Suda 51 and Grasshopper Manufacture have become notable icons in the videogame world, with their insane scenarios and characters littered across the gaming landscape for the last decade. Much of the focus is directed on a wide range of deeply involved and unique characters in most of Grasshopper Manufacture’s games, but this time around, they choose to focus in, hard, on the player and other players exploring the world of Let it Die and the tower of Barbs. So how did it do?
Let it Die
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Publisher: GungHo Online Entertainment Inc
Platform: Playstation 4
Release Date: December 3, 2016
Players: 1 with online elements.
MSRP: Free to play
This is a review coupled with a supplemental video review. You can watch the video review above, or read the full review of the game below.
The art style of Let it Die sets the tone right away with its thematically dark, brutal, but very vibrant look. This is a game that knows it’s a game, which is reflected in the visuals and gameplay. Every weapon and enemy screams Grasshopper Manufacture but at the same time is quite the different beast in most aspects of its art direction; which gives a sense of familiarity while being new.
Enemy types range from mutilated corpses left over from rampant war repurposed into weapons, enemy player data (which we’ll cover in a bit), and fallen treasure seekers that have been zombified by the 4 Dons of the Tower of Barbs. Every 10 levels you get a thematic shift as well as an increase in difficulty that make you switch up the way you play.
One of the more enjoyable things about the game art is just how interesting and weird Dons and mini bosses can be and how you are introduced to them. Throughout the games you can find 1950’s styled comic pages called “Tales from the Barbs” that explain the back stories of the Dons of that corresponding block, and the stories and oddities they bring do not disappoint. Mini bosses on the other hand will usually be explained with a Mother Barbs video, using aesthetic memes as a base for style and finishing it off with a black and white nightmare fueled fever dream. You know, typical Suda51 stuff.
The game’s central gameplay revolves around 3rd person combat in which players can equip a weapon in each hand. These weapons can be crafted or found in the player’s journey to the top of the Tower of Barbs. Let it Die has many similar traits to that of roguelike games, but without any of the really damning repercussions roguelike games tend to have.
If you die you can buy a new fighter or get one of the starting free fighters, battle your way up to your body to reclaim your items, or earn enough coin to have your fighter retrieved or salvaged for you. You can also use one of the “pay” elements to revive your character right then and there.
The reason why I quoted the word pay was to emphasize that while you could, I found no reason to do this, and in fact bought some pay currency after just to give the dev team some money for giving this great game to us for free. If you play this game like a Souls game, you should have no problem going through the game without a major incident or need to pay money. This has to be one of the first free to play games that I have played that feels like a $60 title.
On top of being a completely competent game with great combat, there is a whole lot of collecting and exploring you can do. The map is huge, and has many different areas to explore. However, at times the tower feels like it does not change much over the course of the 40 floors, only really changing up about 4 times, every 10 levels.
There has to be a special note added here about how the game prepares you for boss fights, because when a game does it well, it should be noted. In the game there are four mini bosses that the game points out in detail, giving them their own intros, as well as special videos in the Mother Barb’s videos. These mini bosses set you up to learn how the main boss battles will go down, giving you a routine of attacks and attack types while throwing in their own unique abilities.
One of the biggest aspect of the general game is the online component, which behaves in a really unique way.
Player data is stored online and is highly detailed: everything you pick up on that floor, enemies encountered, even the path you walked are logged. This data can become a type of player hunting minion, and let’s say you die in a particular spot, your reanimated body can randomly attack other players on that floor giving you rewards for every player they killed.
The second online component that is a lot of fun is raids. Players can choose a state or country to be a part of as a team, then build up their waiting room with fighters they have leveled and geared as a defense against other players. After this has been set up, they player can go out on raids.
From here they can attack other player waiting rooms, nabbing a small portion of a player’s coin and in some cases getting a chance to kidnap the other players fighters, which they can hold for ransom. The key thing here is that the damage done to the other player is not so great that you would totally cripple them, and not so little that you would just not defend yourself, so raiding can become a fun aspect that really has no malice behind it.
Music is one huge focus that players might skip over. For someone like me who really enjoys the work of Akira Yamaoka and the bands he hand picked to be apart of the soundtrack, traveling through the Tower will be a wonderful thematic journey, for others it will just be background music.
For those that drown out the background music, they will be putting themselves at a severe disadvantage as music can give you an idea if you are about to be attacked once you get the feel for it. One thing that was a missed opportunity was is the lack of a music control in your waiting room, as it would have been nice to control what invaders heard, and what you hear as well, as the music library has 100 plus bands involved with it.
General sound design is very arcade-ish, but is offset by characters audible grunts while they attack, which is all done rather well, but one of the standouts is the fun voice acting they chose for the characters of the world. Uncle Death and Meijin tend to have some humorous one liners and a voice to match, it’s just a shame they don’t give them more dialogue to interact with.
As with most Suda 51 games, the story is anything but conventional, which adds to its charm. While the player is given a basic intro to the Tower of Barbs, it is a game that is meant to feel like a game from a dystopian future, right down to the Hater Arcade in which your character is presumably sitting playing Let it Die in the arcade.
The main character of the story is not the player, it’s the Tower itself and those that reside within it. As stated above, you have multiple ways of getting information about the world and story via Mother Barbs videos, 1950s style comics, the levels themselves, items you collect, as well as interactions you have throughout the tower.
This does have its ups and downs. On the upside, you can experience the story at your own pace, while the game gives you an incentive to explore the tower. On the downside, the story can feel light as there is a lot of gameplay between any sort of exposition, which is something that many fans of Suda51 and Grasshopper Manufacture expect out of their games.
The game is open ended and does allow room for expansion, which realistically the game does not need, but would be a whole hell of a lot of fun to have.
Let it die is a game for gamers; self referential, challenging, while being extremely fair in all aspects of the gameplay. While being a free to play game, it 100% does not feel like a free to play game. With tones to explore, collect, craft, and kill, there is a whole lot of game here to be had, and the fact that it is free makes it a must download.
Let it Die was reviewed on Playstation 4 using a free download on the Playstation Store. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.
The Verdict: 10
Reviewers Game of the Year.
- The experience of a retail title while being free.
- Great gameplay and control.
- Unique world with lots to explore.
- Great soundtrack and use of music.
- Some areas can look repetitive.
- Large gaps between exposition.