Review – The Persistence
What The Persistence does best is successfully meld a couple genres while never losing what makes them fun. First and foremost, The Persistence is a rouge-like. A rouge-like with first person shooter mechanics inside a Sci-Fi horror setting. Then it tosses in some light RPG customizations and stealth tactics. Firesprite successfully allows The Persistence to hit on all these key marks and thanks to a free October 18th update patch, it is even more accessible to the hard core gamers and newcomers alike.
You play as Security Officer, Zimri Eder, aboard The Persistence. Immediately, it is impossible to not get any Dead Space vibes and honestly, I am more than ok with that. You apprehensively make your way through the hallways and rooms of the massive starship as you try to repair The Persistence and pilot it back to earth. You are seemingly the only survivor on this starship full of mutated, disfigured, and highly aggressive crew members, while trying to piece together what exactly happened. Sound familiar?
At the beginning, you are armed only with a shield that has a very small activation window and a stem-cell extractor that requires you to stealthily get within very close range to your target. Over time, making your way through a maze of corridors and enemies, you pick up resources that allow you to augment your character, abilities, and weapons. Increasing your physical attacks or enhancing your stealth is key to moving forward. Decide how best to play and upgrade those abilities.
In addition to your character and weapons, you can start to manipulate Dark Matter. This helps with abilities like teleporting quickly out of danger or using your SuperSense to get the layout of a room and where nearby enemies are wandering. You also begin to have access to a large variety of weapons to help in all different kinds of situations. The Needle gun as a standard go-to, an Ivy Serum to help turn foes into friends, and the Valkyrie to pin troubling foes against the walls with its harpoon, to name a few.
Built from the ground up for VR, movement is smooth and never too nauseating. You use your Dualshock 4 to move the protagonist and use buttons and triggers as you would in any standard game. But rather than an action or interact button, you simply stand close enough to an object to pick up items or to open doors or compartments. If movement does cause motion sickness, you can fine tune the setting to move in angled spurts to help alleviate this.
Sound is already an incredibly important factor when it comes to immersion and so much more so when it is a horror title. Especially when it’s one in virtual reality at that. Hearing the heavy breathing and moaning of a nearby enemy in a completely dark room can be down right eerie in virtual reality. Hearing the crying of a child and trying to get nearer to the source. Although sound itself is never enough to make a game scary, it is enough to make a game not scary. Luckily, The Persistence nails the added creepiness that good sound design can give a game like this.
Death is inevitable in The Persistence, but that is all just part of the game. Your body is reprinted, as is the layout of the floors. However, your levels, abilities, and weapons are all copied to your new body as you make another attempt. As fun as this is, it does have its obstacles inside of VR.
Virtual Reality is already more taxing on a person than simply being on their couch and television. I can only be that immersed in a world for so long. My VR gaming nights are not nearly as long as my TV gaming nights due to this. So, asking a person to restart a level completely from the beginning can be a tough sell. What Firesprite does to help with this is give you access points to each level. Once you unlock a new level of the starship, you can fast travel directly there. Purists may object and throw out the term “rouge-lite”, but it is simply Fireprite adapting proven mechanics for a VR space.
Another possible negative is that the changing of the layout on each floor doesn’t do a ton to change up gameplay. Sure, one play thru of a level I had was a giant square floor pattern of all rooms and corridors while after dying, that same floor was now almost a straight line. But it was of those same rooms and corridors you already encountered previously. After understanding the enemies and patterns and making use of the map button, floor layout did little to change how I would approach each new room. Honestly, these are really my only two complaints in an otherwise stellar game. The Persistence all comes together far better than anyone might expect.
Until recently, you only had two modes to play in The Persistence. You have your campaign and can then unlock Survival mode which challenges you to beat the campaign again but you are limited to only 10 clones. However as of October 18th, Firesprite has released four brand new modes: Glass Canon, Campaign+, First Blood, and Permadeath. A little something for everyone just in time for Halloween. And just because, Firesprite further sharpened the screen display for added visuals.
In Glass Canon, you are challenged with making your way through 24 increasingly difficult rooms to make your way to your escape pod. You get to choose your weapon at the beginning of each room and have unlimited ammo. The catch is that you are limited to a single point of health. Campaign+ is just what you would expect, restarting a new campaign with all your gear but with much more difficult enemies. Also, with your SuperSense radar disabled. Then to toss in one last wrinkle, you are being constantly hunted by a Bloodhound.
If stealth is more your thing, then First Blood caters to that. Forced to make your way through the procedurally generated levels but only with a knife. If none of these feel hard-core enough for you, then try Permadeath. Play through the entire campaign, but with only 1 life. No reprinting of your clone.
To help make the game accessible to everyone, The Persistence now has an assist mode that you can access. Here you can toggle through settings for game speed, damage, infinite teleport, infinite ammo and auto shield. You can also turn it on so that all enemies can always be seen through walls. Again, I am sure purists will balk, but making your game more accessible to everyone while allowing them to tailor their experience is never a bad thing.
2018 has seen a resurgence in the quality of games being developed for Virtual Reality and that is due to a large part to games like The Persistence. Games where developers took a step back and rather than build an experience, built upon proven genres. Successfully mixing them as well as their mechanics and making them more accessible in VR. Firesprite already developed the game with replayability in mind and now with the new update, there is even more reason to come back to The Persistence.
Enemy and ship design is great. Update helped resolve some visual flaws
Great balance of Rouge-like and stealth FPS mechanics, but rooms can feel redundant.
Excellent job of keeping the creep factor going and keeping you in suspense.
With the additional modes, it really gives a little bit of everything to anyone. Would have loved Move or Aim support.
Final Verdict: 8.5
The Persistence is available now on PSVR
A copy of The Persistence was provided by the publisher.