Let It Die – Do Not Play This Game
I have beaten Let It Die. I do not recommend anyone else do this.
Some preface: I love the Dark Souls series. I’m not the biggest Suda 51/Grasshopper Manufacture fan. But there was something compelling about the concept of an apocalyptic, Mad Max-esque world where your objective is to climb the 40 levels of this mysterious “Tower of Barbs” that had risen out of the ground following an extinction level event on the Earth in the fictional near future. If you’ve played any other of Suda’s games like Killer 7 or Shadows of the Damned, you know that those games are a little…bizarre. But the Dark Souls games take themselves almost laughingly too seriously, so the tongue-in-cheek nature of the Suda experience was a breath of fresh air. With weapons like fireworks launchers and repurposed hockey sticks, or armor like karate gis or motorcycle riding gear, and main characters like the enigmatic “Uncle Death” who acts as your guide and tutor in the game, Let It Die cast a spell on me early.
I felt compelled to climb the Tower of Barbs and see what awaited me at the top. But the climb was marred by some pretty nasty bumps along the way, and I’m here to warn off other potential climbers. This was one of the most difficult gaming experiences I’ve ever had, and not in a “I feel good about my choices” way. I’m not sure why I muscled through the game like I did when the game’s design was actively working against me, but I did. So here are some things to keep in mind.
Let It Die is a free-to-play game on the PS4 store. You can go download it right now and have a blasty-blast, climb a few floors, hack some people to death with machetes and then go about your day. However, if you’re serious about getting to the top of the Tower of Barbs, you’re going to have to spend some money. Period.
As you climb the tower, you unlock elevators to speed you back to where you made your last progress, and each time you use an elevator to go up or back down, you have to pay the lady living inside the elevator a fee in “kill coins”, which is one of the currencies within Let It Die. Unfortunately, between other players raiding your waiting room and stealing your money on top of having a limit to the number of kill coins you can store at any one time, you can’t just amass a fortune of coins. As a matter of fact, the more coins you have in your base, the more actively other players will raid your base to steal your money. So your best defense is to regularly drain all your savings before you log out for the night; the best defense is the “poor mans” defense of having no money to actually raid.
However, there is another elevator on each floor that is a premium elevator. It costs you nothing to use, you can zip between floors as many times as you’d like with no charge, and it even gives you a slight buff every time you use it. But not so fast: getting an “express lift” pass costs $15 for a 30 days. When I knew I was getting serious about the game, and the game had given me a few days worth of free trials of the express lift, I knew that I would have to put down the money to get access to the lift. As someone who made it to the top of the tower, I’m not sure how I would have done so without this other elevator making my life dramatically easier.
On top of that, the express pass increases your inventory and base storage slots by about 25%, which, let me tell you, in a game where your job is to go into a tower and grind out loot, gear, and materials for crafting, is another invaluable service. Each piece of armor or each weapon you buy has a limited durability. Each swing of a weapon, each bullet that piece of armor deflects chips away not only at the item’s durability, but its effectiveness as well. So the more you use a piece of gear, the less damage it can absorb or dish out until it breaks. There is no armor or weapon repair; you simply have to buy another with kill coins, or scavenge the items that enemies or players drop when you kill them. Of course, their durability is already substantially lower than ones you purchase from the shop at your base, so you only get a few good whacks before those items break. So your inventory is a wash with half broken weapons and gear that you have to use to actually survive the climb, on top of the space you need to have healing items as well as any loot you’re carrying.
But we’re not done there as far as spending money. Oh, no, there’s more.
Death metals are Let It Die’s premium currency. You receive a handful here and there as you climb the tower, complete certain quests and they are invaluable. They can be used to either expand your in-base inventory storage, which is a huge permanent benefit, or if your fighter gets killed somewhere in the tower, you can instantly resurrect them to full health with an invisibility buff for 10 seconds. Imagine a Dark Souls game where instead of dying during a boss fight, you paid a quarter to pop back up at full health and keep fighting? It’s a compelling argument, especially with the death penalties the game throws at you.
And there’s another issue: unlike most Dark Souls games, when you get killed on a floor in the tower in Let It Die, you have a few options. You can pay Uncle Death a steadily increasing amount of kill coins to have him retrieve the character with all their stuff. While this is a wonderful service and I used it dozens upon dozens of times in the game, the cost increases every floor you go up, to the point where it becomes financially impossible to pay for his services without hours upon hours of grinding for kill coins specifically to bring back that single fighter. So what else do you have? You have multiple fighters in your base area that you level up independently of one another, and if you lose one and don’t have or want to spend any death metals to bring them back to life, then you have to take another of your characters up to the same level you lost your character at to “rescue” them by fighting them in 1-on-1 combat. However, unlike Dark Souls, if you rescue them by beating them in combat, you lose everything that was on them when they died.
Let me give you a minute to let that sink in.
So in a game where you spend an hour climbing, grinding, gaining experience and currency and suddenly get one-hit-killed by another player who might be 10-15 levels more experienced than you with more powerful gear (yes, this is a thing), if you don’t spend the kill coins or death metals to bring them back, your retrieving your best fighter manually means you lose everything you gained on them. All the gear blueprints, rare materials, experience, kill coins…everything. You simply get the ability to use them again. It was a painful lesson to learn those first few times when I was in a Dark Souls mindset, where I figured doing a “corpse run” was the way to go. It is most certainly not. As a matter of fact, there were times on lower floors when I was ambushed by a computer-run other player (called a “hater”) while I was farming kill coins where it was more cost effective to pay for Uncle Death to rescue them instead of taking the walk all the way back down to the ground floor. Pay 5600 kill coins to recover 20,000 kill coins and save myself an hour of sending another fighter to go rescue them and lose all the money they gained? No brainer. But it’s not always so simple.
And that brings us to the next big kick in the teeth with the game: the grind.
The grind is unforgivable. Let It Die sports a crafting system which is so rife with grind that it’s almost criminal. And the worst part is there is absolutely no real way to speed up the process. Outside of the most basic rags and pointy sticks to fight with, every crafted item that you get a blueprint for requires 1-3 pieces of rare or uncommon material that ONLY drops off a few points on the map. There is no other way to get the materials, and it makes the game infuriating.
For instance, I got a blueprint for a weapon called a “Pork Chopper”, which was a giant meat cleaver. A little slow, but hit like a truck. I decided that this was going to be the weapon that I leveled up to take me to the top of the tower. There are three stages of weapon and armor crafting, and each stage has five levels. So it goes “Pork Chopper” all the way to “Pork Chopper +4”, then “Pork Chopper S” to “Pork Chopper S +4” then “Zombie Chopper” to “Zombie Chopper +4”. To go from Pork Chopper +2 to +3, it requires a series of crafting materials you can find in the tower with relative ease from basic farming, but it also required a rare piece of metal called “D.O.D. Black Metal”, which could only be found in one of three places in the tower: it was an uncommon drop off a mid-boss on the 26th floor, you could sometimes get one out of a “gold chest” on the 22nd floor, or you could hunt around to try to find the randomly moving daily vendor somewhere between the 21-30th floor and buy a SINGLE black metal each day from him. That’s right, you can’t even save up a bunch of coins and go buy 12 of those metals from the daily vendor; he only has one a day, and then you have to go find him the next day to buy another. No matter which option you picked, whether you tried to get it to drop off a boss, try to pull it from that single chest or try to find the daily vendor, each run round trip took anywhere between 30-40 minutes. If you get that rare drop, you can’t just teleport back to the base of the tower; you have to get to one of the elevators to take you back home safely. If you quit the game out and you’re not in your base, Let It Die counts it as a death with all the negative connotation that entails.
It made crafting nearly impossible without days on days of grinding. And that was just for a single weapon, you also have to worry about crafting helmets, chest pieces, and leg armor as well, and each of them have similar build paths with the exact same nonsensical rare material requirements.
Those are my big takeaways from Let It Die and why it is not for the normal gamer. There’s a reason at the time of this writing, of the two million people who have downloaded Let It Die, only 40,000 of them have seen the summit of the Tower of Barbs; the final boss fight trophy on the Playstation Network has only been claimed by %.02 of the people who have downloaded the game. A lot of online games like World of Warcraft have “gear check” bosses, and Let It Die is no different, but the grind to create the weapons and armor you need to stand a chance at these boss fights is absurd.
I wanted to quit many times, but I also wanted to see where this was all going. As I was climbing the escalator after the final boss fight to the summit of the Tower of Barbs and the game spun its final tale to me, I was happy that I had done it.
But good lord, am I glad that it is over.