Goichi Suda, known better as Suda 51, has made some bizarre games. From the political thriller Killer7 to the highly satirical No More Heroes. His games are vibrant and unabashedly tongue-in-cheek. What happens when he makes a free to play dungeon crawler? Pure chaos.
Let It Die feels like it came out of nowhere. It was completely off my radar until this weekend’s Playstation Experience. It released on the Playstation 4 after appearing on the stage during the main conference.
I didn’t know what to expect. Suda’s last titles, Lollipop Chainsaw and Killer is Dead retained his brash style but were also messy and hard to play. Let It Die is much more engaging, offering a pseudo-roguelike full of brutal enemies and a solid core loop of gameplay.
Players are tasked with climbing up a labyrinthine tower. Each floor is filled with enemies, items, and hazards. It’s as standard a set up as you can get and the game knows it. The game cracks wise when you die, calls attention to itself, and gleefully presents itself as an arcade romp.
As such, the gameplay strike a balance between the brutalism of Dark Souls with the weighty heft of Dead Rising. The addition of harsh, DIY fashioned weapons like a fireworks gun or a hot, steam shooting iron really seals the deal. At times, it can feel clumsy to play but that gives way after a while, adding tension to encounters.
The game’s UI and menus are a goddamn disaster zone though. Selecting weapons and switching out clothing is a slower process than it should be. Worse, interface controls shift from screen to screen. You might press circle to move back a screen only to find that you must now press square. It’s so bewildering to me that I’ve concluded that the game must be intentionally fucking with everyone. No user experience should be this awful.
If you press through it and focus on the gameplay, there’s some genuinely good ideas to be. Dying in the dungeon will turn your old corpse into a difficult, feral enemy that bars progression. If your friends die in their games, you might even run into their fallen bodies. This sometimes means that high level enemies crop up far too early but that makes defeating them all the more satisfying in the end.
Unfortunately, the game’s monetization rears its ugly head when you die. Player can spend “death metal” to continue on the spot. If they don’t, they’ll need to start over with a new character or go through convoluted methods to recover them. These characters individually retain experience points, which makes the threat of losing them a true anxiety. I imagine plenty of people will fork out some cash to save characters they’ve gotten attached to.
Surpassing the initial difficulty of the game takes some time but once you start to find weapon blueprints and level up, it becomes significantly easier to jump back for another loop through the dungeons. Let It Die’s core experience takes time to open up but you’ll eventually rush through lower levels to face off against bosses and far more interesting challenges.
In all, I’m pleasantly surprised with the game. It’s easy to be cynical of free to play titles but there’s a pretty good time to be had in spite of some of the wider convolution. Menus are tricky and the game drops a lot of information into your lap at the start. It can be intimidating and sometimes infuriating. However, perseverance reveals a wild game that’s easy to get lost in.
If anything else, you haven’t lived until you’ve beaten your friend’s reanimated corpse with a hot iron.