What is a “Strand” Game?

Image result for death stranding bridge

Tokyo Game Show 2019 was last week, and with that Hideo Kojima fans were greeted with a special treat – that being over 49 minutes of Death Stranding gameplay. Those who have been following the development of the game, as well as Kojima in general, may have noticed him touting that his new game is the “first of a new genre” – specifically the “Strand” genre. But what is a “Strand” game…?

Of course, I would like the preface that this depends on how much you believe Kojima’s claims – as a big fan myself even I’ve come to realise some of his innovations tend to not be as grandiose or advanced as he initially says. But for the sake of this article, I’m going to assume he’s right – taking in all the gameplay and interviews for the game I’m going to be giving my analysis of what a “Strand” game may consist of.

Before the gameplay reveal, Death Stranding was thought to be a lonely game that’s completely single player, with a lot of walking involved – and it still is. However, it appears you will have a lot of connection between other players, as well as characters within the game – Kojima refers to these as “Strands”. From what I gathered in the gameplay demo, everything you leave behind, build, or even walk to will have some sort of ripple effect and has a chance of appearing in another players world. As you progress through the game you will connect different points on the map, and more and more strands will be created. Furthermore, the additional strands that you create in the game increase the strands (connection) between other players. Allowing you to see ladders left behind, luggage dropped, structures built – these will all be seen by other players playing the game. You may even be thrown an item or two during boss fights. You can either use these to your advantage or just ignore them…

Image result for death stranding ladder
Using a ladder to cross a ravine.

There is also a rating system in place, allowing players to “Like” structures or objects left by “other Sams” within the game. According to Kojima, you can even upgrade these things for your fellow players, it’s up to you. Towards the end of his presentation, he highlights how you can see other players footprints, and if you follow them, it may eventually form a visible path for yourself and other players – and after a long period, a road. To me, that’s incredibly interesting and I’m very curious as to how that will work, as it seems the more they’re used, the bigger they become.

If I had to summarize what a “Strand” game is, it’s reminiscent of what the notes in Dark Souls did for the experience, but fleshed out into a full game and more involved. Kojima highlighted the main part of the experience is that you are meant to “feel alone, but not alone” and that you’re meant to be able to feel that you’re not the only “Sam” going on this journey – from East to West. Whether it is its own genre and will evolve into something even bigger – we have yet to find out. Either way, it’s going to be fascinating how much the playing experience is going to differ from player to player. November 8th cannot come soon enough.

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