Preview: The Persistenceby Adam Dileva
Originally a VR-only PS4 title released two years ago, The Persistence was a horror game with roguelike elements set in space. While the setting has been done to death before, developers Firesprite actually nailed the tonality, making a space based atmosphere very fitting for the horror genre. Since then, it appears they’ve been working on developing this non-VR version for other gamers and platforms to get a hold of, and where we are, deep in space all alone.
It seems that when you awake on your ship, you appear to be the only one alive, kind of. You see, you died too, but the onboard computer managed to use the 3D printer to recreate you a body to use. Yes, 3D printing can now clone humans, and it seems that something has gone wrong when doing so, as everyone else that was cloned seems to have turned into some mindless mutants of sorts, attacking you on sight, or sound. You ship is basically rendered useless due to the nearby black hole that’s slowly sucking you in, so you must do what you can to repair the ship so you can survive. Doing so won’t be so easy though.
Even if you didn’t know The Persistence was a VR title previously, there seems to be a few remaining mechanics that give it away. For starters, you are able to do a short teleport to your 3D reticule with a press of a button, though you need to use a resource to do so. Most importantly, to interact with any objects, like picking things up or opening doors, you simply need to hover your cursor over the item for a moment and it will automatically do it for you. It’s clearly a left over element from its VR control scheme, but seems odd that it’s still included. It’s not a terrible mechanic, just one that takes getting used to.
Every time you start your adventure you begin with only your harvester. It’s not really a weapon and only really used to harvest stem cells from enemy clones if you’re able to sneak up behind them. Yes, you could just melee them to death, but blocking and having them turn around leaves them prone to a stem cell harvest, instantly killing them. While you’ll find weapons during your journey by defeating enemies carrying them, ammunition is scarce, so get used to the stealth and melee mechanics to get the most out of your runs.
When you do die, and you will often, you’re simply printed into another body and must restart your journey, though you do keep the currency you’ve collected to that point but lose anything in your inventory, including any weapons, hence the roguelike elements. Enemies start out simple, but as you’re introduced to newer and more challenging ones, it will take some getting used to how to deal with each type. After a half dozen deaths to the blind ones, I realized that I had to move even slower than sneaking speed to not be heard to get behind them. Get noticed by clones with weapons and you’re sure to meet a swift death.
Spending your currencies allows you to implant permanent upgrades or craft weapons that are then available to use from that point forward. The first couple hours will simply be dying numerous times, slowly building up your currencies and getting a few upgrades. Once you have a grasp on the mechanics and controls, it becomes a smoother routine.
Interestingly, every run you have also means that the ship has shifted it layout, so each time will be different when reset. While there’s only a handful of rooms, the connections between each to get to your goals will be completely randomized, so it doesn’t become stale. Even though I can recognize certain rooms now and know that an enemy generally spawns in a specific area, the tone and overall atmosphere is very fitting for a horror set in space. The visuals aren’t fantastic, but passible. The real joy is the audio. If you have a great pair of headphones, you’re going to hear a ton of minor sounds, like creaks and mysterious sounds on the ship. Many times I thought I heard something behind me and had to check, or I could hear the groans of the enemies in the room I was about to enter. There’s plenty of tense moments and it’s primarily due to the excellent audio soundscape.
While the constant dying and having to restart might put off some, there is an assisted mode that makes things a bit easier, but this also warns you that it’s going to disable achievements as well. The developers designed The Persistance to be challenging and to die many times, and while mechanics like that normally frustrate me, I kept wanting to do one more run to see if I could make it further and collect more stem cells for another upgrade.
The Persistence may have been born in VR, but it does work with a standard controller scheme. It’s a little odd some of the VR mechanics are still included, but you’ll eventually learn to work with it. The eerie tonality and superb audio are what stands out best and we’re excited to check out the full release May 21st, so be sure to keep an eye out for our full review.