Trying to find answers in a world of questions.
E3 has come and gone once again, and we’ve been left with a lot of things to discuss. However, there is one title which stood out to me amidst all the rest: Kojima Productions’ Death Stranding.
The trailer opened with a baby’s head emerging from Sam, played by Norman Reedus. That doesn’t seem like something Hideo Kojima would do *he writes sarcastically*. The scene cuts, and we see the character, take centre-stage.
Sam has something called the “extinction factor”. We have no idea what this is, but it sounds pretty serious, to the extent that he says, “You’ve got me beat.” A female voice asks him, “You can see them, right?”, to which he replies, “No, but I can sense ’em”. We don’t know what “them” refers to, but this is quite clearly foreshadowing the presence of something which is not quite human. Sam goes on to say, “I make deliveries – that’s all”. We don’t know what it is that he’s delivering, but he seems determined to complete his task.
We then get a montage which displays the game’s massive and beautiful world, which is vibrant and in bloom. The montage is accompanied by “Asylums for the Feeling”, a song performed by Silent Poets. The song is a perfectly fitting, creating an atmosphere that which emphasises the huge scale of the world, yet does so quietly.
We see clips of Sam carrying a mysterious backpack across difficult terrain. Sam has extra packages attached to his backpack, which seem to contain what he’s delivering.
The scene cuts to Sam bathing. So far, the trailer seems committed to pulsating between the microcosmic and the macrocosmic, the individual and the world they inhabit. In this scene, Sam is pretty badly beaten up, yet he is calm and still.
As per the trend that has emerged, we move on to see the first evidence of past civilisation in this world, as Sam walks through a setting which resembles the Metal Ruins of Horizon: Zero Dawn. This creates a stark juxtaposition between man-made ruins and wild nature, with the latter prevailing. Death Stranding uses the same Decima engine as Horizon, and quite clearly took inspiration from its aesthetic.
We go back to Sam again, witnessing a visceral scene in which he removes a toenail from his visibly diseased foot. So far, every scene has only increased the overall obfuscation of what is going on here. As if sensing the audience’s confusion, the trailer offers its first of several messages:
Give me your hand in life
We see a mysterious tattoo on Sam’s hand. It has been visible in other scenes, but now it’s the focus of the shot. My guess is that Sam is part of a group of solitary wanderers, making deliveries in a world dominated by the “them” to which the female voice at the start of the trailer referred.
Now, the trailer gets intense. Sam is in a cave, when all of a sudden he hears something. Huge footprints mark the ground, yet there is no visible body attached to them. A woman grabs Sam’s mouth from behind and they both hold their breath. It seems that the lack of visibility goes two ways here – by staying still and silent, they aren’t sensed. Apparently, the creature clearly relies on senses other than sight, and that the ability for it to recognise their presence is equal to the ability for them to recognise its.
The creature moves towards the package, which now seems to be substantially more significant than before. Perhaps this delivery contains something related to a fight for humanity in a lost world – this idea has traction, especially when you consider the presence of the baby at the start of the trailer. The creature leaves, and the woman exhales, shedding a tear. It has started to rain. Another message:
Give me your hand in death
Sam holds what looks like a family photograph in his hand. The woman speaks to him, saying:
“The time-fold fast forwards whatever it touches, but it can’t wash everything away. The past just won’t let go”. Clearly, there is an element of time-manipulation at play – perhaps a different dimension exists, but only remains to exist if the people making deliveries continue to do so. Then, another message:
Give me your hand in flesh
Sam is in a derelict building. He speaks with someone at the other end of a radio, saying “my status is f*cked”. The man warns him that he needs to get out of there. He adds, “You’ll go back, sure – but the surrounding area will still be a crater!” This adds traction to the theory behind the time-manipulation, suggesting that the fate of this are in the safe dimension relies on the completion of Sam’s task here. He announces that he has an idea, and proceeds to turn on a sort of pod from his package. There is a baby in the pod – a direct reference back to the first scene of the trailer. A unique, light-emitting gadget with some sort of fan-like pincher tech emerges from the shoulder of his suit, and Sam goes out to into the pouring rain.
The gadget reveals dark spectres floating in the air, yet they don’t seem to resemble whatever creature appeared in the cave earlier. Sam proceeds with caution, slowly creeping along a path away from the building. He is ambushed by a spectre, and is pulled through the ground into something resembling an organic blackness.
The screen cuts to black, and a huge “DEATH STRANDING” appears across it. The sound of a baby crying can be heard. This game really seems to be about life, death, and some sort of resolution between the two.
The woman from the cave appears on screen, eating something that looks like a slug. She says, “A crypto-byatt(?) a day, keeps the time-fold away”. It is unclear what her purpose in the lost, spectre-haunted world is, but she is quite clearly adamant about staying there.
A different woman appears on screen, and speaks to the player directly. She asks, “You still don’t know who I am, do you?” She turns around, and her face is emphasise. The music changes, highlighting that this is quite a significant development, yet to the E3 trailer viewer, the significance can’t be understood.
The trailer concludes with a final message:
Give me your hand in spirit
No release date is given. All that we are left with is as follows:
Death Stranding features a post-apocalyptic world, dominated by invisible beings. Man-made structures are in ruins, yet nature blooms beautifully. There seems to be an almost entire lack of human presence, apart from the select few who make deliveries. The packages delivered contain babies in a sort of plasma fluid, and they seem to be essential to the safety of humanity’s continued existence at the other end of the time-fold. Sam has a family, yet he is here, alone in a desolate world, fully-focused on the task at hand. This will be a dark and solitary experience, but if the trailer is anything to go by, it will be deeply human.