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Suda51’s Let it Die makes the post-apocalypse fun again

One of my favorite developers is Goichi Suda. If you don’t recognize the name it’s probably because you know him by his more famous moniker: Suda51. Unlike a lot of other devs from Japan, Suda51 doesn’t exactly play by the rules. His Grasshopper Manufacture studio consistently delivers some of the quirkiest, innovative, and sometimes controversial titles out there. Suda’s unbridled energy and infectious personality bleed over into his work and is a large part of what makes his games so enjoyable to play.

I was finally able to meet Suda last week while at PAX East. Suda was only doing a limited number of interviews so I felt genuinely privileged and honored to be one of the few reporters that was able to speak with him. He was in Boston to show off his upcoming game, Let it Die, which has been in development for quite some time. Now that the game is getting closer to completion, Suda wanted people to get some hands-on time with it and see for himself how they felt about it. I got to play the game while asking Suda questions. Thankfully, the translator did a great job.

After starting up the demo, I was not surprised to find that my player character had nothing on but a pair of dirty looking underwear. This is a Suda51 game, after all. Apparently, some other reporters said the game initially felt like Dark Souls, but I got the impression it was more of a survival game akin to DayZ or Ark. Even Dark Souls has you begin the game with armor and weapons. Let it Die literally starts you off with nothing. You’ll have to explore your surroundings to find clothes, equipment, and weapons in order to survive the dangers awaiting you.

Let it Die is set at the end of the world. As you progress through the game, you’ll learn more about the world and how it got to its current state. I asked what inspired the game and was told that Fist of the North Star and Mad Max were influences. The biggest influence however is Suda’s favorite manga of all time: Violence Jack. This is a very old manga (and anime) that even a lot of Japanese folks don’t know about. Suda was shocked when I told him I love Violence Jack and have been a fan for most of my life. He didn’t know that anyone in America had even heard of it.

As I made my way through a twisted carnival-like environment, I picked up weapons, armor, and items. I first found a baseball bat to use against enemies, but once I got my hands on a giant axe, I never went back. If I wanted to switch weapons all I had to do was hit right or left on the d-pad and select from one of six instruments of death. I had to use both hands to wield the axe but always had the option of holding two smaller weapons in each hand instead. Item management looked intimidating at first since there is so much stuff to pick up, but it became second nature rather quickly.

Combat is affected by the weapons you wield. When I was using my fists or baseball bat, I was able to perform quick attacks. However, using an axe caused a slight delay, meaning that I had to carefully consider when to strike, as missing an attack would leave me extremely vulnerable. Connecting attacks with the axe would slam enemies to the ground in one hit, making them easy targets to finish off. There was something truly satisfying about putting an axe into a guy’s back as he tried to get up off the floor.

Let it Die screen 03

As I continued making my way through the demo, I asked about the game’s development. For those who don’t know, this title didn’t start life as Let it Die. It was originally announced as Lily Bergamo. I asked Suda about how Let it Die has changed since getting its new name. When it was Lily Bergamo, the game was going to be more focused on the story and the character. Given how players these days like to play games where they get to create their own characters and vicariously live through them, it was decided to switch from a narrative-driven experience to one that was more open-ended and personal.

I was asked if I felt how “hardcore” the game was and if it gave me the feeling that it was “intense.” Despite unexpectedly becoming the one being interviewed, I did appreciate the developer wanting to know my feelings about the game. I responded by saying that being able to put an axe in a guy’s chest or back was indeed pretty hardcore and that I very much enjoyed that. I also said I did feel that the entire game world wanted me dead. This pleased Suda since this is the exact response he wants from players.

This game isn’t just hardcore in terms of its presentation. It was a genuinely challenging experience and I had to be very careful when engaging foes in combat. You can use a number of items to heal yourself whenever your health gets low. I personally liked that you could eat raw rats and frogs for health–provided you can catch them. Eating frogs can sometimes be dangerous if they are poisonous. I will freely admit that I met my demise after gobbling up a weirdly colored frog and vomiting to death. Die and learn.

Let it Die screen 04

If you meet an untimely end, you can be resurrected by the game’s “Insurance Girl.” You only get three resurrections, and if you use up your final revive, you’ll have to start over again, losing all weapons and equipment that you’ve acquired. Combine this aspect with the game’s randomly generated dungeons and you get the sense that Let it Die has some roguelike elements. However, Suda wasn’t willing to explicitly say that this genre is an influence on the game.

My time with the game ended with a boss fight. I was pitted against a creature that looked like someone took twenty people and mashed them together to form a horrifying mess of dangling and protruding limbs. The boss was exceptionally hard. When it wasn’t attacking me with a giant barb wire-covered club, it would hurl random body parts at me. I barely had time to attack before I had to quickly roll away and avoid being hit. Considering that I had to keep an eye on my stamina bar to make sure I had enough to evade blows, it was a challenging fight indeed. Thanks to having two resurrections available, I was able to finish off the monstrosity and end the demo with the developers celebrating my hard fought victory.

I should note that Let it Die is actually an always-online game. I asked how the online elements factor into the game, but was told that we would have to wait to find out more at a later time. I do know that you find the bones of dead players along the way so perhaps this is tied to the online aspect somehow. Again, Suda was reluctant to speak about this so I don’t have much more to say on it.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Let it Die, but I had a blast playing it. Best of all, I got to do so while having laughs with Goichi Suda. I get the impression that this game will take elements from the survival and roguelike genres, but give them the Grasshopper Manufacture twist we all love. The game is slated to be released this year on the PlayStation 4. I asked if it would eventually come to PC and was told that it’s possible, though there are no plans at the moment. For now though, it’s a PlayStation 4 exclusive people should definitely keep on their radar.

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