Death Stranding has been a potent vehicle for fan theories in the years since it was unveiled at E3 2016. In trailer after trailer, new moments would baffle you, making you question what this game could even be. Now it has a release date, a cast list, and a firm show of gameplay in its most recent trailer. We've gleaned what info we can, and that should be all we have for now.
But as I dug through the footage from last week's reveal trailer, it became clear that those previous trailers weren't just proofs of concept. Death Stranding has always been about the theories, and they could run even deeper than I thought, all the way back to its reveal on the Sony stage.
Armed with the knowledge from our new trailer and a healthy dose of caffeine, I plunged my way into the past to see how what we've learned has affected what we already knew. What new theories could I posit from this footage? The answer is more than a few.
This trailer from E3 2018 was our first glimpse at gameplay, though it's really just walking around various landscapes. Most of the relevant info comes in the voiceover narration. "Tears," says a woman in voiceover, presumably Fragile. "A chiral allergy. So you have DOOMS like me."
"Chiral" could refer to chirality, or when something is asymmetric to not be superimposable on its mirror image. This sounds more daunting than it is. Look at your hands, right and left. Now, try to make the left sit perfectly on top of right, without flipping it over. No matter how much you shift and rotate, you can't. (Fun fact: "chiral" is Greek for hand.)
It's mostly useable in a chemistry setting, to note characteristics of specific compounds. But going by the more literal definition, we can start to draw on themes and imagery in the most recent trailer. In that trailer and in details on the game's site, we learn about the "other side," a dreamlike upside-down realm where you go after death in Death Stranding. Could this "other side" be a mirror to our own, and those with a "chiral allergy" have a unique connection to it? Sam also mentions an "extinction factor" and that Fragile's level is higher than his; she can see "them" (presumably "Beaching Things," BTs for short), whereas Sam can only sense them, getting goosebumps and chills when they draw near.
Another note here is, oddly enough, crying. After Sam and Fragile narrowly avoid an encounter with a BT, a tear falls down Fragile's face. This might seem like an innocuous reaction to a harrowing event at first glance, but in the release date trailer, there is special attention drawn to characters' tears. When listing out the actors playing roles in Death Stranding, each is shown crying, sometimes tears and other times blood. It's theorized that this is a chiral allergic reaction, as in the release trailer, we see Fragile tear up after Troy Baker's character Higgs starts a rainfall.
We also get some more exposition on the rain. Rain appears to have unique properties in Death Stranding. "The timefall fast-forwards whatever it touches," says Fragile. "But it can't wash everything away. The past just won't let go." A popular fan theory is that rain, referred to as "timefall" in Death Stranding, ages you if it touches your skin.
Rain and aging seems very important, as well as the dualistic nature of life and death, represented by the chiral allergies and timefall. I mean, It's Kojima. He likes symbolism.
The trailer opens with narration from Norman Reedus, describing the origins of the universe and something more ominous to come. Sam is here, although he's in a "Porter" uniform rather than a "Bridges" one. Fragile refers to him as "Sam Porter Bridges," rather than Sam Bridges, so perhaps these are clues to something more.
This video plays out like a discrete horror short, with the two Bridges members and Sam narrowly avoiding the menacing, invisible BTs. Here we see the Bridge Babies (or BBs), which we've since learned are preventive measures for whatever the BTs do to people, as a Bridges member tosses one to Sam and tells him to run. This trailer still stands out as a selling bit of terror that other trailers have lacked, but it also gives us a sense of how feared the BTs are.
Death is a kinder alternative than being sucked into their muck; it's theorized that getting sucked into the other side means being trapped in a purgatory of never-ending death, as shown by all the dreamlike war scenes. Given what we now know about Bridge Babies, BTs, and the "other side," it lends a lot of credence to this scary short.
This was the trailer that I most wanted to revisit, as it was an outlier from the pack. It stars Guillermo del Toro's character, who we now know as Deadman, rather than Sam. From the outset, things are weird. An upside-down rainbow hangs in the sky, dead crustaceans and sea life (another running bit of imagery) litter the ground, and it looks like Deadman is in the middle of a World War. He's got a loose handcuff and a Bridge Baby. An octo-tank that looks like a too-realistic Splatoon boss rolls over, and black muck starts to flood the area. Deadman grimaces and powers on his baby bottle, before turning into the tunnel to face someone who appears to be Cliff, Mads Mikkelsen's character.
Cliff's umbilical fireteam rolls out ahead of him, and he's got tears streaming down his face. We ultimately don't glean much from this and it honestly seems more like a tease than an actual bit of story, though it does reinforce my theory that Cliff exists as a sort of predator or hunter inside the upside-down realm. He's also seen as antagonistic inside the dreamlike upside-down segments in the release date trailer. Could this be the real Cliff, or a malevolent spectre given form by the beholder? Either way, Creepy Mads is creepy.
Finally, the first trailer for Death Stranding, the one that started it all. The infamously naked Norman Reedus doesn't provide too many obvious clues, but there is one very interesting tidbit to pull out in relation to the Bridge babies and the BTs. Sam wakes up in the middle of seemingly nowhere, covered in handprints and a BT approaching. Crying, he clutches a nearby baby, which disappears in his hands. In its place is black muck, and small BT handprints cascade down his body and away from him.
Is this a hint to how the Bridge babies prevent BT attacks? Is there some kind of Game of Thrones-style Night King exchange happening here, or something even stranger? Through revisiting these trailers, some portions start to become clearer, but that only muddies up other areas.
We've got a better hook on how "voidouts" and the "upside-down" realm work. We can tell that rain ages people, and people with "chiral allergies" seem to have a stronger connection to both the rain and the BTs that follow it. Bridge babies seem to counteract being sucked into BT muck, which otherwise instills a fate presumably worse than death. It seems like gold is important as well; a wrapped body is shown with a golden mask, Higgs has a lot of gold, and Fragile appears to have some gold on her as well.
But there are bigger questions still floating around. As Sam mentions at the end of the release trailer, the focus of the game is reconnecting and reuniting a fractured world. What fractured that, and how? And also, how did BTs start showing up in what we know now is the United States? Add in questions about superpowers and the chronology, and there's a lot left to solve. But that's always been the draw of each trailer for Death Stranding, right? We come away with more theories, but it's the theorizing that's so much fun.