The biggest stigma when it comes to free-to-play games is that they’re not as deep, involved, or as good as games you pay for. But while that perception has been slowly dissipating, it may be entirely obliterated when third-person action game Let It Die is released for PlayStation 4. A raw, gritty hack & slash beat-’em-up made by Grasshopper Manufacture (Lollipop Chainsaw, Killer Is Dead), Let It Die may not cost anything to buy, but after playing it for a couple hours recently, I can attest that it feels like, well, not a million bucks, but certainly sixty. Heck, they even got Mark Hamill to do a voice for it. Though in talking to Game Director Hideyuki Shin about it afterwards, he was pleased I not only didn’t think it was a free-to-play game, but that I thought it was a Grasshopper-esque as well.
To begin, what is Let It Die, what kind of game is it?
While it may look like a typical action game, it’s actually something quite different, as it’s the first initiative between Grasshopper Manufacture and GungHo Online Entertainment to make a very interesting and different action, survival game with PVP [player vs. player] elements.
What other games would you compare it to, and what, aside from its inherent Grasshopper-y quality, do you think makes it different? Because it reminded me of such beat-’em-ups as The Bouncer and The Warriors game, the one based on the movie.
It’s hard to say because we prefer not to think of our games in terms of other games. We usually leave that up to our fans to decide what they think our games play like.
What about pop culture, what movies and whatnot were an influence on Let It Die? Because it also kind of reminded me of Yoshiki Tonogai’s mangas Doubt, Judge, and Secrets, but it also like a cross between Fight Club and the Saw movies.
I guess some of the more popular mangas and animes as Akira, First Of The North Star, and Violence Jack. Stuff that has a darker, rougher, violent feel, but also in the future setting. We definitely pulled from them.
I also thought of The Matrix when you have those shots of the character and they’re on the subway, and they’re connected by wires.
Yeah, though I would also cite Mad Max for some of the post-apocalyptic aspects. If you look at the way your character and enemies are decked out, having that extra something that makes them look more dangerous and intimidating and crazy, that was derived from Mad Max.
You’ve said that game is single-player, but there’s kind of multiplayer aspect to in that the characters you fight are based on the way other people play. Kind of like how, in the racing games Forza Horizon 3 and Forza Motorsport 6, the other drivers’ skills and styles are based on the way your friends drive when they play these games.
Yeah, it’s similar to that. Your data is shared with other users, and you become an enemy when you die. But no, you’re not playing with other people in real-time.
Okay, but if it’s a single-player experience, why can’t I pause the game when I’m playing?
It’s because the idea of the game is surviving. When you’re playing, you never know what to expect, you never know what’s going to come at you, and when. Now, you can find a safe zone, your base. But that adds another element because when you’re out in the world, where you need to be on your guard at all times, now you have to make it back to your safe zone.
Did you ever experiment with letting people pause the game?
We did. Initially, you couldn’t, and some people on the team didn’t like that. But then, after we put it in, other people on the team felt that if you’re trying to survive, but you can pause the game to, say, go eat a snack, you’re not really surviving. You’re taking away the tension.
It also makes our game different from other action survival games.
It seemed like the placement of the enemies was somewhat random.
To an extent. There are procedurally generated elements of the game. Every time you come back to an area, it will be different. That said, there will always be enemies in certain spots, but they won’t be the same enemies. They’ll look different and they’ll behave differently. Which means that they might wander off by the time you get to where they’re supposed to be.
In Let It Die, your character has a stamina meter, weapons and armor that wear down over time and can’t be fixed, and projectile weapons you can’t reload. Was that also done to add to the surviving aspect of the game?
It was. So you have to pick up whatever you can. Especially since weapons and armor you pick up from fallen enemies won’t last that long since they’ve already been used.
But we also did it because what we wanted to emphasize was that you can craft weapons and armor using blueprints and materials that you find. You can also make stronger and stronger weapons and armor. And those items will be full strength.
Though the flipside of that is that you can “buy insurance,” which resurrects you where you died, and that when you go back to your base, you can stand in the fountain and regain all of your health. Are there plans to have multiple difficulty levels so people can’t do the fountain trick while other people don’t die so quickly?
No. Now, the game does get really difficult. But no, but there won’t be any other difficulty levels. In part, that’s because the other characters are based on other people’s data.
Also, it’s a free to play game, so the barrier to entry to pick it up is really low, and thus anyone can try it out, whether they’re a casual player or hardcore.
Given that it’s free-to-play with microtransactions, what are some of the things people will be able to buy?
The biggest thing will be the coins you use to continue…
…the insurance coins…
…right. You’ll also be able to pay to cut the time it takes to make a weapon that you’re crafting. When you craft something, it may take three minutes to make, but it might also take thirty minutes. You can pay to cut down that crafting time. There’s also a VIP Express Pass. You saw the elevators, right?
Yeah, though I didn’t go in them.
Okay, the elevators take you back to your safe area. There’s a nice elevator and a janky elevator, and if you’re a VIP, you can ride the nice elevator whenever and as often as you like without having to pay using coins that you pick up from killing enemies. The VIP also gives you a bigger bag so you can carry more items. These won’t help you win, they’re more for people who don’t have time to grind.
Lastly, coming in today, I didn’t know that this was a Grasshopper game. But as I was playing it, I thought to myself, “Wow, these guys are totally ripping off Grasshopper, they should be ashamed of themselves.” Does that make you feel good, that you’ve crated your own niche, or do you not want that?
[laughs] I’m glad you said that. It’s actually reassuring. Let It Die is a new challenge for us. It’s our first free-to-play game, and has so many complicated systems, but it’s not as story driven as our other games. And I was worried that it would end up being as Grasshopper-y as our other games, even though it has some of our usual elements, such as crazy boss battles. So to hear that someone thought it was a Grasshopper-esque game means we haven’t lost our touch.
Though we’re not really sure what makes a game Grasshopper-y.
Uh, your games are weird. You’re wearing a shiny silver shoes, a light grey suit, and a t-shirt. That’s Grasshopper-y. If you were wearing a Wonder Woman shirt and jeans, no, not Grasshopper-y.
[laughs] Yeah, though if I went like this to Nintendo, they’d probably get mad at me.
Probably. But then, Nintendo’s not Grasshopper-y.
No, but they’re doing just fine as they are.