I woke up in my underwear on a patch of concrete covered in bits of fried dough. Past a nearby gate, carousel music echoed throughout the decrepit amusement park ahead. Such is the world of Let It Die.
Billed as a third-person action game in a crumbling world, Let It Die is the newest project from developer Goichi Suda, more widely known by his pseudonym Suda 51. His titles have always skewed toward the weird: 2005's Killer 7 focused on an assassin with split personalities, and 2011's Shadows of the Damned followed its protagonist through a sexualized version of hell. Judging by a recent demo, Let it Die seems to be an outlier as well.
The section I played focused on third-person combat against gangs of roaming bandits. You can punch, kick, and stab your way through the world, using weapons you gain from dead enemies and scattered treasure chests alike. Survival aspects play a major role, too--scavenging for armor and food is essential for making it through each area. You can hunt mice for health points. You can distract enemies by throwing frogs at a wall across the room. Let It Die asks you to make the most of your environment, whether it be with said poisonous amphibians, a two-handed ninja sword, or just a discarded pair of pants.
The story surrounding all of this, however, is still unclear. Although I asked for context, a spokesperson for publisher GungHo Online Entertainment said Let It Die's narrative is still under lock and key. So why am I fighting my way through an abandoned carnival with little more than a gas mask and whatever supplies I find? I have no idea.
In the background, a black tower loomed over the amusement park. According to the spokesperson, that was my destination. Because of Let It Die's procedural generation aspects, however, the tower won't always be in the same place. Suda 51 and his team want to reshuffle the landscape with each playthrough.
In fact, I almost completely overlooked Let It Die's most intriguing aspect. I stumbled on a sewer tunnel ending at a closed gate, and on the other side, a different kind of enemy faced me. He had clothes like mine. He didn't look like a bandit. He just stared at me menacingly. As it turns out, he was the ghost of another human player.
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When you perish in the aptly named Let It Die, your character, complete with whatever he had equipped at his time of death, appears in another player's game as an NPC. If all goes well, Let It Die will eventually become populated by the spectres of hundreds, if not thousands, of players who fell at the hands of the carnival's bandits. It's an alluring way to make death meaningful. Based on my demo, though, I can't say whether this mechanic will be as pervasive as Grasshopper seems to hope it will be.
In the end, I decided against fighting the enemy. I was still under-equipped, and didn't want to risk losing it all. So I moved on. But soon thereafter, I encountered another uncommon enemy. This mini-boss was a half-blind, hulking mutant who chased me based solely on sound--by crouching, and moving slowly, I could avoid detection until I was ready to strike. My two-handed samurai sword, which I found 10 minutes prior, and my revolver, which an unwilling bandit had dropped during his death throes, both proved useful. The thing is: I could have been forced to fight the monster with my bare hands. It was only through scavenging and nurturing my hoarder tendencies that I entered this creature's lair prepared.
Grasshopper said there are more areas to explore than the carnival and sewer system I found. The developer is also promising to shed more light on the game's narrative, and the circumstances that brought me to this dystopian world, in the near future.
It's also unclear how the free-to-play structure will function with Let It Die. I was quick to ask how in-game purchases would work, or how Grasshopper plans to make money with Let It Die--but the GungHo spokesperson was reluctant to discuss the title's pricing. Because of the mystery surrounding the game's revenue structure, I'm hesitant to commentate on its supposed free-to-play model.
At PAX this week, we're sitting down with Suda 51 to discuss branching into the free-to-play realm, how Let It Die will fit into his outlandish portfolio, and what we can expect when Let It Die launches for PS4 later this year.