Death Stranding: Beginner’s Tips And Tricks

Death Stranding is a difficult game to describe, to the point where Hideo Kojima apparently had to invent his own genre, “strand game,” to properly label his latest work. Even the games that are like it aren’t even close in terms of sheer weirdness. It’s an interesting approach to the genre, and even if it seems silly.

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It might gain its weight in retrospect, but Death Stranding’s impact on the gaming industry has been significant, if not bizarre. It’s a game clouded in mystery despite its extensive marketing, which arguably only makes it all the more appealing. That said, Death Stranding is a long journey that demands commitment, and some details would’ve been nice to know beforehand.

Updated on September 8, 2022, by Sam Reaves: Death Stranding continues to stand against the test of time with an annual resurgence in popularity and access. The base version of Death Stranding was recently added to Game Pass for PC, with the Director’s Cut being available on Playstation Plus Premium. There are plenty of new ways to play, and that means new players are constantly getting access to Kojima’s latest project. Death Stranding is a game unlike any other, so it is worth trying to set healthy expectations for what could be one of the greatest experiences in the past few years. Let’s take a look at what sets Death Stranding apart and some tips and tricks for new or returning players.


20 It’s All About Inventory Management

While Death Stranding is a walking simulator of sorts, new players might be surprised to find out it’s just as much of an inventory management sim as it is about walking. Whether it’s on Sam Bridges’ back, on his Reverse Trike, or even on the Floating Carriers he can use, you’re going to be micromanaging your Cargo quite often in Death Stranding.

Even more so than that, while fighting MULEs and all the different BTs throughout Death Strandings campaign, you’re going to be switching items constantly, swapping between different ammo types, picking up items on the ground as Sam runs by, and much more. There is no aspect of Death Stranding’s gameplay that isn’t somewhat associated with managing menus, and that might rub some people the wrong way.

19 The First Chunk Of This Game Is A Slog

The marketing was pretty upfront about Death Stranding being a slower game, but given how AAA it looks on a surface level, some players may have misunderstood just how slow Death Stranding would be. But, for those familiar with any of Kojima’s modern games like Metal Gear Solid 4 and Phantom Pain, this slow start was probably expected. Even PT (which makes a “cameo” of sorts in the Director’s Cut) starts out slow, and that was just a proof of concept.

In any case, those first few hours are incredibly slow, dragging at a snail’s pace while also introducing five or more concepts you couldn’t possibly understand quite so early on, such as repatriates and Chiralium. But it’s not boring. Far from it. If anything, these opening hours are some of Death Stranding’s strongest moments for those that allow themselves a chance to immerse in a desolate America. Big-budget games never open this delicately, but it’s a refreshing change of pace and one that benefits Death Stranding in the long run.

18 Episodes One Through Three Are Much Longer Than The Rest

Death Stranding is ultimately composed of 14 episodes, but those first three episodes are incredibly long — arguably to a fault. Episodes Two and Three, in particular, eat up a lot of time. For those who just want to get into the gameplay right away, that’s a good thing. These two episodes help ease audiences into the gameplay loop slowly.

Narratively, though, get ready to move at a crawl. The story is genuinely engaging and Kojima’s storytelling is more in line with the earlier MGS games than the later ones, but these two episodes are slow burns. From Episode Four onwards, however, Death Stranding starts to move at a brisker pace.

17 Sam Learns To Fight Back… Eventually

Death Stranding had a lot of marketing, but it kept some details obscure. For those who didn’t know where to look, whether or not the game actually had combat of any kind was a main concern. Kojima himself kept quiet as well, showing much less action footage than usual. Going into Death Stranding, it’s not unreasonable to assume it’ll be a pacifistic stealth-esque game. But that doesn’t quite sell the full picture.

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Sam can fight back later in the game, albeit not to the same degree as many other games you might be used to. He has his fists early on to engage with MULEs, but guns and grenades end up rounding out his roster to make him a proper action character. That said, the game still heavily pushes you towards non-lethal combat, given the constant risk of void out, but you can go in guns blazing if you so desire, just know that it requires a lot of clean up afterward.

16 MULEs Aren’t As Scary As They Seem

Death Stranding presents its enemies as madmen that’ll severely punish you for being caught. MULEs can be overwhelming in packs, but more often than not, they’ll rush Sam in pairs or even one at a time. And even when they catch him, they just take his cargo and throw him outside their camp. Not just that, their AI doesn’t always behave in the most strategically sound ways, either.

With Sam’s strand, (a rope he carries to use in close combat) it’s incredibly easy to counter any attack and dispatch foes. Even without the strand, you can throw items at MULEs to knock them out, use a variety of gadgets, drive through the camp in a Reverse Trike running them all over, or even tase them unconscious with the Maser Gun.

15 There’s A Laundry List Of Hidden Mechanics

As with any game made by Hideo Kojima, Death Stranding has an absurd amount of untold or just outright hidden mechanics in it that allow you to use items or features in completely new ways. If Death Stranding is your first Kojima game, we can easily excuse not figuring these out, but any Metal Gear fan knows that Kojima games sort of give you a big toybox of tools to mess around with, and it’s up to you to figure out all the different ways you can play with each toy. Just to name a few examples:

These are just a few of the, no exaggeration, hundreds of little extra things you can do in Death Stranding, and the Director’s Cut only added more to that list.

14 Most Of The New Director’s Cut Content Have Untold Gimmicks As Well

Speaking of hidden mechanics, the Director’s Cut added a bunch of new ones that weren’t directly advertised in the trailers and so on. For example:

  • You can ride on your Buddy Bot, and it basically works like an “auto-run” or taxi feature, but be careful, they don’t exactly stray away from BTs.
  • Level 3 Stabilizers for your backpack were added into the game, and they function like a jetpack that can only descend, not ascend. Basically, it helps you fall slower and farther. But, if used correctly, you can literally glide across entire areas of the map with no risk of danger.
  • Oddly enough, this wasn’t advertised in the trailers much, but the new ramps you can build for vehicles also allow Sam to perform Mario Kart-esque tricks, but only on the Trikes.
  • And lastly, almost no one has seemed to figure out that the new Support Skeleton frame for Sam has a solar battery, unlike most of the other Frames, stopping Sam from getting stuck in the middle of an open field with too much cargo weight
    to even attempt evenly distributing
    , simply because his leg frames ran out of juice.

13 The Director’s Cut Doesn’t Change Too Much

Definitive editions of games typically include all released DLC, a performance boost, a photo mode, and a few other quality-of-life items that could have been included in an update. Thankfully, Death Stranding’s base game version and the Director’s Cut don’t differ too much. There are minor changes to structures, accessible items, and performance, but a large chunk of the game remains unchanged.

The new items that are added help to make the game a bit more accessible if you want to spend less time roaming the now desolate American terrain. A majority of these items increase your traversal capability, speed, and delivery options, which will further increase your Porter Level. The base game and Director’s Cut both heavily rely on an increased Porter Level and building relationships with the cities and distribution centers. Outside of this, there is a greater emphasis on combat, but it is still largely optional outside of boss fights.

12 Sam Can Stand Still To See BTs

Those who just want to get through BT sections as fast as possible will miss this incredibly important detail. By staying still, Sam can see the BTs around him. This is an incredibly handy mechanic, one that actually presents an opportunity to plot a route around them or even take out BTs with a Hematic Grenade.

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Early on in the game, BT encounters are some of the most intense spans of gameplay we’ve had in any game for years. But, once you figure out this trick for seeing BTs, as well as the most effective ways to take them out safely, it becomes a lot less of a burden. That said, if you’re freaking out in the middle of a bunch of BTs, just take a moment, breathe, stop moving, and look around to gather your bearings as well as the BT locations.

11 Don’t Expect To See Other Players

Interconnectivity is a huge part of Death Stranding’s core gameplay loop, but the game’s multiplayer is by no means conventional. To be fair, Kojima himself did state in a lot of the leadup to the game’s release that it would be a “Social Strand” multiplayer system, basically telling you it won’t be like most other multiplayer games.

While players can indeed interact with each other by greeting each other and leaving Likes, there’s no tangible way for two Sams to meet (though you can “call out” to other Sams if they’re nearby). While this might be disappointing for anyone looking for a Journey-style experience out of Death Stranding, it is important that this social aspect never takes away from the loneliness at the center of Sam’s journey. Allowing other players to physically interact with you would take away not only from the game’s atmosphere but also take away from Sam’s whole character arc about learning to connect with people again.

10 Spoiler Structures Exist And They Make The Game Almost Too Forgiving

Death Stranding’s online components are some of the best aspects of the game, especially with how naturally the “Like” system perfectly matches the theme of Death Stranding’s world. But, what many players don’t know, is that you can actually enable online structures from later in the game right from the start, such as Zip Lines and so forth.

Doing so takes away a ton of the game’s slow buildup of rewarding Sam for successful deliveries, but it does make it a lot quicker to get through the game for those having trouble dealing with its slow pace. That said, even without the “spoiler structures”, the online structures that will appear in your world from other players play a huge part in making Death Stranding feel like it has this “we did this, together” atmosphere.

9 You Need To Build Ziplines ASAP

The more of the United States of Bridges Sam explores, the more difficult exploration becomes. The midwest, as to be expected, is filled with particularly dangerous terrain — both in terms of geography and hazards, plus, BTs and Mules only become more aggressive the closer Sam gets to the West Coast. Coupled with all the cargo Sam has to carry, the gameplay loop can be especially punishing for anyone who isn’t building Ziplines. But, quite frankly, once you try it out even once, it becomes immediately clear how insanely useful these things are. Ziplines allow Sam to ostensibly teleport from one point A to point B within seconds.

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Ziplines are by far the most useful structure in the game, and careful Zipline placement ensures players only need to go through Death Stranding’s hardest setpieces once. In fact, the most rewarding part of the late-game, for many people, was building this long interconnected Zipline network that would take them all across each map. And, with the slight changes they’ve made to what you can bring on the Zipline in the Director’s Cut, they’ve only become more useful.

8 The Game Has A Fair Number Of Boss Fights

It was up in the air for a bit whether or not Death Stranding would actually have boss fights, but Hideo Kojima does not disappoint. Although they’re not quite on the same level as Metal Gear’s bosses, Death Stranding’s boss fights are all exciting and genuinely engaging, really selling the inherent horror of Death Stranding.

The first boss, in particular, nails the tension, putting Sam in a sudden do-or-die scenario out of nowhere. It’s stressful, anxiety-inducing, and forces you to use everything you have on you to stay alive and fight back. Death Stranding’s bosses can be potential wars of attrition. That said, for anyone who has made it to the post-game, it’s very clear what strategies and weapons can completely break the balance of a boss fight, but that in itself is a whole different type of fun.

7 Don’t Worry About Stocking Up For Boss Fights

Much of Death Stranding relies on the notion that you are but one porter in an army of unseen delivery personnel. The multiplayer aspect is built around the idea that other players are making their way across the landscape and terrain, performing delivery after delivery and setting down structures and packages to make your life easier. This translates directly to boss fights as well, or at least it appears that way.

Boss fights in Death Stranding can happen suddenly and without warning, leaving you unprepared or overburdened. Thankfully, human forms, named after fellow players, rise out of the black goo involved in every boss fight and throw weapons and useful items your way. These human-like forms throw out grenades, blood packs, and other weapons that will help you with each specific boss fight. If you are suddenly surrounded with black goo and a boss appears, you won’t have to worry as much.

6 Death Doesn’t Have Much Consequence

Death Stranding opens with a narrative tension that it manages to carry all the way to credits, but the same unfortunately cannot be said for the gameplay’s tension. While the early game incentivizes stress to the point of depriving Sam of any weaponry, dying doesn’t actually have much consequence.

While Sam’s death will destroy the surrounding area in which he died, it never takes too long for rainfall to age up decayed terrain — essentially resetting any damage Sam may have done. It both “feels” and “looks” incredibly punishing, considering there’s a gigantic Void Out crater where that area used to be, but the actual gameplay impacts aren’t that bad.

5 Ranking Up Your “Porter Level” Actually Matters

Death Stranding’s five-pointed rank system might seem like typical online progression fluff, but it actually ends up playing a real role in how Sam progresses as a character. Delivery time, delivery load, delivery condition — they all play a role in how Sam levels up, which is why it’s important to go through your checklist of things before starting each one. Upon hitting certain benchmarks, Sam will be able to carry more cargo or even make more Strand Connections.

This is an incredibly important aspect of the game, one that can lighten the load significantly. Just playing the game naturally will level Sam up so there’s never a need to go out of the way and grind or anything like that, but there are real, tangible benefits to leveling up.

4 Build Useful Structures To Quickly Level Up

One of the quickest and easiest to level up is to rely on the other players “liking” your structures. Death Stranding has quite a few NPC-placed structures in the opening hours to acclimate you to this idea. If you find a useful spot for a ladder, bridge, generator, or some other structure, it is probably in your best interest to build it. Structures make travel easier for you and can cut down on route distances, netting you more likes for package deliveries.

This opens up an entirely new style of gameplay as building structures and establishing more efficient routes will ultimately help yourself and those around you. With other players using your structures, you can passively receive likes to level up your Porter level while you continue rounding up deliveries.

3 Always Deliver Found Online Cargo As “Lost Cargo”

Ever notice how returning cargo to the right spot ends up getting way more likes than just passing that cargo off? The same philosophy applies to online cargo, but quite frankly, it’s not really worth the effort of returning online cargo to the right terminals. Most of the time, just offloading everything in one go yields enough benefits.

Those abusing the share lockers will certainly feel similarly, as it’s entirely possible to just rip everything out of a locker and then deliver it as lost cargo. It’s an incredibly fast way to level up. The share locker is probably the fastest way to get guaranteed levels early on, making the online half of the game all the more prominent.

2 Don’t Sweat Completing The Side Orders

Look, with a game like Death Stranding, there’s an itch to do everything possible before moving on, but don’t sweat it. Fragile’s fast travel system opens in Chapter Three and makes getting around America all the easier. Not just that, those orders aren’t going anywhere. Enjoy the story for a bit and then come back.

But seriously, do progress the plot. Death Stranding’s pacing is basically fool-proof since the game is slow by design, but progressing the story a certain amount will unlock new tools, structures, and so on that will make coming back to do that side content so much easier and so much more enjoyable.

1 Have A Few Hours To Spare For The Finale

Hideo Kojima games are no stranger to long, self-indulgent endings. Both Metal Gear Solid 2 and 4 outright demand a full hour of the audience’s time for their climaxes, but Death Stranding borders on movie-length territory for its grand finale, and that’s on top of a game that’s already pretty long. Like all things in Death Stranding, however, the long ending is reflected in-game and plays a key role in setting the tone for the ending.

All the same, between the final boss, last major gameplay section, ending cutscenes, and credits, Death Stranding’s finale can last over two hours. It’s very much worth putting a play session aside just for the conclusion as it can otherwise become exhausting when stumbled into naturally.

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