Two years ago at the E3 2016, Hideo Kojima came on stage during the Sony PlayStation press conference and blew the minds of gamers everywhere with the announcement that he was working on a new game called Death Stranding, a new IP that would be exclusive to the PS4. Fast forward two years and one might think that players would have a lot more information about that game, right? But with the release of a new trailer, teases, and now an extended gameplay showcase, it seems that Death Stranding remains an enigma wrapped in a mystery.
But the new Death Stranding video from E3 2018 does offer up some hints about what players can expect. It shows a sneak peek at gameplay and displays the stunning visuals of the setting of the world within which the game exists. It also introduced a few new characters and important core concepts.
At this stage, everything that follows is merely speculation, as Kojima has not confirmed further details about the trailer or what it all means. There is still no release date for the title, which means that it is still very much a work in progress.
What We Know So Far About Death Stranding
Here's what players know about Death Stranding so far: it features an all-star cast including Norman Reedus, Mads Mikkelsen, Léa Seydoux, and Lindsay Wagner as the lead characters, their performances done through motion capture. Guillermo del Toro also appears somewhere in the game as a character. The game takes place in an open world environment. The story has something to do with the connection between life and death. One of the themes finds inspiration from a short story by Kōbō Abe that focuses on mankind's use of sticks (as the first weapons humans ever used) and ropes (which can bind things together).
Although that seems like a lot of information, it's rather abstract and still very little to go on. Kojima has held the abstract nature of the game's premise very close to his chest and each Death Stranding trailer or teaser image she shares on social media seems to only offer up the barest of details to fill gamers in on what they can expect.
A previous Death Stranding trailer actually referred to the big bang that created the universe, as well as time and space. Then it suggested that there was a future similar event, one that also affected time and space. This is possibly the first big hint about the game's overall plot and even an element that could make gameplay rather unique.
Now, let's break the E3 trailer down scene by scene:
The Importance of Chirality to the Deliveryman
The E3 trailer starts with a baby's butt in what seems a womb. The baby flips over and we see its face as it sucks on its thumb. Death Stranding is about life and death, after all, so this represents life, or more specifically, the birth of life. A voiceover follows with a woman's voice saying the name of Reedus' character, Sam Porter Bridges. Then she calls him "the man who delivers." Then she mentions tears, but also "chiral allergies."
That's an interesting use of the word "chiral." In chemistry, chirality refers to the geometric properties of some molecules. Molecules that are "chiral" are not superimposable on their mirror images. This could suggest that the game deals with alternate universes, or more specifically, alternate timelines, where people called "DOOMS" (as referenced in the next part of the voiceover) are not entirely like themselves from other timelines.
Then the voice asks Sam what his level is. He tells her that he has the extinction factor. They begin talking about something that he can't see, but sense (creatures called "timefall" that appear later in the trailer). He reaches for a photo that has fallen on the ground, a photo of him, a woman and a child. This is his family: he has somehow become separated from them. When asked if he wants to work for the woman, he tells her that he can't help her and that he just makes deliveries.
But what does he deliver? It seems that whatever it is, he traverses this world's landscape with it strapped to his back. This is where the trailer reveals some of the game's setting and shows off the open world exploration options. This is possibly not just insight into the game's main mission, but also side missions where Sam gets tasked with delivering supplies, among other things, to people who live all over this world. During this sequence, Sam sits in a shower, tired from his exertions. Then we see him carrying a body on his back, perhaps alluding to the game's references to death. The trailer showcases mountain landscapes, rolling hills, elaborate waterfalls and even a devastated city.
Exploration and the Timefall in Death Stranding
This sequence is from actual gameplay. There is a lot of walking and exploration, but there is also climbing, walking through deep water and figuring out how to get from point A to point B without causing Sam to fall to his death (if he can even really die, but more on that later).
But then the words "give me your hand in life" appear on the screen. Remember the "chiral allergies" mentioned before? Oddly enough, it seems that Sam has an allergy to something because his body suddenly appears to develop a rash that spreads up his arm and across his neck and chest. And that is what he meant when he mentioned that he "sensed" the creatures when they appear because shortly after the rash appears, hand prints start showing up on the ground near him, invisible creatures that are very dangerous. The mysterious woman turns up again and demonstrates that being quiet is key to not getting attacked.
That's another hint about the gameplay of Death Stranding: anyone who has ever played a Metal Gear Solid game understands the importance of stealth. And it seems that in Death Stranding too, stealth is very important. The two even cover their mouths so that the creature cannot hear them breathing.
Once they are clear of the creature, the mysterious woman tells Sam to take care when going into town because "the timefall fast-forwards whatever it touches." This is another hint that the game has elements of time travel and alternate timelines. When she says this, Sam stares at the photo of his family, suggesting that the timefall had something to do with him becoming separated from them. He's in an alternate timeline or possibly even in a future where his family doesn't exist. But she also mentions that the "past just won't let go." Does this mean that there is a way back and that he need only find it? Is this the true meaning behind his exploration of the world?
There is No True Death in Death Stranding, Only a Timeline Reset
The scene shifts again and someone on comms is asking Sam what his status is. "Chiralium density is still increasing," the voice informs him. There's that word again, and at this point, it's likely that these creatures are the result of whatever caused a disruption in space and time (or they are the disruption) and that they somehow create alternate timelines where people aren't entirely the same as they are in other timelines (they don't match their mirror images).
Sam is surrounded by the creatures. "Sam, if one of those things eats you, it will trigger a void out." This is another hint about how gameplay will work. "You'll come back sure, but the surrounding area will still be a crater." Again, this suggests that Sam won't die if the creatures take him down, but that he might come back in a slightly altered timeline. He then activates his suit and a baby in a jar, which seems to offer a source of power for what he will use to deter the creatures. It's not clear if he's had this baby with him all along, but it does suggest that this child could somehow be the key in defeating the creatures and restoring the timeline. Also notice that there is an umbilical cord attaching the baby's jar to the suit (remember that concept of ropes mentioned earlier?).
Sam's Ultimate Goal in Death Stranding
Also, is the baby the extinction factor? If so, that probably makes it important in Sam figuring out how to get back to his family and the correct timeline or reality from which he originally came.
Sam then goes out into the world surrounded by the creatures and his plan does deter them, but eventually he becomes surrounded and they take him into their black foggy void. This is where the trailer ends, but with the previous hints, it looks like he doesn't die, but comes back to a world that is slightly altered from the one he previously existed in. At the very end of the trailer, the woman appears again and says "a cryptobiote a day keeps the timefall away." This is obviously some sort of item (well, insect) that Sam will need to collect and buy to protect himself from the timefall throughout his journey.
Then another woman's voice says, "You're too late. You still don't know who I am, do you?" When Sam asks who she is, we see her from behind, but then she turns around and the face that he sees is that of the woman in the photo he carries, probably his wife.
So although the trailer seemed not to show much, there are a still lot of key elements of gameplay here that players can take away from it. There is no death, only resurrection in a world that is different from the previous one. Sam's goal is to get back to a family that perhaps still exist in an alternate version of reality or the past. The baby in the jar is probably the key to helping Sam get back to the world that he originally came from. The game will feature a lot of exploration and possibly a variety of side delivery missions.
Kojima loves abstract symbols and has already littered previous Death Stranding trailers and posters with them, but at this point, it is safe to surmise that this game's main theme is probably about alternate timelines and/or time travel.