The Persistence Enhanced | PS5 Review
The Persistence, developed by Firesprite and published by Perp Games first hit the market in 2018, making its initial appearance on the PS VR, later to be released on all major consoles including PS4, Xbox 1 and Nintendo Switch, but I will be specifically reviewing my experience with the Enhanced Edition released for the PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC. For those of you who already own it on PS4/Xbox 1, the Enhanced edition will come as a free upgrade!
The Persistence is a first-person survival, horror roguelike that takes place within a spacecraft known as The Persistence. The first tool you’ll need to make sure that you have equipped when you load up this game is… persistence.
The game begins with the main character, Zimri, found inside a lifeless space ship after a catastrophic accident. It is quickly revealed to the player that there is a cloning machine on the ship that uses stem cells to generate new versions of yourself with the assistance of Serena, the only other friendly voice you'll hear in this grim, hazardous environment. However, this cloning machine has been malfunctioning and printing out a variety of mutants that Serena tells us are out for our blood.
As touched on already, this game is a roguelike, which I know many people have opinions on, however I feel like this is what makes this game a true challenge and increases the tension tenfold. Instead of walking (or crouch-walking in my case) mindlessly through the corridors, you must pay attention to every turn you take because it is not going to be the same when you die. In my first run the RNG Gods were NOT my friend and I was forced to crawl through such a grim gauntlet of endless corridors, feeling overwhelmed, tense and unsure. Eventually death caught up with me and that "copy" of Zimri was gone, along with all the weapons, armour and grenades I'd crafted. Yes, you read that right. Everything was gone. However with every death, I was consistently making it further and further until I somehow completed the first objective. Without each death and the subsequent map changes, I’d probably not have felt like I wanted to give this game as much time as I did, however no matter how awful I was at it when I first started, the progress was very tangible and gave me a real hunger to keep trying, which I believe is a fundamental part of video games that is sometimes lost nowadays compared to when I was younger.
Whilst you have a fair variety of weapons with various perks at your disposal to take down these mutant creatures, it's important to never lose sight that stealth is your most powerful weapon. Usually stealth is never my thing and generally puts me off a game however, in this case I got incredibly strong flashbacks to my time playing Alien Isolation which despite my struggles with stealth, I absolutely adored. So I put on my big girl pants, found my courage and remembered what got me through Alien Isolation - crouch walking... EVERYWHERE! Oh, and a lot of patience! The Persistence very well could have become a carbon copy of games like Alien Isolation but for me what really transformed it is the roguelike concept. With the map changing, it kept me constantly interested and engaged, even when I was dying repeatedly and failing miserably I always thought to myself, "it's OK, the next run could be the one". I'm notorious on stream for always saying "One more mission..." or "One more try.." and The Persistence really fed that desire to keep trying and not give up because who knows? The next run could quite literally be a walk in the park compared to the last.
As previously mentioned, I'm playing the Enhanced Edition which makes excellent use of one of my favourite features of the Dualsense controller - Haptic feedback. Since getting my PS5 I've constantly been impressed by this feature and always miss it when I play a PS4 title. The Persistence made use of haptic feedback very well and really added to my immersion. During combat there is tension on both triggers, for example, when aiming and throwing grenades the triggers were almost fighting me and whenever I’d put my shield up to parry an enemy, the trigger wouldn’t go without a fight. This really helped in creating a very tangible tension that I know I wouldn’t have been even half as immersed in without it. Haptic feedback is such a small feature that was added but it never fails to impress me. I also believe it’s my first experience of haptic feedback in a horror game and it didn’t fail to impress me. Alongside the haptic feedback, The Persistence makes good use of sound effects to increase tension and jump-scares at every corner, creating an exceptional atmosphere for the player whether it be the spaceship clunking and creaking with every move, a locker blowing up in your face or the daunting grunts of the mutants roaming around, hunting Zimri.
The Persistence is not intended to be an easy game. There are four game modes available; Campaign, Survival, Campaign + and Perma-death. However there is some help if you simply want to appreciate the story and not be overly challenged. In the pause menu, you can activate something called 'Assist Mode', that when selected brings up this message, "The Persistence is designed to be a difficult game. We want you to die, over and over again, so that you can have the experience of learning from your mistakes and enjoy the satisfaction of overcoming adversity through learning and perseverance. However, we understand that every player is different and that you may, for whatever reason, find aspects of the game too difficult or otherwise disagreeable". I have huge respect for this message. The developers clearly want this game to be accessible and interesting to a large demographic of gamers, not just survival, stealth and horror connoisseurs. No matter what your skill level, however, I'd generally recommend persevering and trying to get to grips with the game before you turn on Assist Mode because I do feel like a certain amount of the games charm and allure could be lost to this mode but if you give it some time and still don't find yourself progressing, I would then suggest to turn on Assist Mode so that you still get to enjoy this game, because it really is a game which I'm glad hasn't continued to fly under my radar. I haven't played on Assist Mode but from my understanding you can turn on features such as unlimited ammo, unlimited teleports, etc...
The Persistence truly is a hidden gem of a game and I feel it's an incredibly innovative experience from which I think a lot of game developers could learn a lot. The horror genre is a well saturated corner of the market, but combining roguelike into a horror game isn't something I've personally played or heard of until The Persistence and I feel that this is the biggest reason why this game shines for me. The developers have taken a very simple concept - surviving - and thrown as many obstacles as possible in your way. With this game first being released on VR, I was concerned that it would be lacking in atmosphere and immersion because of how immersive the VR experience is, but it's clear that the developers put a lot of time into making it incredible no matter what the platform. I very much hope this game finds much success and we maybe see some sort of a sequel or reboot when the next generation of VR is available, but I certainly do feel tempted to buy the VR version and experience it that way too.
Is The Persistence worth buying? 100% YES! There is a decent amount of content packed into its small and compact file size that it is a completely worthy addition to any game collection. It is difficult and feels like a grind sometimes, but then in its own unique and bizarre way, The Persistence rewards the players patience by throwing a subtle bone every so often to keep the player engaged and satisfied. I could see myself doing multiple playthroughs, maybe even advancing to Campaign + some time! However, I don't ever see myself attempting perma-death because I value my sanity!
Lj's rating: 4 out of 5.