Ah, Suda 51, probably one of the wackiest game designers of our time. Games touched by this man are often a shout against society, reveling in counter culture, absurdity, and violence. All of his games are strange, while some of them become shining beacons in a system’s library. Let It Die is the recent release by Grasshopper Manufacture, hitting the PS4 as a free-to-play title that has similar combat to Dark Souls, but adds in layers of smart design choices while playing with rogue-like staples. Will Let It Die become a cult hit like Killer 7 or Shadows of the Damned? Let’s play to find out!
For starters, Let It Die has a good sense of its style. Nothing is taken too seriously as the themes at play are a combination of 80s metal culture combined with the post-apocalyptic setting of say Mad Max and all lined in neon. It’s all gas masks and baseball bats, but the explanation of the game’s setting is especially interesting. Basically great earthquakes destroyed much of the world, and in Japan a great tower rose to split the sky, which came to be known as the Tower of Barbs. Legend says a great treasure lies at the top of the Tower of Barbs, enticing warriors to take down everything in their path on the way to the top.
All of this is an excellent backdrop to the violence and entices the player to make the grueling climb to the top. Let It Die keeps the challenge high through the entire experience. Meaning, no character is ever truly safe, even if they are expendable meat sacks that are kept in a freezer when not in use. Dying isn’t completely permanent though, as one can find their old character wandering around the tower and killing them brings them back to the main hub to be used later. That or players can pay with the basic Kill Coins currency to have them brought back. However, if one doesn’t want to lose their equipment, using Death Metal (paid currency that can be earned) can revive the character on the spot by buying death insurance.
Fighting lost player characters, known as Haters, keep things fresh and often provide the most challenge. Sometimes going through the floors gets incredibly dull, due to the maps staying relatively the same, just with the items randomized. Mostly enemies spawn in the same locations, but when a Hater is thrown into the mix, things get wild. Haters are not like the basic Screamers. While the Screamers are unintelligent undead, a Hater wants only to kill anything living. Haters also call out obscenities, while Screamers just make noise. Creeping down a hallway, low on health items, and then hearing a Hater call out, “You fucking bitch!” makes for some of the best moments of the game.
Combat will be familiar for those who have played any game in the Dark Souls series, as it adopts a lot of similar controls and mechanics. For instance, each weapon has a set animation and mastering the timing of attacks and dodging properly is the only way to come out alive. Weapons range from saw blades made into punching knuckles, to fireworks launchers, to revolvers, to straight up machetes. Each weapon feels unique and finding them scattered about makes it feel like a true apocalypse. Players can also find blueprints to bring to the shop to be able to buy upgradeable weapons. Beware, weapons and armor break over time and use. The early game is a lot of shuffling around half broken equipment, just to make do until getting enough blueprints.
There are two interesting item types found in Let It Die‘s gameplay, mushrooms and beasts. Each mushroom has an effect when eaten and can also have an effect when thrown. For example, the boomshroom is essentially a grenade and eating it is not the best idea. Finding the uses of these mushrooms and utilizing them effectively can make or break a run. Beasts are like frogs, rats, and scorpions that have made their home in the tower. Frogs are easy to catch and offer healing when eating (more so when cooked), while scorpions can damage the player and even poison them. All beasts can be eaten for health and other benefits, but killing them creates a mushroom with its own set of effects. Often times I found myself making moment to moment decisions regarding mushrooms and beasts. Take the heals for later or get a poison grenade mushroom?
Now, one of the major downfalls of Let It Die is its strange lack of being able to change targets while locked on. In Dark Souls its fairly simple, R3 locks on and moving the stick left or right changes the target. This targeting kerfuffle gets me killed more than anything in Let It Die. When multiple enemies attack, it’s a nightmare trying to target the right one, all because there’s no way to change targets while locked on. One has to lock on and hope it lands on the right enemy. The current system also has a bad habit of targeting the furthest away enemy, which leads to all sorts of terrible misses of special rage moves or careful projectiles.
Another area Let It Die lacks in is its environments. There is little variation in each floor, as its mostly grungy industrialism that’s sometimes covered in moss. The paths sometimes change a bit, but for the most part the Tower of Barbs feels boring. If it wasn’t for the rogue-like elements, I don’t think I would’ve played Let It Die for as long as I have.
That being said, Let It Die‘s humor and style permeate the game so much that its hard not to smile when Death appears to call out lines like, “Brutal stuff, senpai”. That and the mushroom worshiping lady is batshit crazy; she’s amazingly strange. The whole cast of characters are all hilarious and fun to interact with.
Now, if only I could make it to the final floor and find that treasure. Then maybe the apocalypse wouldn’t be so bleak; I could bring some light to this meager existence. Not like it’s real important though cause its all a game.
Yep, Let It Die utilizes a frame narrative. The climbing of the tower, killing Haters with sharp or blunt objects, piloting meat puppets to assured destruction, its all a game. Outside the game of Let It Die, the player is sitting at the newest game console at a grungy arcade, enjoying the company of Death, a gaming wizard, and a typically annoying modern teenager who rarely looks up from her cell. This clever way to get quests, tips, and learn some of the lore in Let It Die fits the vibe so well. Not to mention its here that a lot of the game’s excellent soundtrack is heard, which is filled with Metalcore, Japanese Pop, Dubstep, and more to create an excellent mix of tracks.
Interestingly enough, Let It Die (with it being a free-to-play experience) will probably be an ever-changing game. Since I first loaded up the game there have been several patches to fix stability as well as adjust the higher levels of play. Because of this, my complaints about the combat could easily be patched. However, I doubt they would patch the environments to be more detailed, so that will probably stay as a con. Even so, Let It Die has been one of the most addictive free games I’ve played in a long time. That’s not even including the raids one can do to other players, which on its own is great fun. Basically, one can invade other bases, beat up their characters, and drag them back to be slowly turned into a playable character.
There is a lot to enjoy in Let It Die. It will be interesting to see how this game evolves over time, as continued support will definitely prolong how long hardcore players will continue putting in hours. I have certainly enjoyed my time with it and it’s something I plan on loading up regularly. The main combat blemish is incredibly frustrating, but overall Let It Die is the absurd fun that we have come to expect from Grasshopper and Suda 51.
Let It Die is available for download on PS4.