Summer isn’t the best season for VR it seems. The number of games coming out is relatively low, and perhaps it’s because it’s not too much fun to wear a VR headset in the heat when you’re not in an air conditioned room. Luckily, that didn’t stop Firesprite from releasing The Persistence, which walks a fine line between tried and true VR concepts and subtle innovations. It’s exclusive to Playstation VR right now, and here’s our review.
Although we’ve seen some excellent games proving otherwise (like Moss), first person shooting and horror have been go-to staples for VR right from the very start. That’s not a bad thing at all by the way, since two of my favorite VR games (Resident Evil 7 and Doom VFR) were examples of that. Because of that, I had been looking forward to the The Persistence, which combines shooter elements with sneaking about and a tense atmosphere. The Persistence was also worth looking forward to because it was different from what came out before. We’ve had shooters, even sci-fi shooters, but this game was going to have roguelike elements as well as multiplayer interaction. More on that later.
In the game, you assume the role of a security officer aboard a giant space ship (called “The Persistence”). As is often the case in these scenarios, all hell breaks loose and your main goal is to just survive for as long as possible so you’ll at least stand a remote chance of getting back home again.
I say “as long as possible” for a reason, because The Persistence is highly unlikely to let you complete the game without dying. Luckily, you never permanently die, as you get reincarnated/cloned for another try. When that happens, you lose the weapons you were carrying but you retain things like credits, schematics and other perks and upgrades. You also get to use some of them for a stat boost at the start of your next attempt, making the game easier as you keep playing and progress through the decks of The Persistence.
Unlike games like Doom VFR and Resident Evil 7, the levels you traverse change every time as they’re generated fresh on each restart. A common element in roguelikes, there are positives as well as negatives to this approach. Not knowing what to expect keeps you on your toes and that works very well with the horror/survival theme in this game, but random level generation also means that environmental assets are reused more than they are in a game like Doom VFR or RE7, so visually it’s a less appealing title even though it’s one of the better looking Playstation VR games in recent history with good enemy designs and atmospheric lighting.
Even though a lot is retained upon a restart, resource management is a crucial element in The Persistence. At specific stations on the ship, you can craft weapons and ammo – but there’s a cool down period for the crafting station as well so it makes little sense to just save up credits since you can’t use them all at once anyway. You’ll want to invest pretty soon after a restart as well, as you start almost unarmed each time – heading into battle with nothing but a shield and a stem cell harvester (stem cells are used for upgrades).
Luckily, investing in weapons is fun! They’re very diverse – even more so than in Doom VFR, and range from your typical guns to futuristic gravity-bending contraptions that allow you to grapple enemies and trash them around for a bit. It’s very “dark side of the force”, but lovely to play around with.
One of my favorite aspects of any VR title is here in The Persistence as well, and it’s the ability to engage with other (non-headset wearing) players in the same room. By downloading an app for the game, players who connect to your home network can interact with your adventure in a number of ways while playing their own game as well. They can open doors, help you out by informing you of dangers and items, and even help you fight enemies. They can, however, also try to stop or hinder you – for which their app will, at times, reward them. This creates a very interesting dynamic, since you (as the VR player) can also upload a virus into their app to effect some payback. More than a gimmick, it’s a game within a game that already works on its own.
Unlike Doom VFR, The Persistence does not have support for the Aim controller, which is a bit of a shame even though I can see where some weapons wouldn’t work well with it. Instead, the game controls a bit like RE7, using nothing but the DualShock controller – which has the benefit of never having the small tracking issues that I tend to have with Aim or Move.
The Persistence is a great sci-fi horror/survival shooter with extra replayability thanks to its multiplayer integration. As a solo adventure it’s good, but not as strong as Doom VFR, Farpoint or Resident Evil 7 due to the use of level randomization and roguelike elements that can make for situations where you see too much of the same thing. However, if you’re looking for something new and exciting within the formula, The Persistence has you covered.