How Death Stranding approaches lethal and non-lethal combat
Guns blazing or sneaky stealth - the world is a very different place depending on your actions
So many games featuring hectic battles tend to shovel guns at players. M4, P90, M16… here’s a Magnum, also a rocket launcher.
Most games suit this style of abundance; indeed, they welcome it. However, Death Stranding is not that kind of title - some might even say it’s not an action game, because it really isn’t.
Everything in Hideo Kojima’s latest game is meditative and mindful, and while the fights with the spectral BTs and enemy soldiers can be frenetic, combat is all about choosing the right tool for the job and that first comes down to whether you prefer a lethal or non-lethal approach. What you choose comes down to personal preference, but through the writing, we get a sense that Sam Porter Bridges prefers a kinder approach.
At first, it’s easier to sneak past the BTs and mercenaries, taking care to stay out of radar signals and watching the sensor on your suit for activity, meaning a BT is in the area. Both of these enemies have a silent presence, you know they exist and that they occupy a space nearby.
The mercs want your supplies, the BTs seemingly want your destruction. When sneaking past doesn’t work, the human enemies can be dispatched with the standard weaponry - assault rifles, handguns.
But they come in two flavors, firing either standard bullets or rubber bullets. Your choice is important; dead bodies in Death Stranding explode, taking a large portion of the surrounding area with it.
You may be fine with killing, but what about everyone else?
Going non-lethal seems the right choice and the Bola gun is perfect, tangling the legs of enemies and keeping them incapacitated. But what about the BTs? These ghostly entities who can’t be seen by the naked eye, but they’re very much there, able to drag you across the landscape and into a nightmare world.
Then what? The Bola gun won’t help here. Thankfully, Sam has exactly what’s needed.
He’s always had it. His blood, for some reason (no spoilers here) helps destroy BTs.
Within all that gear strapped to his back, some of those containers can collect Sam’s blood and be funnelled into both guns and grenades. It’s an interesting idea, that a fighter has to give over a part of their own body in order to combat the beasts which stalk them.
This, as you’d expect from Death Stranding, has a balance to it. The blood bags are filled when Sam stays in a safe room, but out in the wild, if those bags empty, they drain the blood directly from Sam causing even more danger.
This balance is something Death Stranding delivers with every increment of progression – new weapons are great, but will they cause devastation? Your grenades help against BTs, but at the risk of our hero. If this seems a bit much to take in, worry not.
When Sam rests in a safe house and uses the toilet, this body waste can also be constructed into grenades. They’re weaker, but still effective. But perhaps, in typical Kojima fashion, this is a commentary on war and violence?
In that every act of aggression takes its toll on humanity and that with each flash of violence we must bear the brunt of that violence on our psyche. Sam degrades physically and mentally, his mind fractures and each instance within the story, each fight, breaks him down a little more.
This trauma is secondarily focused within the BB unit with which Sam shares and attachment. The Bridge Baby reacts to the same violence and echoes the sentiment of the use of weapons, it becomes distressed when fights break out as it’s through the baby that the BTs are sensed.
All encompassed, Kojima and his team at Kojima Productions deliver a unique form of combat which speaks on the larger message of violence. It impacts us greatly; we see that in Sam. It saps our strength, our minds and we give a little of ourselves each time we fight.
Get ready to reconnect a shattered world one step at a time in the critically-acclaimed, open-world action walking sim game Death Stranding - pre-purchase your Steam PC key from Fanatical now and get bonus in-game DLC at launch on July 14th.