Death Stranding is the first game I have ever played to basically have two maps: one in theory, and one in practice. The game takes place in America, a fact that none of the characters want you to forget, but it isn’t really America, is it?
What I mean is, I walked 1,200 meters (give or take), but somehow I managed to walk from Washington D.C. clear to Tennessee. For an accurate figure describing that distance, Memphis is 873 miles from D.C., which, once converted, equals around 1,404,657 meters. No one wants to walk that, especially not when carrying 80 kilograms of ceramics.
With the math out of the way, hopefully, now you see why I think there are two maps. One is the real, physical map that you walk across while delivering packages; the other is America, the idea of what the physical map is actually supposed to be.
So why, when I’m out delivering packages, do I still feel like I’m walking all the way from Memphis to D.C.? The actual map that we have access to stills feels gargantuan. Here’s how Death Stranding pulls that off.
Consider first arriving to Lake Knot City. It’s dark, and the land is fairly flat, so you can see for quite a distance, except for the massive wall to the right. The wall has lights atop it, on construction that is still taking place, but the wall is massive.
The scale of the city compared to the world you are in is a large part of why the map feels so huge. You know there is a massive city behind you, but you can walk so far in the other direction the huge, imposing wall, is just a speck on the horizon.
This also stands for the broad mountain ranges and the vast lakes as well; the game creates a sense of hugeness that surrounds and almost engulfs Sam Porter Bridges on his cross country trek. It makes the world feel… big.