LET IT DIE Preview — Friendly Neighborhood Uncle Death
LET IT DIE is a new free to play action rogue-like RPG from developer Grasshopper Manufacture only for PlayStation 4. Known for their hyper-violent action and highly stylized presentation of off-beat characters, LET IT DIE fits in easily alongside Lollipop Chainsaw and Killer is Dead. At an event hosted by publisher Gung-Ho Online I got to get almost three hours of hands on time with a near-final build of the game.
Something that jumps out early on is the style of LET IT DIE, both in presentation and gameplay. Menu management is handled by an in-game journal handed to your by Uncle Death, one of the most charming characters to grace video games in recent memory. As a 3D-glasses wearing, skateboarding manifestation of the grim reaper, Uncle Death is presented as a laid back mid-life crisis middle aged dude attempting to reclaim his youth by adopting their mannerisms. He’ll show up in colorful pop-art praising you whenever you perform a goretastic kill, executions unique to each weapon that sees you destroying a staggered enemy. He constantly refers to you as senpai, hands you what the kids call a “smartphone” for communication, and hosts the game-within-a-game format as both creator and participant.
The same creativity poured into Uncle Death is brought over into some of the mechanics of gameplay. Alongside the usual guns, blades, and other weapons you would expect in an action game, you also have access to less-used tools such as nailguns, buzzsaws, and even an iron. Despite not being plugged in the iron will exude steam, which even does damage.
Mushrooms serve as a way to gain temporary boosts to various aspects of your character, or can act as debuffs and deliver status effects to enemies. You’ll have to be careful when managing inventory, as accidentally consuming a bad mushroom will deliver its effect to you instead of your intended target. This is also not helped by the placement of the consume and throw buttons for those items being placed on different sides of the touchpad. You can also gain health and other effects by consuming animals captured in the field. One specific mushroom that healed me triggered an animation upon which I would stand on my head in some strange yoga position as a beam of light shined on me. Just another example of the light-hearted style Grasshopper brings to all their games.
In terms of quantity, there is certainly a lot to gather and use in LET IT DIE; equipment, both offensive and armor, skin decals, collectibles, bestiary, mushrooms, creatures, to name a few. Equipment is both acquired after defeating enemies and from crafting and purchasing them from a store located in the waiting room, your home base of sorts for leveling up, organizing your storage, and acquiring new items before heading back into the Tower of Barbs. Another shop is the mushroom one where you can place different decals onto your fighter which activates passive bonuses. This waiting area is also the place your you cash in experience points gained during your time in the tower to level up and increase attributes. A storage space exists, as does a place you can store defeated Haters of previous fighters you controlled.
Each weapon, of which there are more than thirty different types, has its own mastery level. Increasing the mastery level not only increases your ability to use the weapon but can also introduce alternative attacks. Mastery levels is one of the elements of LET IT DIE that will carry over after death, along with your access to items unlocked in the shop and storage space. A unique aspect of death in Let It Die is that you leave behind an AI controlled version of your dead self, dubbed a Hater. This Hater will wander around the area you died in, and you can either choose to best it in combat and gain rewards for doing so, or allow it to wander and potentially kill other human players connected online. Haters contain the equipment and skills you had at death, and are significantly more difficult than the random enemies you encounter.
A workaround to death and leaving a Hater behind is an insurance company that will revive you, for a cost. The special currency can be purchased via microtransactions, or by in-game advancement. During this preview I was given about 1000 units of the skull currency so did not have to worry about losing any progress upon death. This also meant I don’t have a good idea on how much players might be pushed towards spending real money on the game, as the storefront did have various options for transactions but the same price of $1.28. Subscription to the insurance company with real world money also grants access to expanded inventory and storage space, an elevator that is free, and some other free items.
Weapons you are given degrade through use, which forces you to utilize other weapons picked up during your time, and to manage inventory space with weapon degradation in mind. This is a good way of pushing the player to use things they might not have. It also helps players build mastery levels with each item, as every one that is picked up will most likely be used, and therefore give some experience to its mastery level. Sequencing attacks allows the player to build up a combat meter, which can be tapped into allowing for more powerful charged attacks. When enemies reach a staggered state, players are also given the ability to execute them with the weapon equipped. Each has a unique animation and is generally very bloody with explosions of red fluid from the victims body.
These goretastic finishers is another way to help steer the player towards different weapons, as each has its own execution animation that is fun to watch as the lighting around the player and the victim is turned all the way down. When unarmed your finishers include wrestling moves such as the suplex, which are equally entertaining to watch as fountains of blood spew up. Each hand has three weapon slots each, allowing you to quickly swap between them with the directional pad. A heart icon within the character shows the current status of their stamina depending on its color and frequency of beats. Its a very unique and clever way to show a stamina gauge instead of the usual HUD bar.
There are about thirty floors in the Tower of Barbs, according to the narrative. However there can be multiple areas on each floor, so the expectation that you are only going to see thirty levels is thrown out early on. An elevator serves as a through line for each floor, but won’t actually be accessed in every area on that floor. Some areas will have it, others will require you to push on or backtrack if you want to access an elevator to reach the waiting room to cash in and level up. Defeating mid-bosses at certain key areas will also open up previously inaccessible pathways. While there are procedural aspects to the creation of the tower’s many floors, the ones I played shared some rather common elements that made the surrounding environment consistent.
LET IT DIE‘s narrative is very interesting in both that it is actually a game-within-a-game and a post-apocalyptic take on Japan likened both to the manga Violence Jack and sometimes even Akira. Taking place after a cataclysmic event in 2026, a tower appears off the coast of Tokyo. Rumors of massive treasure at the top cause many to enter and brave the violence within. Dons control certain sections of the tower, and comic book pages you can collect give some details to their backstory and the overall world. Whenever you are in the waiting room you can also exit the game and interact with various characters, including Uncle Death, in an arcade. A professional gamer offers tips on how to play, and a young girl on her phone has a laptop that allows you to take on quests for rewards.
Most quests are of the standard variety: complete X a certain amount of times, collect this much of X, kill this enemy X number of times, and so on. A radio also lets you switch up the music playing both in the arcade and when you return to the waiting room. Surprisingly there are a large amount of tracks accessible, as I perused well over fifty stations. Uncle Death is the apparent inventor of the console and game you are playing, which is displayed via a video transmission emanating from a live beetle. One of the best parts of this arcade is a machine in the back that will load tapes that explain a specific piece of lore or gameplay in a VHS scan-lined format complete with high quality images and tape-errors.