The Joy of Helping Others in 'Death Stranding'

Sometimes helping someone else is the most fun you can have in a game.
November 13, 2019, 3:00pm
Screenshot from Death Stranding. Sam Bridges (played by Norman Reedus) stands at the edge of a ravine, wearing a large backpack filled with packages. An in game menu displaying a climbing rope floats to his right. In the distance there is a snow capped mo
Image courtesy of Kojima Productions

Cooperative games are nothing new, but in recent years there's been more and more games taking a different approach to cooperative multiplayer. Asynchronous multiplayer has been in a variety of games, from simple aggregation like Noby Noby Boy, where the length you stretched your Boy was added to the length of Girl, to the Dark Souls series, where you could leave hints and messages in the game and certain actions would buff other players, helping them along without you needing to play together in real time.


Death Stranding is the latest game to feature these sorts of mechanics, and it's using them to great effect. Going from disconnected, alone, delivering packages with just the tools you can carry, to connected and able to use the ladders, ropes, and roads that fellow players have left behind gives Death Stranding a compelling gameplay loop in its early hours. We discuss this and more on this week's Waypoint Radio. You can listen to the full episode and read an excerpt below.

Spoilers for Kingdom Hearts III from approximately 1:14:22 to 1:15:10

Austin: At at minute five I was just a disaster, I was just getting my shit kicked in. I was like, "All right, I'm gonna go get lunch." [But] this game has the most "one more turn" shit that I have played in a game. Just one more quick delivery! "The Craftsman wants to deliver something to the engineer? That's cute, they're friends now! They're both on the network! You know what, I'll drop by the the highway creator and I'll put in some [metal]. Oh wow look, someone finished one of the highway things! There's a new chunk of road here now!"

By the end of this three hour chunk, it was like, "all right, not only can I deal with the mules, I have taken one of their trucks. I'm loading it up with like 600 metal to drive to the one piece of highway we haven't built yet." Finishing a highway in this game is a moment of the year for me, and this is the year with Outer Wilds, one of my favorite games ever, that has nothing but good moments. But the feeling of "oh my god we've connected the highway. I could just go back to base! No one's gonna get in my fucking way. I got this truck, it's filled with shit." It's so good.


I hope that that particular arc of disempowerment and re-empowerment, that arc of "I don't know what to do in this new zone, shit there's a type of terrain here I haven't dealt with before," continues for at least another 20 hours before I hit whatever the end game is that I've heard is not good. Rob, do I have more happiness in front of me? Do I have more of this particular little arc?

Rob: I think so. [From] the zone you are in there's [about] two other thirds. So you've probably seen about a third this thing. And there's two other thirds that have really distinctive geography and challenges. I think there's a lot of that, the roads are immensely satisfying, [but] boy once you get on that zip line construction program that is another "I have improved things" [moment].

Austin: I want to be clear that it is not just a me thing. It is that video of "Snorlax helping everybody." And it works the other way too, where it's like "ah shit I need metal. I needed like 80 more metal to finish this bridge that I'm building. Where the fuck am I going to get it?" You look down into the ravine and there's an 80 metal box down in the ravine. But it's a pain in the ass [to get to]. Oh, wait a second, someone left a rope here. Perfect! You know what, it's not all about roads and bridges. Sometimes it's about it's about ropes to climb down.

Sometimes I just need the humble ladder. Shout outs to you, Bartman 2000. The two people who've been helping me the most out here, Bartman2000, shout outs to you and like MoMoRiMo or something like that. That motherfucker showed up in a boss fight for me was like, "yo, here take these grenades!" I'm like "yes, that's right, I helped you build a bridge before and now you're here giving me grenades! I don't think you're actually doing this." I think [the game] just pulled a name from a hat and made a ghost appear to throw extra grenades to me but thumbs up to you MoMoRiMo and Bartman!


Rob: Yeah, cause I completed that game I definitely never was throwing grenades at anyone. There was never a moment where it was like "one of your fellow Porters is in trouble" and I was like, "oh shit, better give them all my stuff." And yet it would always happen to me.

Austin: I would totally give them all my stuff if someone needed me. I'd be like "you know what, here, I brought too many grenades out here anyways."

Rob: Well it's a metaphor, pay your fucking taxes!

Austin: Pay your fucking taxes!

Rob: It's like somebody being there being like "I got you! You're in trouble? I got you!"

Austin: I got your back!

Patrick: They don't have the equivalent from Dark Souls, where it was fun after a particularly difficult boss to then just sit in front of the boss door and summon into other people's games. Like "I've done this, if you're summoning you need some help, I'm here to to get hit immediately in this boss fight die and be no help through the rest of this fight."

Austin: There is a ways to do that. So what I did do is in a particularly difficult area, or an area filled with enemies, I built a post box. I put a sign next to it that said "Take for free" and filled the post box with goods that I didn't have room for anymore, like the blood grenades and a couple of other things that would be useful. I was just trying to clear out space so I could take more loot to go build more shit, so I don't three grenades. The box of grenades that you have on your on your body has three uses. I don't need three or four of those. I really only need one or two just in case.


So let me just fill this post box, but that felt like "hey, you know what? someone's about to go fight these BTs. Here's some stuff for you. You know what, before you leave the network, let me just leave you a gift." And that stuff just fucking works. It's so cool. And like, I'm happy to put up with Kojima's bullshit for now, too. And I'm open to good bullshit to be 100% clear. I just don't think [this game] is that at this point.

Discussed: Ring Fit Adventure 4:48, Need for Speed Heat 17:02, Death Stranding 46:50, Nier: Automata 1:08:48, Outer Wilds 1:15:10, The Outer Worlds 1:21:40, Pokemon Sword and Shield 1:28:20, Stadia 1:34:41, Radio Commander 1:40:01

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