The Persistence (PSVR) Review

In space, nobody can hear you scream. Unfortunately, in my flat pretty much everyone, including my neighbours, can! I’m not saying The Persistence is a scary game, but there were moments when I possibly yelled out quite a few profanities at the virtual feckers! So, what is The Persistence? It’s one of the most addictive PSVR titles I’ve played for a while, from it’s procedurally generated floor plan to its vast array of pick-ups and weaponry. There is never a dull moment as you investigate the ship in order to complete set objectives and find a way out of this nightmare they call ‘The Persistence‘.

As always guys, the images you are about to see were taken on the PS4 but they don’t represent the in-game experience at all. A flat image will never convey the true feeling you get once you don the headset and become fully immersed within the game. As such, don’t judge a book by its cover, and don’t judge this game by the screenshots.

The Persistence 1

At least we have a guitar to play.

The Persistence is the name of the ship you’re aboard, a ship which was heading towards an exoplanet which is 1,291 light years away from ‘home’. Once the ship arrives, it’s mission is to terraform and colonize the new planet with a large number of settlers. The ship itself has been built to house up to 780 of these settlers, settlers who are due to be clone-printed upon terraform completion. That’s right, the new settlers aren’t actually alive and travelling with you on the journey, they are all stored as DNA and are due to be ‘3D printed’ in the future, so to speak! Manning the ship are seven crew members, thankfully these guys are actually real-life humans and not mere clones. There is one small snag though, The Persistence never makes it to its destination.

Whilst performing its final singularity jump, The Persistence accidentally ended up being thrown into the gravity well of an immense black hole! As far as you can recall, nobody has ever made it through one of these freak events and lived – which isn’t a very reassuring thing to discover! The Persistence barely survives this catastrophic occurrence, with all of its core systems critically damaged and offline. There is but one survivor, our protagonist. However, there’s also a catch – we discover at the beginning that we are basically dead and the ship had cloned our DNA in order to send us on a mission to repair the damaged sectors of the ship.

There is yet another catch as well, the ship is beginning to play up as it slowly succumbs to the black hole. The equipped clone machines have begun printing out the settlers, or at least what it thinks the setters should be. Basically, everyone is being reproduced as mutated beings which act all zombie-like with their simple thirst for one thing – the desire to slaughter anything living! The singularity has also caused an issue with the ship, The Persistence is a modular-based ship which can swap and change in order to adapt to situations, the singularity causes the layout of the ship to change every single time you re-enter a floor (exposition). So, can you work you’re way through all five floors of the ship, restoring all the services as you go and fending off any unwanted encounters? 

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Scary A.F!

In regards to the controls, I have to praise Firesprite for including every option under the sun here! In general, you’ll be using the DS4 ONLY as you move around and interact with things. Comfort wise, you can toggle the blinders on or off in many different situations, have smooth turning or snap turned on, and change the speed of turning as well as many other options. It’s great when the developers of PSVR titles give the player the choice to customise everything they want from the start.

The other innovation which I love is the ‘activate’ mechanic. As you’re picking up a lot of things as you scourer the ship, the devs didn’t want you pressing a button over and over again. So, all you do is look at items, a ring appears and about a second later you will have picked it up. This is the same mechanic for opening doors and cupboards as well. Aiming in regards to shooting and hitting is also via your head look. Some people don’t like that mechanic and I’m not a massive fan, but in these types of games, it does actually work quite well.

The Persistence 2

Hmm, I spy with my little eye…

The Persistence is basically a mash-up of a survival horror, roguelike, and an FPS with an emphasis on stealth. Due to its roguelike elements, there is something which is inevitable which you can’t avoid – Death. You’re bound to die over and over and over again at first until you gradually improve and enhance your character. Combat wise, you’ll begin The Persistence armed with only a Stem Cell retrieval device, known as the ‘Harvester’, and your trusty energy shield. You must quickly adapt to the parry attack with the shield if you wish to stay alive, materialising your shield just as the enemy is about the attack you will force them the get knocked back and sometimes they’ll spin around. If they spin around, then you’ll be able to fire your taser-like Harvester gun as you suck the remaining life out of them and obtain ‘currency’ which you can use to upgrade your clone later on.

If you fail to get the enemy to spin around so that you can access the back of their neck, or you’re feeling brave and fancy a game of fisticuffs, then you can press the R2 trigger and literally pistol-whip the enemy with your weapon. This move is effective on earlier enemies but later ones will wipe you out with one hit – so be careful. Not only that, you can use the ‘obtained’ Stem Cells and Erebus tokens to unlock and upgrade new weapons in one of the many weapon cloning facilities which are scattered around the ship. As this is a little roguelike, you will lose any weapon you have bought from the weapon dispenser when you die. However, once you unlock the blueprint using the Erebus token, the weapon remains unlocked so that the next time you want it, all you have to do is pay the Stem Cells fee.

Also at your disposal is the ability to teleport small distances and a very useful scan, at the expense of Darkmatter energy which will regenerate over time. The teleport is useful to jump over barricades or evade enemies a little easier. Whereas the scan is one of the most useful mechanics you have, yet it took me 6 deaths before I even realised what it did! Using the scan, you’ll send out a pulse within the room you’re in – any enemies will appear in red on your screen for a few seconds before the markers are removed. This single mechanic was the reason I stopped being scared of where to look in The Persistence as it basically shows you where the enemies are hiding – so no more silly jump scares!

The Persistence 3

This is my choice of suit – They die and I get health – win-win!

When you inevitably die, you’ll be reprinted on the deck of the ship once again, with only your collected ‘currencies’ intact. Initially, you can only jump into the bog standard clone body, which doesn’t offer any advantages in your playthrough, but if you find and retrieve the DNA of your other six crewmates remains, then you can also pay to be cloned in their body and retrieve various boosts and advantages for doing so. You’ll also have the chance to upgrade your overall statistics as you increase your melee damage, health, Darkmatter storage and more. These upgrades are permanent and will follow you through from clone to clone so that you can gradually build up your character so you can overcome the horrors you’ll encounter much easier. 

As you defeat the mutated freakshows, you may come across various blueprints for new tech. These can also be crafted, upgraded and equipped within the safety of your re-clone area. You’ll find upgrades to your Harvester, new passive abilities for your suit (such as the ability to absorb health as you hit the enemies), upgrades to your teleport ability and more. This is why you must try and sneak up on the evil ones and suck their cells out, rather than just slapping them around a bit – which is sometimes hard to resist, especially when you unlock the gravity gun and you can do a ‘Hulk Smash’ on everyone in order to kill them! I like the fact that you’re allowed to keep all of your obtained currencies when you die, a bit like Devious Dungeon, as some roguelikes wipe you clean of any pickups once you die.

Also, your progress is ‘kind of’ saved upon death as well. There is a mission to work towards on each of the five levels of the ship, if you complete the mission on floor one then the game will remember this when you’re reborn. This means that your next jump to the first deck will only require you to find the teleporter to the next floor so that you can embark on the second mission, rather than redoing the first mission all over again. That is unless you are playing the survival mode. Survival will task you with completing all of the missions on all five layers of the procedurally generated Persistence without dying. Guess which mode I was playing and which one I probably won’t ever play…

The Persistence 4

Luckily it’s a lit area – It’s a lot more terrifying when it’s dark!

The Persistence is quite scary at first, as you cautiously creep around the desolate ship, which is coated in darkness in most places, with only a short-beam torch as your means of visibility. You’re bound to stumble upon mutated beings as you turn corners and crawl through the vents. As I stated above though, once I realised that Triangle shows me the location of my foes, the game became less scary and more strategic – do I take out this guy or should I reserve my energy and use the empty air ducts to go around it? Or, should I risk going in this room with three enemies when I can just go via the room next to it which only has one? What you also have to take into account is the glorious AI and unique character designs on each of your adversaries.

Let’s take the first floor/layer as an example. You’ll encounter four main mutants in this area. The first is your standard mutated crew member. These ones are all in-tact and will be doing mundane tasks like looking at the wall, looking at a crate, walking around, or staring at something else. They are easy enough to take out, but they will run at you pretty fast once you’re spotted – so watch out! The next ones you’ll see are the armed clones. Yup, the machines have been pumping out mutants who were cloned holding a gun. The good thing about these is that from the top lip upwards, they have no head. As such, they can’t see you but they can hear and feel movement vibrations. Again, not too tricky if you sneak up on them from behind and suck out their Stem Cells, but they will open fire if you’re detected. Also, you can take their gun once you’ve taken them out – which is nice.

Now onto the two guys I hate, the crawler and the big guy! The crawler doesn’t stay still very often, they will crawl around the vents and run all over the place. If you’re wearing headphones then you can really hear them scurrying around as they open and close the vents they are travelling through. These ones are easy to kill but they are very fast. They’ll jump out and surprise you (if you haven’t scanned) and they love crawling right up to you then jumping you when you least expect it. The big guys are… big. Massive 7-8ft beasts with more muscles than the Hulk! If you alert these ones they won’t only attack you, anything that moves will get a clobbering – including other enemies. I’ve managed to take these out by using the gravity gun and that’s about it so far. you can’t slap these to death as they simply crush you with one hit. 

Gear, Guns, and layout
I keep talking about the Gravity gun – just what is it? Check out my video above for an example. It’s one of the first things I always buy when I jump back into The Persistence. It’s basically the Gravity Gun from Half-Life – you can grab enemies and bash them into things in order to diminish their health, or you can opt to throw them against the walls and kill them that way instead. Another weapon I always buy is a ‘Love gun’?! You simply attack an enemy with this weapon and they will follow you around the floor you are on and will attack any enemies you encounter for you automatically. I love getting the big guy on my side so that he can either take out the others or at least take the brunt of the attacks for me. Other such useful items you can unlock and purchase are a capsule which slows down time (apart from you) for about eight seconds so that you can run in and take out the enemies and an invisibility device. These all require tokens to unlock initially and then an increasing amount of resources to upgrade and purchase.

This is where the Roguelike really begins to become apparent. Everything in this game requires a payment of some kind, a payment you get by killing mutants and salvaging the ship. And so the grind begins, live long enough to collect a decent amount until you die, purchase/upgrade/equip, then go back to find more resources until you die and… rinse and repeat. It’s a very familiar concept and one we have seen recently with games like Mothergunship and Touhou Wanderer Reloaded. It’s presented in The Persistence in such a way that it remains fresh and consistent in the blueprints you obtain along the way and the new unlocks which become available to you. I jumped into the game yesterday and before I knew it, I had been on the ship for over three hours! I hadn’t got very far but I’d managed to upgrade a lot of my base stats and armoury. It’s all about becoming that little bit better so you can get further in your next playthrough.

One thing which did stand out to me though is the inconsistent procedurally generated floors. Don’t get me wrong – I have a lot of fun and it’s great having to find your way through each floor every time. However, the floors themselves are made up of a set of ’tiles’ which are randomly pieced together – a bit like early 90’s level editors for FPS games on the PC where you would have the option to piece pre-defined set-pieces together. This can sometimes result in some layouts seeming a bit unfair as you’re faced off with a load of enemies or you have to travel through many rooms to get to your destination or an unfair advantage with a clear path straight to your goal. I found the majority of the time the game had found a sweet spot in the middle, but there were occasions where the game fell on both sides. 

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The app which you can download – There is so much to do and interact with!

Friend or Foe?
Firesprite may not be a very well known developer, who is based here in the UK. However, they were the guys behind The Playroom and The Playroom VR. Both of which had a lot of innovations and unique ways to play the games with your friends. The Playroom invited the little robots into your house via the PS4 camera and The Playroom VR allowed you to use the headset whilst the other people saw different footage as they played along on the TV. As such, The Persistence has also received a rather unique method which allows a second person to locally help, or screw you over, during you playthrough – The Persistence App.

The app is available on both Android and iOS devices and it allows the second person to directly control certain aspects of the players game. I’ve briefly tried out the app, but I was playing it with myself as I couldn’t find someone to come and test it for me in time. As you begin the game in VR, the app user is given a full 3d map of your floor you are currently on, with only access to the room you are in (at first). The app user can click to scan various objects, find out where the trapped switches are, locate enemies, and even place waypoints for the VR player to go towards. The more you scan, the more points you get to unlock new abilities. 

You can even turn lights on or off for the player and spawn in health packs and weapons if you’re feeling kind. If you’re not feeling kind, then you can open doors, lure enemies to the player, and even spawn in enemies in order to cause mayhem! This concept is great and it really reminds me of the gamepad on the Nintendo Wii U. The app has been designed beautifully for The Persistence as you can even see, via a little dot, exactly where the player in VR is looking in real time – which is so amazing the first time you see it in action. If you have a few people in your household then I would recommend this game purely for this feature alone. It makes me miss the Second Screen implementations more and more as well – the beginning of the gen had a bunch of devs take advantage with games like Black Flag and Wolfenstein, yet nobody bothers innovating anymore as they opt for console parity with the other systems instead.

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Thank god I managed to ‘cupid arrow’ him and now he fights for me!

Technical:
Graphically, The Persistence isn’t the best looking PSVR game I’ve played this month. That’s not to say it’s bad, but I don’t know if the game has received any PS4 Pro support as the environments are a bit blurry at times and objects more than about 10ft away look pretty fuzzy. Thankfully, you can still clearly see enemies at any distance and you can make out what they are doing and if they have noticed you or not. But, the game isn’t as sharp and clear as games such as 18 Floors, Along Together, The Exorcist VR, or even Skyrim VR since it’s recent patch which increased the resolution on the PS4 Pro. However, this game is much bigger than a few of those games with short loading times and no loading at all once you enter a floor. I’m guessing compromises had to be made to accomplish this – although I would love a full-on PS4 Pro patch to boost the resolution if it isn’t being utilised at the moment!

Sound wise, The Persistence will have you crapping yourself! Pop on a pair of headphones and listen out for the screams and groans of the mutants, the tapping of feet as the crawlers run through the air ducts, and the terrifying sound of doors being opened all around you. The game really knows how to build the atmosphere to a point where playing it without the sound isn’t as scary, yet also not recommended as you won’t hear the creatures around you. The voice acting which is present works great and all the sound effects of the general devices, such as weapons and tools, all sound spot on. 

Overall:
So then, after being told beforehand that The Persistence is the scariest PSVR title out to date, what do I think? First of all, I wouldn’t give it that title, for me that game is still The Exorcist: Legion VR with its horrific scenes and jumpscares galore! However, Firesprite has done a great job of bringing the roguelike genre to VR and making it work as well as it does. Progression is steady and constant, you always feel like you’ve accomplished something, the floors progressively get harder as you also increase your stats/gear, and the game is tonnes of fun. The only thing I would have wanted is for a higher resolution with supersampling or a bit of extra clarity on the PS4 Pro, just to make it on par with recent PSVR titles in terms of the graphical quality. Other than that, we have yet another must-buy PSVR title!

My first few attempts at the game:

Official Trailer:

Final Conclusion:
The Persistence is an amazing roguelike FPS with full immersion within VR. When you’re not salvaging the ghost-ship “Persistence”, looking for Stem Cells and other useful items, you’ll be either hiding from or taking out the mutated clones who roam the decks of this doomed ship. The only downfall of the game lies within its clarity as the game can get a little fuzzy at times, but this is more than made up for with its incredible stealthy combat mechanics and progression system. The Persistence is great to play on your own but it’s even better to bring along a friend as you work together (hopefully) in order to find a way to regain control of the ship. This is another ‘must buy’ PSVR game which everyone should own. 

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A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

The Persistence

£24.99
9.4

Final Score

9.4/10

The Good:

  • Very addictive gameplay with a constant progression system in place
  • The combat feels weighty and the weapons are awesome
  • No two games will be the same
  • Guaranteed hours of gameplay
  • The app the second player can use is a work of genius! It's so cool to see in action and use

The Bad:

  • Some procedurally generated layouts can be too easy or too hard
  • The graphics are a little fuzzy, even on the Pro

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