Death Stranding's multiplayer has, like much of the game itself, remained much of a mystery up until the game's release.
Though Death Stranding is not an online only game, this is a single player adventure with an emphasis on online connectivity, which can populate the world with structures built by other players and cargo they failed to deliver.
There's no direct co-operative or competitive multiplayer in Death Stranding, and though it's asymmetric and largely automatic, but well worth learning how it works to benefit both yourself and - in keeping with the themes of the game - other players.
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If you're looking for more from the critical path, our Death Stranding walkthrough can help.
What is shared with other players in Death Stranding's multiplayer?
The core of Death Stranding multiplayer will see structures you build and the cargo you leave behind appear in other games.
This includes objects appearing in the world automatically, such as:
- Exploration aids such as Ladders and Ropes, which are left behind for other players to discover.
- Player built structures, such as Post Boxes, Watch Towers, Generators and Roads, can appear and be upgraded by other players with feature upgrades and customisation such as holograms and music.
- Signs can be posted to advertise a number of pre-selected messages, such as dangers, nice views or words of encouragement.
- Cargo left behind (whether abandoned on purpose or lost) will appear in other worlds when you travel a significant distance away.
- Cairns will show up in places others have rested, and if you rest there in return, you'll recover faster and increase the Cairn's size.
Almost all of the above structures will be introduced to you naturally over the course of the game, often with dedicated Orders to complete acting as tutorials. Though most cost materials to build, signs can be erected for free at any time.
As well as the above, you can interact with players more directly in certain circumstances:
- Any structure or item placed by players can be Liked, and any of yours can be Liked in return, leveling your Porter Grade and giving you a way to say thanks.
- You can drop off unfinished deliveries at UAC centres for other players to complete, giving you a few Likes in the process.
- There's the option to donate items in Post Boxes for other players to collect. You can also leave vehicles in Garages for others to use, too.
- Supply Requests can be made in the field from your Cuff Links (after completing Episode 2, Order 9, also known as the Wind Farm) if you are in need of specific consumables.
- Co-operation Requests, available from Bridge Link grade 10, can be made to highlight a structure you've built to other players as a candidate for upgrades, giving them more Likes in return.
As you can see, there's a few ways of interacting with other players - though there's a few caveats as to when and how they appear.
How does Death Stranding's multiplayer work?
Though Death Stranding will pluck structures and dropped cargo from other players mostly at random - unless you make use of the Strand Contracts feature as described below - there is sometimes an emphasis on highly liked structures that most players will find useful.
Additionally, it appears to place a limit on the type that appear at any one time. Though signs can regularly flood certain areas (which is a welcome heads up there's a point of interest - or challenging area - ahead) other things such as Postboxes and Bridges will be more irregular, to make exploration evenly challenged and the world feel less jarring.
After all, having two Watchtowers next to one another wouldn't make much sense!
Though Death Stranding's online connectivity is reminiscent of asymmetric games such as Dark Souls, a key thing to note is player-built structures won't appear in areas until after you've connected to them the UCA's chiral network.
As a result, when exploring new areas it's worth observing where chiral network coverage ends; you'll be notified of this when you enter or leave the boundary via an on-screen message, and is also visible on screen as a blue and red outline.
Not only do player structures disappear, but you cannot build any of your own, either.
In our experience pre-release, some structures do filter through - giving you a little help when exploration gets tough) - but the bulk of them only appear as you make your reverse journey back through a newly connected area, almost acting like a reward for a job well done.
Bridge Links and Strand Contracts in Death Stranding explained
Though the appearance of structures and other player-made objects is largely out of your hands, there is a way to skew who appears in your game based on the Strand Contract feature.
After Order 9 (delivering the Wind Farm's power supply unit) in Episode 2, alongside the ability to order Supply Requests from other players, you also add the Bridge Links option to your Cuff Links menu.
Visiting Bridge Links will present you with a list of players you've recently interacted with. This also acts as a way for you to see everyone's Porter Grade progress (your level, in other words) in a leaderboard-style format, showing who's put the most time and effort into their delivery career.
This is also where you establish Strand Contracts, which allow you to 'tag' a player so their structures and lost cargo appear more often in your game. Since it's one way, you don't have to have their permission to establish a Strand Contract, so will work right away.
To do this, you first have to increase your Bridge Link grade - which increases with players interacting and Liking your structures, and vice versa - to level 10.
Then, you can press the Triangle button to add someone to the 'Strand Contract Made' list, which you can see by tabbing across by pressing R1.
If you want to make more Strand Contracts, then continue levelling your Bridge Link grade. Every 10 levels allows you to create five more Contracts.
Tomorrow is finally in our hands! Our Death Stranding walkthrough outlines how to play through the main story, including Episode 3 missions, the Small Thermonuclear Device and how to find a way to change Lockne's mind, find a way to cross the tar belt and make a decision, and bring this to an end. As you play, you can find Memory Chip locations, unlock pre-order bonuses and have to learn how to fight BTs and Mules, how Death Stranding multiplayer works, and to help you get around easier, how to get a bike and how to unlock fast travel in Death Stranding. Finally, the PC version has exclusive Death Stranding Half-Life cross-over quests.
What happens when you play Death Stranding offline?
Playing Death Stranding offline does unfortunately mean many of the above features won't appear in the game. For example, you won't find ladders or ropes left behind by players, nor more crucially, structures such as Post Boxes and Generators, meaning you'll have to fund these yourself.
Lost cargo, meanwhile, will continue show up, but will be attributed to automatically generated porters and the owners of the various shelters you encounter on your travels instead of actual players with usernames - so at least you'll have a steady drip feed of deliveries to collect.
It also possibly means your Porter Grade won't increase as quickly, as you cannot Like - or be Liked - by other players. That said, if you played online previously and created a structure, you will still earn Likes for that contribution - you'll just be given them the next time you connect.
On a similar note, any structures you build offline will be uploaded the next time you play for others to use.
If you cannot play online, though the Death Stranding experience is arguably poorer without the influence of other players and the surprise of the structures they build, that's not to say it's necessarily made more difficult.
Yes, a structure might help you in keep you in a pinch, but our experience playing for a handful of hours offline wasn't necessarily harder - it just means you might have to go out of your way to build a Generator to charge a vehicle or Watchtower to spot Mules instead of stumbling upon one at random.
And, as mentioned earlier, new areas won't have structures in them at all anyway, as it's not until you complete your objective that they'll be added to the UCA network, populating it with things from other players.
But if you can play online, you should - the above additions do come in handy, and even if you rarely use them, even just the sight of a well-positioned sign or bridge on the horizon can make the task of delivering cargo a little less lonely.