…seriously, Let it Die.

This makes me sad.  I take no glee in writing this. LET IT DIE is a game near and dear to my heart. I spent over 100hrs playing it with a friend of mine, going through the quirkiness and craziness of SUDA’s Tower of Terror. You can only imagine how happy I was to see this niche part of my videogame satisfaction get a 2nd dip into the foray of gaming. Even in the bloated genre of Battle Royales, I had to dip my feet in. But in my heart I knew it was too good to be true. I should’ve remembered. That type of love I had for this six years ago? It’s been on the run, G. It’ll never go back the way it was.

Deathverse re-introduces the grimy, mysterious, and weirdly morbid universe of the LET IT DIE franchise as we pick up several hundred years after the events of its predecessor. With a world still in ruins after the Earth’s Rage implanted the Tower of Barbs and all of its monstrosities, of course humans find a way to cash in on a quick buck to keep the masses away from the macabre civilization that shrouds the planet. The survival reality show, Death Jamboree, fame hungry contestants against one another in melee combat to see who is the One Last Star.

Death Jamboree keeps the BR-style of gameplay tight with 16 players duking it out each match. Maps are navigated through six connected hexagons and slowly decrease in size by dispensing poison in random areas until the Showdown Room pits whoever is left alive against each other to determine a winner. Games go very quick, with wins taking no longer than 10 minutes and quick exits being under 60 seconds.

There is a surprising amount of heft in terms of content off the jump. Players have 5 different weapons to choose from with 3-4 variants that all have different main and secondary skills along with a passive buff that upgrades with repeated use of that weapon. Sub skills are available in-matchvia pickups that range from grenades that can break shields to trampolines that can help throw down heavy hitting drop attacks. Each weapon has normal and charge attacks that can be used to out-maneuver your opponent in a very RPS kind of fashion. Main attacks can be blocked and parried, charge attacks can be dodged or avoided by running, sub skills and repeated blocks can break shields which also temporarily make you lose your weapon. There’s a lot that happens within the few seconds of combat.

HP is handled by your character’s Voltage, which is a more interesting mechanic than just a bar of health. Voltage is gained by successfully hitting other characters and smashing up the AI-controlled monsters strewn about the field, while also gained from the several types of mushrooms available to consume. Deathverse rewards risky play with having to fight in order to gain your voltage back, as successful parries and blocks into multiple combos can bring you back from the brink of elimination. Killing another character grants a large boost of voltage, and hitting the max of 2,000 lands you in Fever mode that grants extra uses of abilities along with increased damage so long as you can keep the good times rolling.

Kills, combos, and consistent play net you GP, which is essentially your amount of likes on the broadcast (remember this is in front of a “live audience”). GP is your means of leveling up your character and weapons, which grant you level up perks like Kill Coins and crafting materials. Crafting is a small addition to Deathverse as each weapon outside your starting three must be crafted before use. Crafting materials are found about the map during matches and available for purchase via Kill Coins.

To make sure the game continues smoothly and quickly, Hunters make a return appearance. These invincible characters act as an ominous roadblock to victory by cherry-picking a poor soul to be immediately killed if they are the targeted fighter after a short countdown.  The target is transferred by hitting a person with any attack, and thus marking them for death. That person then has a short period of time to transfer the target or die a quick one. I only encountered Hunter G during my time and it led to some hectic run-arounds trying to get the monkey off my back. Fortunately the game throws you a bone and allows you to see opponents on the map to remove your mark before it’s too late.

There’s a lot provided in a free-to-play package that on the surface level is an enticing addition to the LET IT DIE universe. Hell, the OST even continues its absolute dominance from the previous installment. But when the honeymoon phase wears off (it took about 4-5 hours to start smelling the funk), there are some serious issues with this title. The biggest one first: the combat is frustrating, un-optimized, and ill-balanced.

There’s a lot of depth within Deathverse’s combat, but certain combos can easily take someone from 1,000 to 0 with little resistance from the victim. Many times I would initiate combat via a Drop Attack, then use the stun off that move to run behind my foe and hit a 3 hit combo that would drain the rest of their voltage. This happened to me a ton as well, and while that is technically balanced for both parties to do it, it’s a huge drain to join a match and get wiped immediately with no chance to save yourself. Skills range from impossible to initiate to game-breakingly effective: skills on startup do not have I-Frames, so mashing your basic attack can render people’s best moves meaningless. But if you can hit certain ones, like the Buzzsaw’s Surf Mechanic, you can take someone’s voltage down by 80% to start a fight. The damage levels are all over the place and you’ll be dead before you recognize what hit you a lot more than you’re expecting, which makes learning from your mistakes a tall ask.

When you die a quick death you’ll feel it even more since the title is already suffering from a low player count. It’ll cobble lobbies together with whomever it can compile, forcing newcomers to be pitted against players with upgraded weapons and plenty of hours under their belt. I played alongside a few friends (there is no co-op, but I wanted second opinions), and we would see roughly the same few people every game who would terrorize lobbies with maxed out weaponry. When everything hurts so much, having an edge on your preferred playstyle makes fighting longer-tenured players a nightmare and having to wait 2-10 minutes in search of a lobby after getting wombo-combo’d 2 minutes into your match is excruciating.

But you figure, no big deal right? Just make a custom lobby, slap in some of your friends with some AI opponents and play private matches to enjoy what the game has to offer! “No, Fuck You.” says Deathverse, “Not unless you pay us first.” The penny-pinching via microtransactions is standard Free-to-Play fare but Deathverse takes it a step further by making custom lobbies exclusive for Platinum Tiered Season Pass Holders. For reference, a Silver Season Pass is around $10. A Gold Season Pass, which gives extra XP and a few levels to start you off, is around $25. The Platinum one is almost $40. To unlock the ability to play with your friends. I understand that all of the above has been provided for free, and the cosmetics being a little pricey is par for the course given the nature of the asking price. But locking portions of your game that it honestly needs to maintain longevity behind a $40 paywall is development suicide and a slap in the face for people who want to enjoy a different spinoff within the genre, especially for previous fans of the franchise. LET IT DIE always had your wallet in a stranglehold with Death Metal tokens, the elevator pass, and additional character slots, but this takes the cake in terms of Most Embarrassing Microtransaction for this company.

Again, I don’t like teeing off on a franchise that’s near and dear to my heart, but this attempt to cash in on a dying franchise with the dying idea to Battle Royale-ify your IP is so poorly done that it’s got me wanting to reinstall LET IT DIE to wash my mouth out. The combat showed promise but ultimately is too wonky in the numbers to stay consistent. The game’s enigmatic flavor is front and center, but can’t put together a solid enough product to keep people interested. And the “free” price point to entice players is curb-stomped by the unceasing demand for your hard-earned money to unlock the full game. I was excited to see this universe come back for more, but not like this.

Not like this.