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Building Hallownest: What Makes a ‘Solid’ Game

31 Days of Horror

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There are two kinds of games: ‘solid’ and ‘liquid.’ In a liquid game, the elements don’t all mesh together, making it feel haphazard or unfinished — like Sonic Boom, where an unfinished overworld populated by NPCs who want nothing to do with you, as well as a consistent lack of direction, makes the experience feel thrown together. Liquid storytelling instruments make very unpleasant noises (like the trumpet, tuba-sounding, confetti-spitting weapon you can find in Sonic Boom for some reason). However, in a solid game, every aspect of the design comes together to create one cohesive storytelling instrument. For example, take Hollow Knight. Every character you meet and every upgrade you can purchase serves the journey into Hallownest and its history.

From the opening of Hollow Knight

The thing that makes Hollow Knight a solid game is cohesion: the unity of the game’s mechanics, aesthetics, and narrative to its thesis. The most solid games are those in which everything ties back to a statement of meaning or intent (or sometimes several). These statements tell us what the game is about, why it exists, and what it hopes to accomplish within the player.

In Hollow Knight, there is nothing extraneous hanging off the edges of the experience; every character, mechanic, and line of dialogue serves a complete and specific, non-negotiable purpose. Its statement of meaning is one of uncovering forbidden unknowns, of mysteries, and using the mechanics of the game to reinforce the feeling of discovery, such as purchasing a pen to update your map as you progress.

Based on this, the singular thing into which all the elements must feed is the development and presentation of what is left of Hallownest — the ruins within which the mystery lies — and making it a place worthy of exploration. Several facets contribute to this:

The Art

Hallownest art
A save point in the depths of Hallownest

The art and music contribute much to the somber air that permeates Hallownest. Hollow Knight‘s visuals are simple and highly stylized, with cute, almost chibi-gothic, white bug faces contrasting with the purple darkness of the ruins. The world, characters, and enemies are hauntingly beautiful; the deeper you go, the more remnants you find of this ancient civilization in the form of arches, roads, and entire Stagway stations, all of which have a spidering, latticed metal look to them, painting for the player the skeleton of a once highly developed society.

This emptiness is matched by the music, which is (outside of boss battles) very soft. The score consists of gentle piano notes, the steady hum of violins, and the plucking of a harp. During mini-boss battles — like the fight with the large pill bugs — the music cuts out and is replaced by a fast, melody-less thumping, which heightens the tension without breaking the muffled atmosphere.

The simplicity of the style and music together give the impression that the ruins, when left undisturbed by bugs like you from above, are a very quiet place. There isn’t much here with cause to make noise. This sensation of ancient stillness is the crux of Hollow Knight‘s haunted atmosphere; the game is not about reacting to what is here, but what used to be here, and the quiet implies that absence.

And it’s more than just the music and style; everything you see plays a part in the greater narrative. Every fallen statue and ancient Stagway station (if you’re paying attention) hints at the thing that destroyed Hallownest.

The Writing

Hallownest writing
A conversation in the hub down of Dirtmouth

The characters you find in your explorations of Hallownest expand on this feeling in their dialogue. The first NPC you encounter is an old insect residing in Dirtmouth ( “The Fading Town” ) named Elderbug. He tells you he is “the only one left to offer welcome;” everyone else has gone down the well to explore the ruins beneath. None have returned.

He warns you to be wary if you follow, for “the air is sickly. Beasts go mad and travelers are robbed of their memories,” making the ruins sound cursed, even alive. Sly, the owner of one of the Dirtmouth shops, compounds this, describing the ruins as “hungry.”

The picture of Hallownest as something that devours is affirmed in NPC descriptions of its size. As the Knight explores the ruins and awakens parts of the town by rescuing lost adventurers, Elderbug reveals a little more about the ways things have always been. For instance, fast-travel is conducted through the Stagways — train station-like areas which, upon being discovered, allows the Knight to call a large transport beetle.

The first Stagway the player is likely to find leads back to Dirtmouth, which serves as a hub. After the Knight unlocks the door to the long-dormant station, Elderbug muses that he never thought he’d see such a thing; the Stagway was closed even before his time. He’s heard the “glorious tales…[a] web of tunnels, running all through the kingdom,” but this place has gone unknown, untouched, for generations.

The greatest narrative implications, however, are contained in the Hunter’s Journal — a compendium of the beasts of Hallownest obtained from “the Hunter.” The earlier it’s obtained, the bigger the mystery before the player grows, depending on how many dots one can connect from the notes to personal observations. Those paying attention might start forming disturbing questions about the ruins — what brought the civilization down, and more importantly, if they might still be here.

One of the first entries will be the charging bugs encountered soon after the first drop into Hallownest; maybe the eighth or ninth is Sly, a merchant from Dirtmouth. Upon finding Sly, he is in a daze, muttering to himself and surrounded by a noxious orange cloud. Talking to him shakes him out of it.

But what’s that got to do with the attacking bugs? Looking in the Hunter’s Journal, unlocks this entry about that initial charging bug:

“The remains of a bug, animated by a strange force. Wanders the ruins where it once lived.”

The charging bug is dead, and has been reanimated by some power in the ruins. Looking very closely reveals that its eyes are the same orange as the cloud around Sly. And the deeper the Knight goes into Hallownest, the more — and bigger — orange-afflicted creatures players will find. All of them are confused and dazed, like Sly, or extremely hostile, like the orange-eyed bugs.

From all of this, it can be reasonably assumed that whatever wrecked Hallownest is still here, actively infecting everything inside — the aspect of the ruins Sly described as “hungry” earlier. This mysterious way of writing perfectly incentivizes players to keep digging deeper into Hollow Knight, even as it makes them more afraid of what they’ll find.

The Tutorials

Hallownest tutorial

But Hollow Knight isn’t just a solid game; it’s the solid game, and the thing that cinches this is its tutorials. One of the hardest things to for a developer to do elegantly is to teach the player the mechanics of a game in ways that hint at the larger narrative.

Hollow Knight begins with an intro comprised of a fall, and a wall — or rather, a series of locked doors that are placed to show you how to use your weapon, the nail.

Three things happen here. First, the Knight falls a long way, which tells players that even before he gets to Dirtmouth — let alone Hallownest — this land is already a good distance underground. Second, there is no fall damage. And third, the road ahead is barred. In addition to forcing players to discover which button causes the Knight to slash with his nail (thus breaking the walls), there is some storytelling here as well with these walls. They imply that nobody has come this way in a while, and when they did last, they locked the door behind them.

The last door you break down is much bigger, and it takes something like twenty hits before it shatters — something monumental lies ahead, and this is crossing the threshold. From there, the Knight falls down even further into Dirtmouth, and it seems like there’s no way he’s ever getting back up.

As well as building an implied world through the things players interact with, tutorials in Hollow Knight are sometimes also accompanied by brief, cryptic texts invoking the “Higher Beings.” The first of these the Knight comes across involves the collection and use of Soul as energy for Healing. This tutorial is found by interacting with an object that might be a gem or a mirror, and the following words are inscribed on it: 

“Higher Beings, these words are for you alone. Your great strength marks you amongst us. Focus your soul and you shall achieve feats of which others can only dream.”

Below the text the game depicts an illustration of your new power, as well as simple instructions on how to use it.

This gives the player a specific and personal mystery that adds to the abandoned aesthetic of the world; now both Hallownest and the Knight are keepers of a secret (Hallownest of the ancient, animating power, the Knight of its identity). Who are the Higher Beings? Who left this marker here as a sign for them? What does this imply about the Knight, and why have they journeyed to the ruins in the first place?

This tutorial, and others, mark the player as special — “marked amongst us.” We are immediately connected to something Other, a thing of great power, by virtue of what we the character — and no one else — are allowed to accomplish.

Everything ties back to the mystery, to that which awaits players in the heart of Hallownest, and to intensify their desire to find it. Hollow Knight is about what happens when an entire world becomes liminal space; Hallownest is now a place between, a thing to be traversed, where once it was a destination. This is a game about exploring the skeleton of the “last and only civilization,” and appreciating what it might once have been — as well as what it has become since the fall. And the solidity of Hollow Knight rests on everything serving that journey and all the questions that inspire it.

Kyra Merchen is a student at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, currently studying art, theatre, and video game theory (yes, really). She’s really, really sad they never made a new Pokémon Rangers game for the Wii and will fight you for cheating on the Mystery Dungeon personality test.

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XO19: Top 10 Best Announcements of the Show

Xbox just had their best XO presentation ever, and it wasn’t even close. Here’s a rundown of the best announcements from XO19.

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xo19

Microsoft had a lot to prove going into its fifth annual XO showcase. Console launches are on the horizon, cloud competitor Google Stadia is about to ship to early adopters, and Game Pass subscribers are as hungry as ever for new additions to the lineup. Then there’s the fact that XO has always been looked down upon by the gaming community in general as a lackluster, padded presentation.

All of that changed with XO19. This was, by far, the best XO in the event’s history. In fact, it featured more shocking reveals and genuinely impressive announcements than a good deal of Microsoft’s recent E3 press conferences. From new IP reveals, to first-time looks at gameplay, to a couple “I never would’ve believed you a week ago” shockers, it’s clear that Xbox stepped up its game from years past. Here’s our list of the best announcements of the show.

10. Everwild Reveal

It’s not too often that we get to experience a new IP from Rare. Their last attempt, Sea of Thieves, was a fully multiplayer, always-online affair that gradually garnered a cult following thanks to some of the best community engagement and most consistent content updates in the industry.

We don’t know what type of game Everwild is yet, but it’s certainly oozing that same colorful, ambient charm that made players fall in love with Sea of Thieves all those years ago. Seeing as how we only got a cinematic teaser, though, it might be quite some time before we’re running around these gorgeous environments.


9. ID@Xbox Lineup

The ID@Xbox team has pulled it off again. Despite being stuck with an almost insultingly poor time slot in the presentation, several of the indies shown off in this short montage rivaled some of the show’s AAA spotlights. It had everything from high-profile indies like Streets of Rage 4, Touhou Luna Nights, and the Yacht Club Games-published Cyber Shadow, to more modest beauties like SkateBIRD, Haven, Cris Tales, and she dreams elsewhere.

The best part? All of these are launching on Game Pass day and date. The worst part? No actual dates were announced for anything shown. Regardless, it’s encouraging that so many high quality indies are continuing to come to Xbox (and that relationships with Devolver Digital and Yacht Club are rock-solid).


8. West of Dead Reveal/Open Beta

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Raw Fury has one of the better eyes in the indie publishing scene. Gems like GoNNER, Dandara, and Bad North have all released under their watch, and West of Dead might be their best acquisition yet. It’s a heavily-stylized twin stick shooter that switches things up by making tactical cover a core part of the experience.

The trailer hinted at roguelike elements being present, and the ever-popular procedurally generated levels should significantly up replayability. How it plays, however, remains to be seen…unless you have an Xbox, in which case you can play the exclusive open beta now before the full game comes to all platforms next year.


7. Halo Reach Release Date

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The Master Chief Collection has long been the one golden goose that endlessly eludes those outside of the Xbox ecosystem. Earlier this year, though, Microsoft made waves when it announced that it was bringing the entire collection over to PC. Reach is the first step in that process, and it’s finally making its way to both PC and Xbox One as part of the MCC on December 3rd.

It’s just a date, but the fact that so many new players get to experience one of Halo‘s most beloved outings at last easily made it one of the highlights of the night.


6. Grounded Reveal

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Who woulda thought? Fresh off releasing one of the best RPGs in years with The Outer Worlds, Obsidian decided to show off a passion project from one of its smaller teams: Grounded. The premise? Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: Survival Edition.

Players take control of kids the size of ants as they fight off actual bugs, cook, craft armor and weapon upgrades, and build shelter to survive in the wilderness of someone’s backyard. As silly as it sounds and looks, and as unexpected a project it is for Obsidian to undertake, it genuinely looks rather promising. The cheerful color palette is a welcome contrast to the dark, brooding aesthetic so many other survival games have adopted. There are plenty of details left to be uncovered, but if early impressions are anything to go by, this is one to keep on your radar early next year.


5. Age of Empires IV Gameplay Reveal

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Age of Empires is one of the most esteemed strategy franchises in history. Despite having this beloved IP in their back pocket, however, Microsoft hasn’t published a new mainline game in the series since 2005. Age of Empires IV was originally announced over two years ago, and after buttering everyone up with the release of Age of Empires II Definitive Edition that afternoon, the first glimpse of gameplay was finally shown at XO19.

Simply put, the game looks gorgeous. Every building is full of detail and the countryside looks surprisingly lush and picturesque. Witnessing hundreds of units charging down the valley towards the stronghold in the trailer was mind-blowing as an old-school fan. They didn’t show off any innovations or moment-to-moment gameplay, but it’s looking more and more like the future of the franchise is safe in Relic’s hands.


4. Final Fantasy Blowout

xo19

Xbox’s success in Japanese markets has become something of a running joke over the years. Though inroads were clearly made with Bandai Namco, many more Japanese publishers won’t go within a mile of the platform. Possibly through working with Square Enix’s western division to put the latest Tomb Raider and Just Cause entries on board, it looks like the main branch has finally decided to give Xbox players a chance.

Starting this holiday, Game Pass subscribers will gradually get every single-player Final Fantasy game since Final Fantasy VII. More shocking still, The Verge reported that the Xbox team is working to get the massively popular MMO Final Fantasy XIV over as well. The sheer value of having every post-Super Nintendo Final Fantasy game included in Game Pass (even XV) is ridiculous. It remains to be seen what the rollout cadence of these ten titles will look like, but considering how long each of these are, one per month wouldn’t shock or disappoint.


3. The Reign of Project xCloud

With Stadia launching just next week, Microsoft had been surprisingly quiet on their cloud gaming front up to this point. The service had gone into preview for those lucky enough to get in and, by most accounts, it had been fairly well-received. The real question came down to what Xbox was going to do to make itself stand out from its competition.

The bombs dropped here felt like the equivalent to the thrashing Sony gave to Microsoft back at E3 2013. Microsoft shadow dropped 40+ new games into Preview for players to test (for free) including Devil May Cry 5, Tekken 7, Bloodstained, and Ace Combat 7. Even better, xCloud will support third-party controllers including the DUALSHOCK 4 and will finally show up on Windows 10 PCs in 2020.

Perhaps the most damning announcement, however, is that xCloud will be integrated with Game Pass starting next year. Only having to pay for a Game Pass subscription to access 100+ games and play them in the cloud (including Halo, Forza, The Outer Worlds, and all those Final Fantasy titles) makes xCloud a far better value than Stadia right out of the gate. If this didn’t force Google to adjust its strategy, we might be looking at a very short cloud gaming war.


2. Square Sharing the Kingdom Hearts Love

Kingdom Hearts 3 releasing on Xbox One was somewhat bittersweet. On the one hand, players who had left the PlayStation ecosystem after playing the first games had a chance to see the arc’s conclusion. On the other hand, new players had no options for going back and experiencing the series’ roots.

Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5+2.5 Remix and Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue finally coming to Xbox next year is a godsend for younger players and new players alike. More important, however, is the tearing down of those over 15+ years old exclusivity walls. Just like with many of the Final Fantasys, the main Kingdom Hearts games had been married to PlayStation systems for years. This shift at Square is an exciting one, and it bodes particularly well for the next generation of Xbox hardware.


1. Yakuza Finally Goes Multi-Console

It seems like Phil Spencer’s trips to Japan finally paid off. In what was arguably the most shocking announcement of XO19 (right next to Kingdom Hearts), it was revealed that SEGA is taking the Yakuza series multi-console at last. Not only are Yakuza 0 and Kiwami 1+2 coming to Xbox, but all three are going to Game Pass next year as well.

Does this mean support from Japanese studios will increase across the board? Of course not. But getting big names like Bandai Namco, Square Enix, and SEGA on board is nothing if not encouraging. Xbox is clearly pulling out all the stops to ensure a diverse suite of third-party support come Scarlett’s launch next year, and it’s the healthiest the platform has looked in a very long time.

Honorable Mentions:

Bleeding Edge Release Date

KartRider Drift Reveal/Closed Beta Announcement

Last Stop Reveal

Wasteland 3 Release Date

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‘Garden Story’ First Impressions: The Coziest of Adventures

Long-awaited Twitter darling Garden Story just released its first demo. Here’s what we learned after playing through it twice.

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garden story

Following the unfortunate (but understandable) delay of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, there’s been a distinct lack of chill, aesthetic games to fill the void. Garden Story’s charming environmental art and animation have earned it a dedicated social media following, but it wasn’t until Picogram released a demo just a couple days ago that anyone with a Steam account could actually experience the game for themselves. So, just how fun is this wholesome little RPG?

Setting the Scene

Garden Story’s demo centers around the newly-appointed village guardian Concord (a grape) and their first steps in rebuilding Autumn Town, a community ravaged by a sinister force known as “the Rot.” Chatting with villagers reveals a bit of insight into the situation at hand; it’s soon clear just how much the other townsfolk need the player’s support.

There are several clear parallels to old-school Legend of Zelda titles here, but Garden Story manages to set itself apart rather quickly. For one, this isn’t a solo adventure; the player sets out with Rana (a frog) and Fuji (a tomato) on a friendly quest to be as helpful to the surrounding community as possible. Seeing friends around and watching cute scripted cutscenes between the crew does a great job of instilling a sense of camaraderie and friendship.

In another pleasant twist, everything here is themed around building rather than destroying. Instead of traditional swords and bows, Concord repurposes his dowsing rod and scavenging pick into makeshift weapons. The combat itself calls to mind Stardew Valley; simple, minimal, and clearly not the main focus. There’s a pesky stamina bar that restricts the number of times Concord can attack and how far they can run, frequently forcing players to pause between barrages. In this way, encounters often come off as more of a necessary evil in Concord’s town rehabilitation journey than a main attraction.

Rebuilding a Community

So, how does one go about aiding the town? The method highlighted in the demo was by attending to a quest board with three different types of requests: Threat (combat), Repair (exploration), and Want (gathering). Each is accompanied by a task that plays an integral part in keeping Autumn Town safe and in good working order (e.g. clearing out Rot, finding sewer access so new resources can flow into town, and so on).

Aside from fulfilling requests, there are a few interesting hooks to incentivize hitting every shiny thing you come across regardless. The more different types of items are scavenged, and the more catalogues are filled by being updated with new materials, the more literature becomes available to give little bits of insight into Garden Story’s world and history. Then, in another parallel to Stardew Valley, any leftover resources can be sold in the pursuit of buying tool upgrades.

While the full game will feature four locations to explore and tend to, there was still plenty to do in Autumn Town itself by the end of the demo. Rana mentioned that villagers will post new requests daily, and the demo even featured a mini side quest (called “favors”) that led me to obtain a brand-new tool. Between daily requests, favor fulfillment, and dungeons spread across four different regions, it’s looking like there will be a good bit of content here for those who really want to hang around Garden Story’s world for as long as possible.

Ambient Appeal

Though it remains to be seen just how enticing its complete gameplay loop and accompanying systems are, Picogram’s latest is already delivering on its core appeal: being a cozy, relaxing experience. The color palette is soft, the lighting is moody, and the soundtrack is right up there with the Animal Crossing series as having some of the most mellow, loopable tunes around.

In fact, it’s the sound design in particular that gives Garden Story such an intimate feel. From the sound of a page turning when entering and exiting buildings to the gentle gurgles of a bubbling brook in the forest, it’s clear that composer Grahm Nesbitt poured a ton of love into making this one feel just right. Here’s hoping the full game more than delivers on all the potential shown here.

Garden Story is slated to release in Spring of 2020 and is available to wishlist on Steam.

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How Asynchronous Online in ‘Death Stranding’ Brings Players Together

Hideo Kojima’s latest game creates a sense of community by aiding other players on the same perilous journey.

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Death Stranding

Video games have always been fascinated with the idea of player interactivity as a means of crafting a power fantasy. The player typically goes on a hero’s journey, eventually culminating in them being the one and only savior of the world inside the game. Typically associated with single-player games, MMOs also crafted that same narrative but with the conceit that everyone is going on this journey. Often the acknowledgments of other players are in multiplayer-specific features such as PvP and Raids. Destiny is a great example of a series that takes players on the same journey and makes no promise that the story is different between players by even allowing them to engage in playing story missions together. It all feeds into the larger narrative of Guardians fighting together to save the Light. A game that handles this very similar and perhaps more successfully is Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding.

While lacking any direct player-to-player interaction, Kojima’s latest game is drenched in the conceit that community is crucial to triumph over adversity. You can read many articles about the game’s ideas of community from fellow writers on the site. What hasn’t quite gotten the attention it deserves is how revolutionary Death Stranding feels in terms of utilizing asynchronous online to greatly affect the game itself. Games like Dark Souls and other FromSoftware titles have included the ability to leave notes (which Death Stranding also offers) that help (or trick) players as they venture throughout the world on their own. How those notes’ effects are manifested are often on a much smaller scale – helpful at times but often to warn players of an impending way they might die. They don’t have a large impact on the player, only a temporary means of cheating death. 

Where Death Stranding becomes something greater in scale is in what it lets other players do to other peoples’ single-player experiences. In the game, you play as Sam Porter Bridges who is tasked with reconnecting America from coast-to-coast. At first, the game thrusts Sam into its narrative, taking the reluctant, isolated character and forcing him to eventually realize the importance of hope and connections in dire times. As Sam starts bringing more and more people onto the Chiral network (which allows instantaneous communication and the transferring of 3D-printable goods), so too does the game open up and reveal its ultimate goal: to bring players together.

Death Stranding

This doesn’t mean players will ever talk to other players, and the game very much avoids any real negative actions that can be performed on players. In fact, someone could play the game without ever actively engaging with online features. Instead, the game will passively hand out “likes” to other players whose ladders are used or roads are driven. If one wanted to fight the game’s narrative and instead keep Sam isolated and away from the community that the Chiral network provides, they could definitely do that – no matter how antithetical it would be to do so. Death Stranding even offers an offline mode that would nullify all of that and keep the experience solely on the player’s impact on the world and no one else’s. 

Yet there’s a reason the online mode is the default mode. It was near the end of Episode 3 (which also happens to be when the game unloads almost all of its mechanics onto the player) when I finally realized the impact I was having on other people’s games. I had spent an entire day playing the game, but focusing largely on delivering premium deliveries – these are optional challenges that essentially boil down to carrying more cargo, damaging cargo less, or getting to your destination in a set amount of time. Death Stranding doesn’t ever tell you the best way to get somewhere. Instead, it places a wide array of tools in front of you and assuming the Chiral network is set up in an area, it can provide a rough guide on places to avoid or infrastructure already built. However, one of the key pieces of infrastructure missing for my playthrough was roads. My efforts immediately became focused on building a network of roads that made their way all throughout one of the larger areas in the game.

The game doesn’t ever make you build roads. It tells you the option is there but it doesn’t force your hand. Often tools will be introduced, like zip lines and floating carriers, but the game never demands that they’re used. Of course, engaging with those tools will make your life easier. There are easy ways to start building infrastructure in Death Stranding: ropes and ladders can help to scale mountains or plummet depths. Those will remain in the world for other players to use and will even appear on their maps as they hook up areas to the Chiral network. So, someone who plays the game earlier than someone else could lay down ropes and ladders, and depending on when the other person starts playing, they will find those once they have progressed to a point where they are traversing that area. Where the game becomes even grander in its sense of community is the realization that the more players commit to building roads or setting up zip lines, the more other players benefit.

Death Stranding

The reality is that ladders and ropes are temporary – they cannot be rebuilt, they can only be replaced. The game’s Timefall – a weather phenomenon that acts as rain but ages anything it comes into contact with – can reset an entire map after a while if there is nothing more substantial placed on the map. So in my game, I decided that whenever I could build a road, I committed to doing so. This could mean going to multiple waystations and collecting materials that have amassed over time from deliveries, or going out in the world and finding these materials like Chiral crystals. At a certain point, I would load up a truck with multiple deliveries that were on or near the roads I had built, as well as with as many metal and ceramic materials I could load into the truck before it reached capacity. As I delivered packages, I’d replace them with more deliveries and more materials from each waystation. Eventually, I’d find myself at a point where a road was not built yet and would then build that road.

Community stands as the strongest component of Death Stranding .

In contrast to a game like Dark Souls, actions in the world such as providing notes on the ground or helping another player with a boss battle is helping them cheat death. The community that is being built is not one that has any lasting effect on the world in the game. No Man’s Sky may let players interact with each other and further their knowledge of the universe within the game, but often that help is relegated to an isolated planet. It’s a more contained impact. Hideo Kojima created a game where players don’t just build infrastructures for themselves, they can intentionally or inadvertently assist other players throughout their games. This leads to players like myself creating strand contracts with other players who have built things I liked in the game. A strand contract is a powerful feature because it means more of that players’ roads or other items built for the world will show up more frequently in my game.

Every Action in Death Stranding Creates Hope

One of the perks of building so many roads is you also get a lot of likes, whether passively given because someone used the road or actively provided by a player because they not only used the road but were appreciative that someone built it. It’s hard not to feel important in someone else’s life when you’ve made their experience less cumbersome because they no longer have to drive over rocky terrain or through enemy territory but instead can take a highway to their destination. What’s better is that more substantial developments like bridges and roads can be repaired by other players and even upgraded. So while I laid the initial roads down, I actually haven’t spent any materials repairing them. Instead, notifications come in and tell me players have repaired roads I’ve built. There’s no real reason to do that unless the infrastructure built was necessary to their journey through the game – making it easier but also providing the same feeling of helping out a larger community. 

Community stands as the strongest component of Death Stranding – a game that doesn’t even try to be subtle in its intentions. Traversing Kojima’s version of post-apocalyptic America is harrowing on your own. With just your two feet and a package to deliver when the entire world itself is trying to stop you from doing so, America isn’t just divided – it’s hostile. Where Death Stranding shines brightest is when it offers a helping hand. Players aid one another to achieve the same unified goal: save the country. All of this is under the assumption that the country can be saved, but there is no denying that seeing someone else’s rope hanging off a steep cliff, or a Timefall shelter where it rains Timefall on a constant basis, is one of the most satisfying feelings. In Death Stranding, it isn’t enough to know that you’re making progress, but that everyone is willing to assist others to reach the same end goal. It’s a game where every action creates hope and is built upon the idea that we are at our best when we work together.

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