to do something useful for someone else. In the earlier sections of the game, I used other people's structures much more than leaving help to others. But I wanted to pay it forward and know that my help was being valued, so I started going out of my way to build structures that I didn't really need myself; the map shows the online structures in your case, making it easy to find areas you can fill in for others. At first, the likes system seems like a pretty obvious comment on social media and our dependence on external validation. But this is not as much criticism as the positive rotation of a very human need for acceptance, and the system does a remarkable job of urging you to do your best for those around you, NPCs and real people. Feeling that you are truly appreciated can be a rare occurrence in life and this is powerful in its simplicity here.
The Super BB Method
The first few hours of the game are the slowest and most of it is because I don't have access to the online component right away. This is an incredibly lonely period of time where you mostly just walk; The work you do early is especially laborious in the absence of sophisticated gear and serves to give you an appreciation for other players and better gear when moving forward.
As the game opens, you continue to get a lot of storytelling with almost no explanation. At first, everything may seem kind of disgusting and you can get lost in the metaphors; each city that you have to add to the chiral network, for example, has a "node" in its name, and they are all called "nodes" of a strand that connects the country. There are strange and unjustified product positions in the form of Monster Energy drinks and the Ride with Norman Reedus show. Guillermo del Toro's resemblance is used to a sort of somber character called Deadman, and has a woman named Fragile in a package delivery game.
But the story really goes deeper than that. In line with the theme of human connection, each of the main characters you meet and work with has its own story. They all have a unique perspective on death, which gives them an equally unique perspective on the lives and intersections of their characters, to the true origin of their often literal names, contributes to the overall tapestry of Strandji's death on human experience. As they open to Sam, Sam opens himself to them, turning into a distinctive character in himself from the reserved, emotionless man he looks like in the beginning. I grew to love Sam, Brittle and Sardman especially, and even characters I didn't like contribute to the overall message of the game about hope and love in the face of adversity.
So far, my favorite character – and the most important one – is BB. BBs are babies in pods that can detect the presence of BTs and are released on media like Sam's to help them navigate dangerous territory. They tell you to treat BBs as equipment, not real babies, but it's impossible to think of BBs. She's full of personality, she giggles when she's happy and cries when she's stressed; even gives you likes from time to time. Not many kids are left in the isolated, cowardly world of Death Stranding, but BB is your reminder that the future relies on you, no matter how you feel about America itself. The love that grows between Sam and BB is nothing but heartfelt.
Connecting to this story, as well as connecting with NPCs and other players, can take some work. This is not a story that immediately clicks at a superficial level, and dramatic mystery and science outside the wall don't make much sense at first. But this is an emotional story in the first place, and making sense of things – though quite possible, especially if you read letters and interviews detailing small bits of erudition – is not as important as thinking about how it makes you feel.
You have many options for this. In the quiet moments of the trip, usually when you are near your destination, the music can start playing. The soundtrack, which largely consists of one group – Low Roar – is phenomenal, the kind of contemplative folk music that is suitable for traveling across a meadow or mountain. Because the act of walking is so involved, it is not time to completely separate and zonate out; it's time to feel your feelings, or at least think about what's next in your travels.
Fight But Not To Death
You can be pulled out of this head space immediately, though by moving to the haunting music that signals BT territory. BT's alien growls when they close can be terrifying, and in the beginning your best bet is to freeze in your tracks and hold your breath for as long as you can so you can easily get past them. But there are times when you have to fight BT in its true form and for that you have specialized weapons to bring them down. These BTs are not etheric humanoid forms floating above the earth, but huge eldritch horrors that creak under clouds of blood. The battle is mechanically simple – most of all you have to move a bit and hit them before they hit you – but the sequences are visually and audibly held back.
You don't get a gun that works on living enemies for up to 25 hours or so, but even then, it's non-lethal. You are actively trying not to kill in Death by Death, because when people die, their bodies essentially go to nuclear cities and level cities, leaving nothing but craters and BT behind. On top of that, the main human enemies are MULE, ex-janitors, like Sam, who have been corrupted by an automated world – essentially addicted to grabbing loads in their desperation to have a job and a goal as more and more people are replaced by machines. They are not evil and killing them seems like, well, overkill; it's easy enough to knock them out with non-flying methods that you keep unlocking as the game progresses. I have not killed any in my game, although their punching is satisfying.
While BT and MULE are a problem with cargo delivery, there is also the character of Mads Mikkelsen, a man who is introduced through memories Sam sees when connecting to the pod on BB. It gets its own specialized segments that set hours of simple deliveries, and these heavily contained, much shorter sections are striking in their artistic direction and juxtaposition with the rest of the game. It is not immediately clear what he is, whether he is an enemy, a potential friend, or something else, but he captivates his ambiguity.
The most cartoonish enemy is Higgs Troy Baker, a terrorist whose corruption does not seem to know any boundaries. Of all the characters, Higgs is the weakest, with far less nuance to him than any other cast member. He really is just like a big bad to motivate you in the more traditional sense of video games than delivering packages and helping people, but he and his group of impersonal terrorists are more a means of achievement than true villains. He is the catalyst for some of the biggest battles for BT and, after all, perhaps a final reminder that it is possible to remain hopeful even when things are darkest.
Death Stranding argues, both in its history and in its game, that adversity itself is what makes things worth doing and life worth living.
Death Stranding is a difficult game to learn. His plot has many intertwined themes and silly names, banal moments and heavy exposure are considered otherwise a very simple message. This becomes much clearer in the more mundane moments of the game when you find a desperately needed ladder left by another player or receive a letter from NPC thanking you for your efforts. It is positive without neglecting the pain; in fact, he argues, both in his story and in his game, that the downside is what makes things worth doing and life worth living. This is a game that requires patience, compassion and love and it is also one that we really need right now.