Suda51’s latest opus, Let It Die, came from the ashes of what originally was known as Lily Bergamo. The game has been changed quite a bit visually, however, I got the first hands-on time with the game at this year’s PAX East, with Suda51 himself on deck, answering my burning questions.
In the game you always start out as a completely randomized dude in a pair of underwear. That’s it – you’re thrown into a weird and somewhat creepy world, Suda-style, and are forced to survive and make use of any weapons and equipment you find.
I quickly found a pipe to make use of when killing one of the lesser baddies, upon which Death himself (your tour guide) popped up, sporting his ridiculous 3D glasses, congratulating me on my kill. As you explore this carnival-themed tower, you’ll encounter more creepy mutants, and even bosses.
One of the biggest questions most people (including myself) have regarding the game is what exactly happened with its progenitor, Lily Bergamo, and why they scrapped it for what became Let It Die. Suda answered:
“One of the biggest reasons why we switched was to expand the gameplay beyond what was seen with Lily Bergamo,” Suda said. “Lily Bergamo was a game where you played as a set protagonist, but when we made the switch, we wanted to put the player into the game and invest the player in the character. This meant we had to move away from a specific player character, instead letting the player create their character.”
“Lily Bergamo is more story-driven, while Let It Die is more action-driven,” Suda continued.
“The game itself, the mechanics haven’t changed from the initial concept, so we took it from that and made it into some more action focused, on building a character, building a fighter in this harsh world. The concept went from being more story driven to more action driven, having players focus on the action, the combat part of the game.”
When I pressed Suda for whether or not Grasshopper Manufacture would consider a Kickstarter for Lily Bergamo as a “traditional,” story-focused and a paid release, even as a spinoff, I was kindly told they couldn’t comment on the possibility.
The world in Let It Die is procedurally generated, meaning no two playthroughs will be the same. Despite the levels being procedural, they still felt organic and very much so in what you’d expect from a Suda game. There are key points where you’ll encounter the same thing, like boss fights, however the majority of the game is procedural, from what I was told.
You can dual wield most one handed weapons, as I quickly found after equipping a handgun and a crossbow. Each weapon felt really different. I eventually got a pair of running pants, and sometime afterwards, a jacket. Later I found a ridiculous looking traditional samurai helmet, complete with a big fluffy plume and everything.
Eventually I found weird oddities that make total sense when remembering this is a Suda51 game, like toadstools that act as grenades when thrown, frogs that you can eat to recover health (you have to chase them down), and more. When I ran away to heal myself with frogs, Suda and I instantly began laughing together – a testament to how silly and fun the game inherently is.
I found some insane weapons, like a massive Dirty Harry-style magnum, chainsaws, nailguns, and my favorite, a traditional katana blade. You can equip up to six (hot-swappable with the d-pad) weapons, with three slots for each hand.
Melee combat feels somewhat reminiscent of From Software’s Souls franchise, albeit with a bit more of a float-y feeling. You have your parry, dodging, quick attacks, heavy attacks, as well as powered up versions of your moves should you hold down the triangle button (it works off a meter). It feels like a more forgiving, yet still calculating type of combat. You also have a stamina meter that is displayed by your heart becoming more visible, as it works harder.
When I asked Suda about the similarity to the Souls franchise, he responded:
“It wasn’t specifically on purpose, but the way you defeat enemies and collect rewards from them, as well as the animation system, it wasn’t intentional, but it can be said that it’s similar. It’s definitely not on purpose,” Suda said after having a silly pause to think.
Let It Die is a free-to-play game, a first of its kind from Suda51 and quite a bold leap from his traditionally story-driven pulp that fans are used to and enjoy. There’s still massive amounts of pulp and violence here, however, rest easy when I tell you the game is not the freemium nonsense you were afraid of it being.
“Monetization will only allow players to shorten the grind of the game,” Suda said when asked how microtransactions work. “We want to make sure it’s not a pay to win style of game.” This also works for continues, should you run out of your free three continues.
After getting more confident in my samurai-plumed helmet and katana, I quickly progressed to what is reminiscent of what running into an invading player within Dark Souls feels like. These are recreations of other players who have died, right down to the gear they were sporting when they died. When asked how this mechanic works, Suda coyly said they’re not ready to talk about it yet.
“We wanted to use the death data in an interesting way, we thought about it and when using the weapons and equipment in that way, we felt it was an interesting play style,” Suda teased when I asked once more how “the cloud” works in the game.
Coming from this, when I first ran into a player character in my game I died. When you die in the game, you’re introduced to the roguelike element of Let It Die (despite Suda avoiding using the term). Upon dying, you meet the “Insurance Girl,” a cute girl in a pink PVC-leather outfit, who offers to resurrect you at your current location. The multiplayer, if you can call it that, works asynchronously.
You only have three continues, after which, you lose all of your progress and gear, starting back in the base of the tower in your underwear. Once I accepted the offer to revive on the spot, I quickly got my bearings and defeated the player apparition. Then I progressed to the end of the level, where a massive, mutated pile of a boss waited.
As I dodged both his area attacks and his projectiles made up of human bodies, I healed myself with more frogs and stowed up enough energy to unleash some powerful melee attacks with my katana. Three of these were enough to do the trick, slaying the mutated pile of bodies, to which they began to dissolve into the ground.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Let It Die. It doesn’t quite feel like an “online” game so much as its a game that has asynchronous online elements, sort of the same way the Souls games function as well.
I’m still not entirely sure how everything fits together, but I can only feel excited because I know Suda is at the helm, and he’s still got lots of new things up his sleeves.
Let It Die will launch sometime later this year exclusively on PlayStation 4, worldwide.