If you were to walk into Pax-East on the first day of the convention you would have been greeted by a booth for Let it Die. The image of Grim Reaper on a skateboard wearing 3D glasses covered the booth, yet no matter how hard you tried, there was no concept of what the game looked like. It was a tease to a game that few people knew the details of before the con. It was also a game that seemed to have changed forms many times since its announcement, and I was eager to get some hands on time.
Let it Die is the first real venture into Free-to-Play for Grasshopper Manufacture and seemed like a departure from the story focused games the studio and Goichi Suda (Suda51) are known for. A game that focused on action above story seemed like a hard sell, and yet I was excited to see how Suda51 would take on this challenge. Even if it did not feel like past titles, it would undoubtedly be an interesting experience.
As I walked into my meeting with Suda, I finally got a glimpse of Let it Die. It looked like a typical 3rd person action game. The camera followed the character as they walked around a Wonderland of death. It is a grim looking game, and the flamboyant Grim Reaper poses a unique contrast to the world. As I picked up the controller, things quickly snapped into place. Suda51 put it best when he described it as “a crazy hardcore action game,” and that is the best way to outline what you will get when you dive in blind to Let it Die: action that will keep you on your toes!
The demo took me to the year 2027 and the port of South Tokyo. A large tower rises from the ocean as the people on the island fight for their very existence. From the random inhabitants thirsting for your blood to the various bosses all wanting nothing more than to paint the landscape with your blood, the bleak universe that Let It Die is set in seemed very different than past Grasshopper games. I asked Suda from where he and the team at Grasshopper drew their inspiration for the title and what the core concept was for the game.
“In the beginning we wanted to make a really cool action game. Of course, it was at the start that we wanted to make it free-to-play, so we took that into consideration. We wanted to make the setting something like a “world’s end” kind of situation,” he said.
The inspiration came from many obscure Manga, most notably Violence Jack. In a funny anecdote, Suda explained how many people in the studio did not know of it, but he wanted to ensure they were on the same page.
“There are a lot of people at Grasshopper, so I brought in a bunch of copies of the Violent Jack manga to the office and everyone was on the same page. The whole “end of the world” thing in the manga kind of inspired the setting,” he explained.
Playing Let it Die, I quickly became aware of the visceral nature Suda and team brought to the table. Every hit and every attack felt like it had weight behind it. From the frantic punches to the grasping swing of a knife, my character always felt like they were in a state of pure desperation, struggling to survive. It was off-putting, but still, it all seemed to work. The ever-looming question was how, in this free-to-play world, we will see the typical story elements Grasshopper is known for.
Suda51 explained the plans for the business model by saying “Grasshopper games are very character-centric and story-centric. This game’s story isn’t as heavy because we’re trying to get something to continually play. Because of [the more character-centric focus], we really want players to get involved and really into the game. In that sense, we wanted to make sure that the character you’re controlling kind of reflects who you are. On top of that, we have characters like your guide and the Insurance Girl [a girl who appears every time your character dies], those characters are very much our style when you get to know them, and that’s something we still have for players to interact with.”
Beyond story, Grasshopper games are known for humour, and in this dark world I could not imagine any laughs coming into play. Suda had an answer for this as well.
“You can be sure that there are some pretty funny things in this game to expect. If you compare it to some of our other games, a lot of the humour came from the story that was written.” He continued, saying “there isn’t as much humor within the story this time, but there are definitely a lot of places in the game that I hope you enjoy and it makes you laugh.”
Getting back to Let it Die, I finally made my way to the boss: a hulking creature made out of human body parts. A thing of nightmares, and something I now, after only playing for a short while, would have to try and kill. It took a few tries, but with the rather intuitive nature of the game, I found myself able to take this creature on. After finally landing a killing blow, I breathed a sigh of relief and put down the controller.
I had one more question though: where did the image of death from the game come from? Why the choice of a Grim Reaper that wears 3D glasses? In typical Suda 51 fashion, he had an answer for me.
“[I’ve] actually met Death a few times. Especially when driving, when you go about 250 km/h, you tend to see Death. I saw him a few times and thought 'I’d like to use him in my game.'”
Overall, Let it Die felt like an odd offering from Grasshopper, but one that worked well from the short demo. It plays well, carries over many off the odd quirks you would expect from the studio and is easy to pick up and play. For fans of Suda51, or people that like odd twisted experiences, this is one to look out for. For everyone else, this may be an experience that will bring you into loving Grasshopper games.