STAFF REVIEW of Persistence, The (Xbox One)


Thursday, June 18, 2020.
by Adam Dileva

Persistence, The Box art Two years ago The Persistence released, but was a VR-only title for PS4. Set in space with horror and roguelike elements, it was a decent game for VR at the time, but now developers Firesprite have taken out the VR elements and brought it to other consoles for more people to experience. The horror genre set in space is nothing new; hell, one of the greatest movie franchises uses that backdrop, so while it’s been done to death before, The Persistence actually nails the tone and makes for an interesting experience that will have you fear being in space all alone.

Your ship has stopped working in the middle of space, just by chance near a black hole that’s causing a massive amount of problems, you know, other than imminent death. You seem to be the only one alive and the onboard AI is going to help you repair the ship so you can get to safety before anything else goes wrong. Sounds like a normal narrative for a stranded ship in space right? Well, you’re actually dead. Well, you died, and you’ve come back as a clone as yourself thanks to the ship's AI, complete with your memories of everything that’s happened to you before. This specialized 3D printer clones humans, and given that this is a roguelike, every time you die, and you will a lot, your body is simply reprinted and you start your adventure again.

There’s been a problem though, and no one else seems to have survived and has been turned into mutants of sorts, all of whom will kill you on sight. Also, every time you explore the ship, you realize that it’s actually shapeshifting and changing its layout, which I have to say, is a very clever way to have a narrative reasoning for procedurally generated levels. It’s an interesting backdrop that added a little more flair and reasoning other than ‘save yourself and the ship’.


Given that The Persistence was a VR title previously, I would have expected the controls to be remade from the ground up specifically for controller use. While you do move around and look with the sticks as per usual, there seems to still be some remnants of its VR roots intact. Wherever your 3D reticule is placed, you can use a short teleport in that direction, which uses a resource that needs to regenerate before use again. In the vast majority of games, opening or interacting with objects is done with a button press, but again, the VR roots begin to show here too. Instead, you simply hover over the item you want to interact with, like a door or an object you want to pick up, and it will automatically do so for you after a moment. It doesn’t negatively impact the gameplay in any way, it just feels odd and takes some getting used to, especially when you interact with a trap and don’t move your cursor off of it before it explodes.

You begin your adventure with a simple harvester weapon. This isn’t really a weapon per-se, but more of a tool that you can harvest stem cells from enemies if you’re able to sneak up behind them, much like an execution. While you’re able to swing and smack them a few times to kill them, you’ll want to harvest as much stem cells as you can as you don’t get very many guns and weapons in the game until later on, so you might as well get used to it while you’re weak in the beginning. You also have an energy shield that can block attacks for a short time, and if you time it right, you can actually parry enemy attacks which leaves them open to a harvest by spinning them around.

Every time you die, and you will often, you’re reprinted and must start your journey anew. This is a roguelike after all, so any progress you’ve made will have to be done all over again in terms of any weapons you were carrying, though the currency and collectibles, like schematics for upgrades and upgrade tokens, persist through death thankfully.


Enemies will start out simple and brainless, with them attacking you on sight, but there will eventually be different types that you’ll need to know how to counter and combat. For example, there’s a blind enemy with half its skull missing that can’t see you if you stand still or move incredibly slow, so you need to sneak around or behind them to take them out for a harvest. Later you’ll have ones that smack you and run away, or big hulking brutes that can easily ruin your day quickly. Enemies with weapons can be a real pain, but kill them and they’ll drop their guns and ammunition, though you generally only ever have a handful of bullets at one time.

With all the currencies and collectibles you gather, you’ll be able to spend them on unlocks and upgrades, depending on your playstyle. Do you focus on weapons to gain access to those, or maybe permanent implant upgrades like more health or stealth bonuses? You’re going to die a lot in the beginning, so spend the time to gather everything you see and eventually runs will become easier and easier with more upgrades unlocked. Once you get access to some of the later weapons and gadgets, it can make a huge difference, as throwing around a hulking brute with a gravity gun is always a joy to perform.

The part that bugged me the most though was how incredibly slow your character moves. I get it, you’re in a spaceship all alone, so why would you go running, but at the same time I wouldn’t be wandering around like I was having a walk in the park on a sunny day without a care in the world. Certain areas will be blocked by rubble, which is where your teleport comes in. And because of the controls mentioned about earlier having to hover over objects to pick them up or open, this slows you down even further for a moment every time you interact with something.

Because the ship’s layout rearranges itself every time, you’ll need to constantly reference it to get to your current objective. There seems to only be a handful of room types, but how they connect to each other in each run is completely randomized, so no run will ever feel the same. This randomization though means you might simply be a few rooms away from your objective, or have bad luck and have to bypass a dozen or more filled with enemies to get where you want to.


While I’m not normally one that gravitates towards roguelikes, as I don’t find losing all my progress that enjoyable, The Persistence is meant to be a challenging game where you learn from your mistakes. For those wanting an easier experience, there is an option for an Assisted Mode that makes things much simpler, but be warned, this isn’t able to be toggled off afterwards and will completely disable any achievements gained from that point onward with that save file. While I decided to not utilize the Assisted Mode, I can appreciate the option was available and ample warning given before deciding to do so.

For a horror game set in space, you can expect a lot of darkness. The lighting is decent and enemy models are fine, but there are tons of the same exact enemies throughout your runs. Visually, everything is adequate, but the real experience comes from The Persistence’s audio. If you have a high end pair of headphones, you need to bust them out to hear some great atmospheric background audio. Minor sounds like creaks, bangs and other noises constantly ring throughout the ship, and while you can hear the zombie-like moans of the hostiles, it adds a layer of dread when you can hear them, but not know exactly where on the other side of the door and the lights off. On multiple occasions I had to quickly look behind me to see if an enemy was there because of something I heard, so prepare to feel quite tense at times.

While I suffered no real technical hiccups, the small leftover VR mechanics constantly irked me. The gameplay loop may become stale after a while, though the progression treadmill of earning another upgrade or unlock was enough to have me constantly wanting to do one more run. It wouldn’t be impossible to power through the campaign in a short while on a second playthough once you know what you’re doing and how to combat each enemy, but much of the experience comes from learning from your mistakes.

The Persistence nails the eerie tonality of a horror sci-fi set in space, but has an interesting enough narrative that stands out, even if it only comes in small chunks when you finally make progress. Mechanically it may be a little clunky with its VR roots left over, but the audio is so finely crafted that it makes for an immersive horror experience, even if it’s one that probably won’t get much replay, if at all, after you’re finished your mission.




Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10

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