A Beginner’s Guide to the World of Death Stranding

By Heather Alexandra on at

Death Stranding isn’t that weird of a game, but it does love to toss out lore and terminology without explaining much. Some answers are hidden away in codex entries, but others are left for players to sort out. If that seems daunting, don’t worry. Here’s a breakdown of Death Stranding’s world and the most important facts to know.

What Is Going On In This Game?

At some point in the past, a massive explosion tore a hole between this world and the afterlife. It caused a bunch of ghosts to enter the world and seriously mess stuff up. A few people develop superpowers as a result. The US government starts to collapse, and the president sends Norman Reedus (playing Sam Bridges) on a journey to connect everyone to the internet. He does this with the help of a baby in a tube, all while keeping away from the previous mentioned ghosts and radical terrorists. This journey will not just affect the fate of a nation, but all of humanity.

What The Hell Is A Death Stranding?

It’s the title of the game, and it’s not explained for a while. Basically, Death Strandings are near-extinction-level events that cataclysmically alter the world as we know it. At the start of the game, the most recent Death Stranding was a massive explosion that shattered infrastructure and fractured the walls between this world and the afterlife.

Wait. Did You Just Say Afterlife?

I did. It turns out there actually is life after death. It’s observable and, under the right circumstances, can be experienced and studied. It’s split into two parts:

Beaches are where souls go immediately after they die. Each person has their own beach, which is a sort of outer reflection of their inner self. They travel here when they die and wait, purgatory style, before moving to the next life. There are some catches to this. If multiple people die at once, they often gather upon the same beach. In cases of war or mass slaughter, the tangled regrets and fear of the dead can trap souls on their collective beach. For instance, soldiers who died in a battle during a war might find themselves trapped on an unending battlefield.

So there’s that, and then there’s the afterlife itself. No one really knows what that’s like. That might be an underwhelming answer, but in-game consensus assumes that it’s similar to being on a Beach but on a more communal, universal unconsciousness sort of way. That said, it’s still a big mystery.

Doesn’t This Game Have Ghosts?

Yes! A consequence of the Death Stranding, ghosts called BTs were able to enter the corporeal realm. So now the world is packed with spooky monsters.

What Does BT Even Stand For? How Dangerous Are They?

It means “beached thing,” since these are spirits stranded in the world of the living. BTs are vengeful spirits that lash out at humans, but their real danger is the ability to cause something called a “voidout.”

That Sounds Bad.

It’s super bad. This is some sci-fi jargony nonsense, but BTs of sufficient power and density are composed of anti-matter. When their anti-matter comes into contact with a human’s real matter, it causes an explosion about the size of nuke blowing up. Voidouts have destroyed major cities including a particularly nasty one that destroyed all of Manhattan. And hey, it gets worse!

Oh?

Yeah, because anyone who dies now will create a BT unless their body is cremated. Bodies left alone will quickly “necrotise” and create a BT. This means that moving too slowly to dispose of a body, particularly in a populated area, creates the risk of immediate disaster via a voidout.

Anything Else To Know About Life Post-Stranding?

There’s a few things. The first is that the Stranding also brought about something called “timefall.” Timefall is essentially rain or snow that rapidly ages anything it touches. Direct exposure to timefall destroyed buildings and can age human and animal to the point of death. Between timefall and voidouts, a lot of the world is ruined.

Also, a resource called chiralium started to appear. This crystalline substance is extremely old, possibly as old as the universe, but was something humans couldn’t perceive. It doesn’t age and it can be used to power a variety of utilities. Chiralium is the backbone of something called the chiral network, which is a hybrid of the internet and a massive 3D printing matrix. Our protagonist, Sam Bridges, is eventually tasked with rebuilding this network to allow instant communications and creation of supplies.

Oh, Wow. That’s Sweet!

It is, to a point. The chiral network does some nifty quantum computing to perform its work. Data and materiel pass through the Beach where time is slower, allowing for complex calculation and creation to happen rapidly in the real world. But the chiral network can’t create organic matter. You can’t use it to make food or medical supplies. Those have to be delivered directly to whoever needs them.

Wait! That’s What Players Do For Most Of The Game!

Yep! Folks like our protagonist Sam Bridges are “porters,” a mix of postmen and wilderness explorers who brave the wasteland to deliver essential goods to various outposts and communities.

That’s Some Walking Simulator Nonsense. Is There Any More Sci-Fi Stuff?

Few things. Some people, a very rare few, have become “repatriates.” Repatriates are able to return their souls to their bodies in the event that they die. Essentially, they get to respawn when fatal stuff happens to them. Sam is a repatriate, and if you get him killed while playing Death Stranding he’ll revive like a Dark Souls character. There’s also a condition called DOOMS that some folks have now.

Seriously? It’s called DOOMS? What does that even mean?

I don’t know. The game never says. Everyone’s just like “We got DOOMS!”

That’s Bogus

It is extremely bogus. But it’s still important to know.

Why’s That?

Anyone with DOOMS has some degree of control over the spiritual realm. Sam has a DOOMS level of two, which is small and means that he can sense when BTs are around. Fragile, another character, has a higher DOOMS level and can literally teleport wherever she wants by slingshotting through the Beach before arriving at her destination. One of the game’s villains, Higgs, has a DOOMS level high enough that he can actually summon and control BTs.

Higgs Sounds Like A Bad Dude

He is. He’s the leader of a terrorist group called Homo Demens.

Excuse me, what?

It’s Latin, and it vaguely means “mad men.” They’re a militant separatist group lashing out against the United States government, attacking cities with nuclear weapons and carefully executed voidouts.

Oh, Yeah. What’s Up With America?

It’s a mess. There’s not really states; it’s all prepper bunkers and a few cities. The president, a lady with the on-the-nose name of Bridget Strand, is trying to connect all of these disparate communities via the chiral network. Sam (and the player) have to complete the task to form the United Cities of America.

Hold Up. Isn’t There A Baby In A Tube Involved Somehow?

That would be Sam’s “BB” or “bridge baby.” Bridge babies are treated less like kids and more like equipment. They can interface with a device called an oradek to help humans know the location of nearby BTs.

What’s The Catch?

The catch is that to manufacture a BB, you need to have a “stillmother.” That’s a woman who experienced brain death during her pregnancy. It’s one of the most unsettling and frankly misogynistic lore elements of the game.

That’s Fucked Up

Yep. The government-funded BB research program was supposedly shut down years ago because of how absolutely messed up it was.

But Sam Has A Bridge Baby

Funny how that works out, isn’t it?