Let It Die review

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Getting a surprise release during Sony’s PlayStation Experience keynote, Let It Die is the latest from Grasshopper Manufacture, the studio helmed by Suda51 – one of gaming’s most intriguing producers – and true to his usual form, it’s bloody weird. Although he didn’t direct this title himself, it has all the hallmarks of a Suda joint. Any game that has you liaising with a skateboarding, foul-mouthed Grim Reaper called ‘Uncle Death’ between sessions might seem extremely odd, but this is pretty much standard Suda fare. Heavy metal? Check. Wrestling moves? Of course.

Let It Die is a tough game to pin down. At its most basic level, it is a free-to-play roguelike that cribs it’s best ideas from the Souls series and some of the interesting stuff from Ubisoft’s ZombiU. The game takes place in 2026 when, presumably, the world has continued on its current trajectory towards total destruction and a gigantic structure, The Tower of Barbs, grows out of a rapture in Japan. Your goal, as well as everyone else who is playing the game, is to make it to the top, battling your way through the various fiends that walk its hallways.

You pick an avatar from a selection of what appear to be reanimated corpses and meet with Uncle Death, who refers to you as Senpai as he guides you through the opening tutorial. Every trip up the tower begins in the Waiting Room, a fairly standard hub that serves as your place to level up, buy weapons, store items and all the things you’d expect to be able to do in a game that borrows heavily from Dark Souls.

Combat also follows the Dark Souls blueprint, albeit an extremely simplified version – you lock on to your enemy, and dance in and out of their effective range, trying to bait out an attack that you can punish with one of your own. Stamina management is key, as too much ducking, diving and attacking will leave you in a breathless, vulnerable state that means almost certain death. Dark Souls’ famous bonfire rest points are represented here by elevators. Should you find one, you can pay some of the gold you gathered to return to the Waiting Room to level up and bank all your findings, before either starting again or paying some more gold to return to where you came from.

You start off with just your fists and a pair of pants, but as you leather enemies they drop pickups that make life a bit easier. Steel pipes, hammers and even a household iron can be wielded as weapons, while armour pieces make you look like an extra from Fury Road dressed using only items found in a B&Q. All of these perish as you take or deal damage and cannot be repaired. Nothing is permanent and you learn to ‘live off the land’ a bit, constantly having to evaluate your equipment wear and tear versus the space in your inventory for loot whenever you see an enemy drop something.

There are also mushrooms and small animals to find, each one of them providing a different status effect if you consume or throw them at an enemy. Switching between these requires some flicking of the PS4 touchpad, which isn’t quite as precise as it needs to be, causing a few ‘hilarious once but otherwise utterly infuriating’ moments when instead of chucking the grenade-like Boomshroom into an angry mob, you eat it and blow up from the inside out.

The most interesting aspect of Let It Die is the way that it handles multiplayer. You never fight another player directly. You can encounter them in the tower, ‘Haterfied’ versions of them. Much like ZombiU, if you die and choose to stay dead, your corpse will start to roam the level in your friend’s games. If it ends up killing one of them, you get a prize. Raiding people’s Waiting Rooms is far more lucrative, though.

Through a terminal in your Waiting Room you can take part in the Tokyo Death Network. It allows you to enter an instance of a random player’s Waiting Room and attempt to steal a small percentage of their actual gold and SPLithium – the two currencies you gain through normal play – by smashing up their banks. You can defend your own by placing your levelled up characters in defensive positions, with any potential attackers having to battle your AI-controlled team.

Thing is, there’s no way to stop this. It’s a constantly running thing in the background of Let It Die at all times. Logging on after a few days away to see that your gold and SPLithium reserves have been almost completely drained by constant raids is disheartening, as all you can really do is grind to get the numbers back up, whether that be by raiding yourself or just going headlong into the tower once again. Levelling up additional characters to defend your Waiting Room is a bit of a grind, too, as you basically have to start again – if you want a team of five, you’re playing through the game five times.

Let It Die is a bit like – and this is meant as a genuine compliment – a budget PS2 curio. One of those games that is a bit rough around the edges and lacking in triple-A polish, but has an idea that is far more compelling and delivered in such a stylish way. Grasshopper Manufacture doesn’t deal in blockbusters, but this is likely to be another cult hit.

7
Another weird but compelling release from Suda51