The Persistence by name, The Persistence by nature. Never has a game’s name been more fitting. To beat the game, you’re going to need persistence. The game, in turn, aiming to beat you, is ever persistent on killing you. If that sounds scary, just wait until you play the damn thing.
As a PSVR exclusive game, you’re going to need a PlayStation VR headset. You won’t, however, need your PSVR Aim controller as the game relies exclusively on the DualShock 4 controller for user input. I’d say I’m disappointed, but after playing the game it does make sense, and the developers managed to make the most out of the DualShock 4 and PSVR headset combo. Controls are never an issue here, and they’re intuitive enough that you’ll barely need a second glance at the control mappings.
But that’s by the by. A game can’t get by on decent controls alone. Thankfully, then, The Persistence is a bloody good game. And I mean bloody.
Given that The Persistence is a rogue-lite survival horror game, expect to die. Lots. Is it always fair? No, but when would we gamers ever admit to the game beating us fairly? Every death is “cheap” and we know better.
So death is a popular state in The Persistence, but the good news is that you’re in-game character is able to knock up a new meat sack whenever it’s needed. You play, you die, you come back stronger, and you do it again and again. But it’s not a pure rogue-lite, and for that I’m grateful. Most rogue-lites are difficult enough that I don’t make it to the end – if there even is one. Do rogue-lites normally have ends? Either way, The Persistence does have an end, so the game is divided into levels. Once you beat a level, you move onto the next. If you die during a level, you only go back as far as the level you’re on. It might seem a little against the rogue-lite philosophy, but I honestly found it to be pretty great and it kept me engaged and ready for another go. And another go is what you’ll always need.
Death doesn’t have to be for nothing in The Persistence, and so while you’re alive you’ll harvest Stem Cells from the game’s claustrophobic rooms and corridors, as well as from the ugly sods calling the spaceship home. Collecting Stem Cells (another other bits and bobs) will allow you to come back better and stronger than before. As a printable clone you can be tweaked to help you better survive a little longer. Like with any decent rogue-like, there are a good number of upgrades to be acquired and a lot of grinding to get them. Well, to be fair, it’s not as grindy as the games it takes inspiration from, and it even helps you out if you take your time and play tactically.
Your enemies are the mutated clones of your crewmates (because of a blackhole or something – it’s a video game) and so they’re susceptible to being outsmarted. Moving in for a silent kill will net you more precious currency than just bashing Dave’s head in or shooting him in the face. Knowing you can get ahead easier by taking the stealth approach forces you into tenser moments in an already tense game. Creeping forward, I’d often find myself holding my breath and losing my temper if I was nudged by the Mrs. It’s not the best looking game on the system, but the design is just about good enough to draw you in and force your to fear the unknown. I’m not scared of the dark in real life, but in The Persistence it’s terrifying because the dark is the unknown, and the unknown could send your arse back to the start in a matter of seconds.
The game’s levels, split into Decks, are procedurally generated. Every time you die and end up back in the Recovery Room, the ship changes thanks to the video game logic of black holes. It’s silly sci-fi – and that’s the story for you – but it does at least contextualise things a little bit, and if you’re anything like me, some quasi-scientific reasoning is enough.
Normally I groan at the idea of procedurally generated levels, but The Persistence uses them to its advantage. Not your advantage. Its.
Everything looks a little samey and there’s a definite sense of being constantly lost, and as most of us will know from experience, being lost is stressful. What most of us won’t be able to relate to is being lost and being hunted in a horror setting, so expect the stress levels to gradually increase with the game’s difficulty. It’s not overly difficult, mind you, but there’s a definite curve.
You don’t have to go it alone, though, as you can have a mate – or the Mrs, as was my case – helping you out with the free mobile companion app. With the Mrs using the app, she was able to have a clear view of a level’s layout, and so could help me out by guiding me towards helpful items or safer routes, she could also hinder me. And hinder me she god damn did. Take my advice and play with somebody that actually loves and cares about you, not the first psycho to bear your child.
It’s a novel way of getting multiplayer into the game, but it worked well enough and we both found it to be dastardly fun to play as the second player, though I was obviously made to help rather than hinder…
There’s a lot to like about The Persistence, and it’s not just about powering up and feeling like a god after spending ages as a creeping cretin. The atmosphere pulls you in and doesn’t let you go – unless you remove the headset out of fear – and the combat is meaty enough to be rewarding, but stealth is still a viable and, at times, preferable option. I’m struggling to find a bad word to say about the game, though I guess I could poke a finger at the underused audio and the look-to-do control scheme where you look at something to pick it up. With a plethora of comfort options to keep even the newest VR adventurers away from the sick bowl, I’m a touch disappointed there wasn’t more in the way of controls. I’d have like to have had something with the PS Move wands or, better yet, a combination of PS Move wand and PS Move navigation controller. When will this be a thing?!?!
Horror games aren’t my bag and I’m easily scared – that’s why I’m still not playing Resident Evil 7 – but The Persistence does it just about right, plus, I was assigned to review this game so I had no choice, really… Still, the stealth was excellent and in the rare, fleeting moments when you’ve actually got enough ammo to be Rambo in Space, I really enjoyed myself and successfully left reality behind for a few hours.
The Persistence PSVR Review
I don't know why The Persistence isn't being talked about more online - there is a lot to talk about. From the clever rogue-lite/stealth/horror/sci-fi/survival mash-up, you'd think it caters to just about every core gamer. It's not a case of taking on too much either, as every aspect of the genre-mix-and-masher is fantastic. Ok, the story isn't anything special, but you'll soon forget you're playing somebody else's story.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Pro.
Chris has been writing about gaming news for far too long, and now he’s doing it even more. A true PlayStation know-it-all, Chris has owned just about every Sony console that ever existed. Trophies are like crack to this fella.