15 Death Stranding tips for your first 15 hours – Polygon

We’ve spent hundreds of combined hours in Death Stranding, and now it’s your turn to become Sam Porter Bridges. So, in the spirit of a game about helping others, we’ve corralled our 15 best Death Stranding tips in this guide.

Multiple trips are better than one heavy slog

Death Stranding is a game about carrying cargo over long, treacherous distances. Early on, you’ll do this on foot. Overloading Sam’s backpack will drain his stamina and make him prone to falling over. Don’t make the game harder than it has to be. Swallow your pride, and make multiple, small trips.

Put your faith in other players

“But Polygon,” we hear you saying after reading that section above. “What if I need that third ladder? I’m emotionally attached to this fourth climbing rope strapped to my leg!”

Some of us (ahem, Dave) spent our (his) first several hours using the two is one, one is none rule. It seemed prudent, by which we mean that crossing a river without a ladder seemed terrifying. Hey, what if we had to descend more than one cliff? Might as well pack in triplicate!

And yet, looking back, here’s what we know: We’ve never once used all of the crap that we packed. We spent hours plodding along and tipping over, thanks to unnecessary cargo on our back, sure that we’d need that damn ladder eventually. We didn’t. One of each is fine. Two is arguably pushing it. Three is just silly. Don’t be silly.

Why? Because of other players.


Death Stranding online ladders

Other players placed ladders, and we benefit.
Kojima Productions/Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon

Death Stranding director Hideo Kojima calls this a strand game, and with good reason. Other players who’ve gone before you left behind ladders, ropes, and bridges that are now in your world — and (as the sign says) free to use. Trust that they’re there to help you along, and leave behind all that extra equipment. And if trust isn’t your thing, open your map (or just look around) and search for green things. If it’s green like the text in the image above, then another player left it for you to use.

Literally the worst case scenario is that you might need to backtrack, and given that this is literally a game about traveling, that’s not bad. Also, even this wildly theoretical backtracking will be much easier and faster when you’re not lugging the weight of a rhino on your back.

Build what you need where you need it

A lot of the time, someone else already placed the ladder you need before you got there — but not every time. Maybe you’ve forged a new path, maybe timefall has eroded away a useful ladder, or maybe other player’s stuff just hasn’t shown up in your game.

While you should rely on other players’ structures whenever possible, you’re still going to have to make stuff on your own. There’s no particularly bad place to, uh, place a ladder. Even better, there’s an excellent chance that someone else will run into the same problem you did, use your ladder in their game, and send some Likes through the multiverse.

Understand your backpack

Hey, you know how we’ve spent the last few hundred words talking about using cargo? Well let’s spend the next few hundred talking about what to do with the cargo you’re not using.

Arranging cargo on Sam’s backpack and suit is a minigame of its own. In a game with so much luggage, luckily there’s an auto-sort button (Triangle). That takes care of a lot of packing — but understanding cargo and your backpack will make you a better porter.

What you’re carrying, where it’s attached, and how it’s attached all have an effect on Sam’s balance and how likely things are to fall off when you take a tumble or run into MULEs. For example, if you attach something to Sam’s arms or legs, it won’t fall off if you fall down. It absolutely can fall out if it’s in your backpack.


Death Stranding backpack cargo management

Kojima Productions/Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon

Cargo comes in four sizes: small, medium, large, and extra large. Sizes correspond to weight. Small cargo is the only size that Sam can attach to his suit. You can see what size something is when you look at it in the world or in a menu: Check for the S, M, L, or XL next to the description.

When you’re managing your cargo, always hit the auto-sort button (Triangle). Auto-sort puts the heaviest things are on the bottom, and it moves small cargo to logical places. Trust the auto-sort to get you started.

There are several other places cargo can attach, though, and it’s worth knowing what your options are:

  • Carry on back. This is the main backpack. It’s the default for where cargo goes and the only place medium or larger cargo fits.
  • Attach to suit. Sam has four points (shoulders and hips) where small cargo can attach. The important thing to note here is that cargo attached to Sam’s suit won’t fall off if he takes a tumble.
  • Utility pouch. You don’t have to carry blood bags on your back or suit. You have a special utility pouch that holds up to four blood bags. Make sure you’re using this extra space instead of filling up your back.
  • Tool rack. The tool rack on the right side of Sam’s backpack is a special slot. It’s where whatever tool (or weapon or PCC) you have equipped lives. Just be aware that equipping something else will move whatever was on the tool rack onto your back.
  • Carry by hand. Finally, Sam can carry things by hand. It’s not ideal, and we certainly wouldn’t suggest it for a long trip, but it’s an option.

For a lot of the early game, you’ll be able to auto-sort your cargo and forget it. But take the time when you’re not carrying much to understand the options you have available. That will make your life later in the game (when you’re juggling hundreds of kilos of cargo, multiple weapons, ladders, and dozens of grenades) much easier to manage.

Drop and recycle empty items

Using up a box of grenades, all of the ammo in a weapon, or a can of container repair spray doesn’t automatically remove it from your cargo. Empty containers take up valuable space and add weight to your inventory.

If you need to free up weight, check in your Cargo menu for empty containers (their text is red, so they’re easy to see) and select offload. In the equipment wheel, hit the Circle button to drop them.

The other option is to hold onto them until you can recycle them at a facility terminal. Doing that will return materials to that facility’s stores, but don’t overburden yourself and slow yourself down just to recycle a few extra metals.

Make connections with other players

We should talk about the Bridge Links option in your menu. This is a list of all the other Sams you’ve had some interaction with. It’s also where you can form strand contracts.

Creating a strand contract is like favoriting another player. It makes their stuff more likely to show up in your world. This is a way to play (indirectly) with your friends, and you can also use it to latch onto popular people. Someone with a lot of Likes probably built really useful structures, so making a strand contract with them will make your life easier when you find their perfectly placed bridge 20 hours later.

Check out our Bridge Links and strand contracts guide to learn even more.

The wonderful world of watchtowers

You’ll have access to PCCs (portable chiral constructors) pretty early in Death Stranding. They’re basically special cargo that you can transform into postboxes, generators, and bridges — and watchtowers.

Watchtowers give you the ability to survey large areas of land from a comparatively great height. Use a watchtower, and you’ll highlight cargo, enemies, and chiral crystals in the surrounding area. They’ll also give you a much better perspective on the landscape around you. Build them while you’re planning treks across unfamiliar terrain. Build them to avoid (or raid) MULE camps. Build them to help your fellow Sams.

Focus on the main story first

There’s a rhythm to Death Stranding where you put in a lot of work to deliver cargo across difficult terrain, and then reap the reward of a slightly better way to carry cargo. You’ll get everything from floating cargo carriers to reverse trike motorcycles (and more). So the longer you play, the easier it’ll be to make deliveries.

Every facility and prepper you visit will have standard orders — non-story-related deliveries — for you to complete. As you deliver more and more cargo, you’ll increase their connection levels and get rewards, so it’s easy to get caught up in ferrying cargo back and forth, but consider delaying that desire for a bit. This is particularly important during Episode 2, where there are approximately 400 billion things that you might want to do at any given moment.

Instead, focus on the main story until you get a better way to move cargo. We won’t spoil anything here, but we’re confident that it’ll be clear when that happens. When you do, you’ll be able to move more goods faster than when you arrived, and that’ll make all standard orders way easier to complete.

Increasing connection levels earns you rewards

That isn’t to say you should ignore every prepper you bump into until you’re the best damn porter in the world. Completing orders and increasing connection levels (each place’s stars) will earn you rewards — and they’re often very good.

Some rewards are hologram data for customizing structures, or new sunglasses colors, but you’ll also earn blueprints for gear and vehicles. The Junk Dealer in the Central Region, for example, will provide you with three different exoskeleton blueprints, and a new kind of grenade.

It’s a balancing act, really. The longer you wait, the easier it’ll probably be to complete an order. But the farther you get away (in time and physical space) from wherever you are, the less you’re probably going to want to return and finish the job. What’s a porter to do?

Do the best that you can. Don’t get bogged down trying to complete every delivery as soon as it pops up, but don’t forget about the little people, either. (Seriously. They tend to have awesome rewards.)

Premium deliveries get more likes

While you’re filling in those connection levels with standard orders, you’re earning likes from the NPCs you’re delivering to. Most orders have requirements — Deliver this quickly! Don’t damage this cargo! — and they usually aren’t burdensome.

At a certain point, you also have an option to make orders a premium delivery. Just hit right on the thumbstick or D-pad when you accept an order. Premium deliveries have stricter requirements, but they get more Likes. And more Likes increase connection levels faster. And more connection levels means more goodies from NPCs.

As you get comfortable with an area’s delivery routes and quicker at traversing a region, take on premium deliveries as often as you can.

Follow found footprints

Whether you’re backtracking or running through areas other players have visited before, you might see digital footprints along the ground. If you do, follow them. Run along those paths as you make your deliveries, and over time, those digital footprints will be converted to hardened dirt pathways. It’s cooperation!

At the very beginning of the game, you’ll have to trudge over miles of rocky roads, but these dirt paths will slowly make those trips a lot smoother. Death Stranding is all about making connections and helping other players, and you can do that as easily as tracing others’ footsteps.

Always leave a sign

In Death Stranding, you can leave signs that will alert fellow players of danger, show them the best path up a mountain, or call out the existence of collectibles. These digital signposts are one of the many ways players can connect and help one another throughout their long journey across the country.

To leave a sign, hold the L1 button, and then press Triangle. The game will freeze time and bring up several lists of signs you can leave. These signs are incredibly helpful in the early game, especially for players who aren’t familiar with the land yet. Help your fellow Sams, Sam!

We’ve used other players’ signs to avoid BT encounters, cross dangerous rivers, and find easier routes to travel through. Some signs can even replenish your stamina and give you a speed boost, as we discuss in our guide to the best signs in Death Stranding.

You can defeat BTs pretty early

You’re not going to have many tools at your disposal in the starting area. This makes BTs (the invisible ghost guys) super problematic. But there’s an easy solution: Bring boxes of hermetic grenades wherever you go.

Once you enter an area with BTs, start scanning while standing still, and the BTs will appear as black clouds. Hit a BT with a single hermetic grenade, and that’ll send it to whatever Death Stranding’s version of heaven is.

Each box comes with five grenades. With a bunch at your disposal, you can skip the hardcore stealth in favor of blowing up these ghosts.

It’s OK to get into a fight

If you stumble into a fight with some BTs, it’s OK. The characters in Death Stranding make BTs out to be these impossible enemies, and your earliest experiences all leave you gasping for air as you run away from them.

But BTs aren’t impossible to take down, and you can start killing them way before the game suggests you do so.

As we mentioned above, you can use hermetic grenades to take down BTs before they even spot you. But if you get swept up (literally) by the BTs, don’t panic. When you enter full-on combat (the current drags you away and a giant, black whale leaps into the sky), find a safe spot, and pull out your hermetic grenades. Be patient, wait for the whale, and throw as soon as it surfaces.

These early items pack a serious punch against the BTs, and if you can kill the whale, you’ll eliminate all the BTs in an area for a bit. This can save you a lot of time, rather than trying to sneak out of an area and sneak back in to get any cargo you’ve dropped. And you’ll get a ton of chiral crystals as a reward for eliminating a Giant BT.