Reviews

Let it Die – Dark Souls gone Bonkers

A week after Final Fantasy XV (15) was released, I found myself without a game to focus some of my time on; with the exception of occasionally going back to it to try and get the Platinum trophy – which may take me a sweet while! Anyways, back on to what I was saying; I was perusing the PlayStation Store and discovered a free-to-play game under the name of “Let it Die” and I thought that there wasn’t anything for me to lose and got set on downloading the game.  Up until this point, I hadn’t heard or seen anything about this game in the slightest, so I did not have a literal clue what to expect when I loaded up the game for the first time; and I can assure you that once I finally got into the game, the crazy level went all the way up to 11!

First off, one of the main sources of tips and tricks is a skateboarding skeleton, wearing red and blue 3D-glasses; oh and who goes by the name of Uncle Death. Also, did I forget to mention that he addresses you as “Senpai” in every conversation the two of you have, which he says himself “is a term of respect for fellow gamers.” I’m going to be honest, I couldn’t make this up if I tried – not that I’m complaining; after all, the craziness of it all actually adds to the strange level of charm that the game conveys almost all the way through.

Before I get too much into the intricacy of the game, allow me to touch upon the story that kind of matters; yet at the same time doesn’t at all – let me explain! At the beginning of the tutorial you’re riding on a train, where you will be expected to choose a character; entirely out of cosmetic preference at this point in time – but I’ll get more onto that later. During this train ride you’ll be treated to this wonderful little story about how a giant tower of death has sprouted out of nowhere in the middle of Japan, covered in barbed-wire, and sprawling with a number of nasty’s that you won’t want to encounter in a dark alleyway at night. Apparently human nature has gotten the better of the entire human race, as almost everyone who’s able to wishes to try and ascend to the very top of the tower for some mystical treasure – which I should add is little more than a rumour since no one has ever actually gotten to the top in this story!

Once you go through all that plot, you step off the train and proceed to go through the tutorial, being taught a number of controls and how the game actually works in general, without too much hand-holding getting in the way. Eventually you’ll get to the end of the tutorial, learned everything you needed to get started, and make your ascent of the tower; at least you would if the game didn’t end the tutorial by killing you. You’ll get murdered, have a small cutscene, come to the conclusion that this is going to become a regular thing, and then you’re introduced to the twist – you’re a player in an arcade!

I can assure you that I’m not joking; after you have died the game will load you out of the “game system” that you’re playing on (I can’t recall the name Uncle Sensei gives it) and told “bad luck, dude”! At which point a little switch inside your head will go: “holy crap, it’s a game within a game!” That right there ladies and gentleman is why I say the story does and doesn’t matter, in some bizarre way. Inside the game-game version of Let it Die the story matters to some degree, but in the real version of Let it Die – the one you’re actually playing – the story has pretty much no reason for existence, since it pretty much decides to break the fourth wall from then on.

Now, after getting all of that confusing story stuff out of the way, it’s about time I touched upon what really matters in this wacky-ass title: the gameplay. Judging by the title, you can probably assume that the game has some similarities to the most popular/difficult hack-and-slash RPG to ever be released: Dark Souls. If you can imagine a slightly more dumb-downed version of it, set in Japan, whilst being accompanied by a fountain of blood whenever you kill something then you’ve got a pretty apt description of this one.

General gameplay has you run around in a 3rd-person perspective, incredibly similar to that of the Dark Souls series – as I’m sure you can imagine. However, what is quite different is just how light and floaty you are as a character, since you can jump about 6 feet into the air, and regardless of the equipment you have on your person it won’t affect how you roll, jump or dodge; which is an understandable choice due to how much platforming there can be at times.

Moving onto the combat, you have 6 slots for your currently equipped weapons; 3 for each hand. You will only be holding the weapon in the equipped hand if you select it by pressing on the left or right directional buttons to choose between them and depending on which item is equipped on the left and right it will correspond to a button prompt on R1/R2 or L1/L2. Each item comes under a different type of weaponry and with that weaponry comes its own attack animations, along with an experience bar. Depending on how often you use a certain weapon, such as your default fists; they will level up, deal more damage, require less stamina to use, and even unlock different attacks such as a heavy attack. On top of your basic attack, you can also hold down “Triangle” along with an attack button to do a “rage move” that will deal an exceptional amount of damage and tends to break the opponents equipment if it connects.

Personally, the combat doesn’t nearly have the same sort of impact that the Dark Souls games have and can feel fairly light at times, which is a detriment to the game’s combat to some degree. The saving grace for this, though is that you won’t be involved in combat all that long and by the time it’s over you’ll feel like a badass for making someone’s head explode by doing a running dropkick to the face.

I feel I’ve spent enough time in the game to come to the conclusion that the developers appear to have the intention of showing off just how ironic they can be with Let it Die; all by filling it with cliche and stereotypical characters – with the exception of Uncle Death who is anything but normal. Two of the main characters that you will come across on a regular basis are the professional gamer and the girl “who just works there”. The gamer spends all of his waking hours – all 20 of them if I’m not mistaken – playing video games and proving that he’s the best player, without ever really feeling the need to try. He gives you in-game tips for you to improve and the girl who works behind the counter is your typical 17 year old stereotype of working a job she hates and spending all of their free time on their mobile phone. Occasionally you will get the chance to talk to her, but a lot of the time it simply involves her telling you something that is happening on her phone or that she “hates” working at the arcade. Either way, she doesn’t give you much in the form of advice or tips, but she does allow you to accept quests to gain in-game rewards and whatever else; so while neither of you may want to actually talk to one another, it doesn’t exactly hurt to do so.

Let it Die definitely has a lot of quirks and nuances that make it an enjoyable title, but there’s the lack of environments that really drag the game down from an aesthetics standpoint. You see, every time you start a new run the floor you go to will be procedurally generated from a number of pre-determined rooms and at first it’s not all that noticeable, but after about the 10th or 20th run, you’ll quickly see how often the same room shows up over and over again. What makes it even worse is that the traps and enemies are almost always the same, because I can recall this one particular room that has a couple of pipes running perpendicular to one another, with a drill-looking enemy in the middle, a red chest for you to open at the very end of it, and a trap-based area of floor that caves in the second you stand on it. The very moment you see that room you’ll recognise what happens if you stand on this one particular spot and after enough times you’ll be able to know the very pixel where it activates the small trap. A lack of variety in the rooms can quickly blend some of your runs together, and it’s the hope that the developers plan on adding some more rooms to the game in the future, because at the moment there definitely is not enough at all.

I will say, there are lots of little extras inside Let it Die, with a rather interesting online mode to compliment things. One of which allows you to send out one of your characters off to another players world to gank them, ruin their day, and steal some of their stuff. The other one involves you travelling to another players base of operations, which may or may not be protected by some of their fighters, and it’s your job to destroy as much as you possibly can for rewards and for your country – literally. In this mode your country is your team/clan and the better you do as a player, the better you all do as a country!

This is only a quick glimpse into a game that has some fun and interesting ideas, along with some not so great ones; yet the positives vastly outweigh the negatives – even if the environment design could seriously do with some improvements over time. I only briefly touched upon some of the wackiness this game brings to the hack-and-slash RPG genre and is easily the reason I sunk my time into it; not only playing, but writing about as well.

For a free-to-play game on the PS4, it’s definitely a title I can’t personally complain about all that much; not with the strange level of charm the game perpetuates.