Fans of Lollipop Chainsaw and No More Heroes rejoice, the esteemed and eclectic Grasshopper Manufacture is back with Let It Die, the bloody action tower climber that everyone wants to describe and can’t quite seem to find the right words for. This PAX we got to spend some time with the game, and even got a very special demonstration from one of the game’s creators. This curious online only experience, coming to PS4, has the same unusual qualities and gregarious violence that you’d expect from the dev, and a possibly a few surprises.
First off, Let It Die makes an impression. I’m hiding in a dirty hallway in an abandoned theme park, clad in only a trench coat and boxers, but with a two-handed great axe and a circular-saw punching glove to defend myself from a score of ravenous madmen (I think they’re undead?). When I need a pick me up, a eat a magical mushroom, or perhaps smash a frog or eat a rat to replenish my health. The grim reaper, clad in 3D glasses, occasionally pipes in to offer some friendly advice. It’s not too hard to tell I’m playing a game from Grasshopper Manufacture.
The premise of the game is, at least ostensibly, simple: You must climb your way up a creepy tower filled with bloodthirsty lunatics, trying to ascend as high as possible. You’ll start as just a guy in his underwear, finding both arms and armor and random drop boxes. The weapons are both gruesome and comical, and you’ll get some sanguine executions on foes that might make you laugh or have you shuddering uncomfortably. There’s a lot of blood. While the fast-paced combat isn’t punishing it’s not easy either, and you can only die so many times before you’re set back to the bottom of the tower naked and having to start your trek over again. Caution and stealth will go a long way to preserve your longevity. Parts of the tower will be randomly generated, though are some persistent elements to the game, so not quite a roguelike, either. I bit the dust enough times that I suspect you’ll be covering the same territory more than once while you learn the ropes.
The game has already received some comparisons to Dark Souls, which I think is by large an inaccurate comparison. There is some of the same hack-and-slash combat, but the title plays at a far faster pace when it comes to battle, preferring more frantic action than even a game like Bloodborne. Perhaps the only real cognate I see with a Souls title is the the effect players will have on each others world. While in the demonstration we played, we only encountered NPC mock ups, we’ve been told that in the full version that you will encounter the animated corpses of other PCs who have died in their own world. These PC zombies will provide added challenge and rewards, along a unique twist to your playthroughs. Other multiplayer facets might also be in the works, though we were not able to get any insight on those just yet.
I must admit that I wasn’t quite the natural undead slayer that my pedigree would suggest, but we were fortunate enough to have the game’s director Hideyuki Shin (Who worked on titles such as Killer is Dead and Silent Hill 4) pick up the controls and show us how it’s done. Shin didn’t waste any time, mercilessly gutting foes and leaving a path of comically gruesome slaughter in his wake. Not only was his playthrough considerably more effective than my own, but it also went a long way to show how the random elements of the game will effect each playthrough. By the end of the demo, Shin was garbed wildly different and with a different cache of weapons, changing the way he ran through the demo.
Perhaps most surprising about the title, and we literally did a double take here, is that it’s free-to-play. Now, the F2P model has a pretty bad reputation, and I’ll be the first to say that it’s largely deserved, but it’s usually the domain of puzzle and strategy games. To see a title this unlike the standard F2P title is already quite a surprise. When asked how they would monetize Let it Die, Shin states that they some thoughts like extra continues, but he wasn’t at liberty to divulge the full details with us at the time.
Shin emphatically states that the game will not be pay-to-win, which is oft made claim, but might invite some doubt. However, there’s something that gives a good vibe off Let it Die; maybe it’s the fact that it looks like a full-price title, or maybe the irreverent violence so emblematic of Grasshoper Manufacture, or possibly the way Shin jokingly wonders if they haven’t made a grievous error in going the F2P route. I’d like to think they’re going to show the world that F2P games don’t need to a punishment to play. All together the game makes an impression unlike any other we saw this year, which is exactly what I’d expect from this studio! Let It Die is slated for release this year and we’ll be following up when it does.