While this adventure's original release highlighted a struggle to reconnect people that were seemingly lost and scattered across a fractured nation, its themes stand out more in the shadow of Covid-19. In the light of the global pandemic, the messages from Death Stranding: Director's Cut about survivors trying to squeeze out an existence because of an invisible, ever-pervasive threat that could strike people down out of nowhere feels not only perceptive, but could feel a little close to home for many players. Whether it's the idea of sheltering in place and waiting on things to get better, or relying upon deliveries to get you necessities, the unintended parallels are extremely clear, adding more importance and weight in each chapter of the story. That also casts a larger spotlight on the emotional and mental damage these characters have gone through. Much of the storyline is exactly the same as the original, although the addition of a new area in the Ruined Factory feels like it's plucked from Kojima's other gaming franchise, Metal Gear Solid, and really emphasizes stealth gameplay. Aside from this side mission, you'll still come across packages lost by other players, structures built by them to help porters deliver packages or cross obstacles, or other markers to help you along the way. Some of the newer structures in the Director's Cut are significantly more useful than others, like jump ramps to help you cross chasms, or cargo catapults to launch deliveries from one location to the next. Others, like the Chiral Bridge, aren't great when the rain kicks up and shuts them down. The same can be said about the racetrack, which is mainly for players that want to drive on a circuit, but doesn't really add much to the overall experience. And while the option for your buddy bot can help you carry more, its limitation to specific areas you've connected to the network can be infuriating. All together though, your limited online interaction fosters a sense of community between players, making you want to build structures to help other gamers, or pick up lost items from fallen porters to help others out. After all, while you're playing by yourself, you're all in the same situation. One small favor goes a long way, and can make someone else's game just a bit easier.
The Director's Cut is still difficult, because the environment's rough, jagged terrain is as dangerous as the invisible monsters and the raiding parties scattered across the land. In fact, the most tense moments are when you're stuck in some areas that are constantly raining, ruining your equipment and packages while also placing you in danger of being attacked at any moment. It makes you more reliant upon the gear you've packed and your skill at effectively using them in battle or in navigating from one place to the next. The Director's Cut doubles down on its emphasis of non-violent solutions to attacks from enemies by providing you with a new weapon against human opponents, the Maser gun, which delivers electric shocks, and a support skeleton that can be used to run away from foes. The maser's great, although it quickly gets outpaced in usefulness as you get access to later non-lethal guns. You have the option to use traditional weapons, but it'll make things much harder, and more dangerous, in the end. Death Stranding: Director's Cut builds on the eerie, striking play of the original, and feels fresher and more vibrant with its expanded content to help you dive into this mysterious story.