I am a huge fan of survival horror games but rogue-likes have never really grabbed my attention until I got the opportunity to review the new game from Firesprite Games called The Persistence. Set aboard a malfunctioning deep space colony starship that has been overrun with horrific and murderous aberrations, you must explore, evade and fight your way through the bowels of the ship in order to get it back to Earth safely. On top of all of that, the starship has come precariously close to the event horizon of a black hole. You’ll need to gather resources, upgrade your abilities and fabricate an arsenal of weapons if you want to be able to survive and figure out what is going on. You will discover quickly that you are going to die a lot and that no two plays are ever the same. Are you up for the challenge?
If this game sounds familiar to you, there is a reason for that. The Persistence was originally released as a PSVR title in 2018 so if you have one, then you have probably come across this title. What really makes this game stand out is the fact that the levels are procedurally generated. When you die during a mission, you will return to the the current hub-point, adjust or upgrade your gear and weapons, and head back out into the fray.
In order to create the levels and have them be different each time, the game is able to choose from a number of ship sections from brightly lit corridors, dark storage rooms, crew quarters with flickering lights, just to name a few but they are placed together each run in a way that makes it feel fresh, because it is. I’ve played a lot of games that purported to have so-called “procedurally generated” levels but this is the first one that really nails the presentation in a way that is integrated very well with the story and makes total sense as to why a spaceship can change its configuration at will.
As I mentioned earlier, you are going to die…a lot. So, each time you do, the aboard A.I. will 3D print you up another body and off you go. However, the same technology that is being used to revive you is also the same one that is creating the abominations that are infesting the ship. At this point, you can use the time to upgrade things like your weapons, armor and the gear.
You can purchase grenades, guns and other weapons to fit your play-style and to give yourself as much of an edge as possible because you never know what is out there waiting for you. In addition, you can upgrade your health and other abilities so that you are fully prepared for whatever the ship throws at you.
What I liked about this game is that it opens up just like the original Halo: Combat Evolved does with the MC being run through a small task list of things to do in order for the ship A.I. to ensure that he is operating correctly. In fact, the visuals are very reminiscent of the Halo games which was, in my opinion, a nice touch. Some areas, as you would imagine in a spaceship, are pristine and clinical white while other areas are dark, dirty and littered with corpses.
The creature designs are good but are nothing to write home about as they are just generic zombie type monsters which only serve as obstacles in your path. The brilliance with them really is more in how they behave and how you need to use how they operate to your advantage. This is a sci-fi adventure to its core and the developers have created environments that are eye-catching and fit the theme of the game perfectly.
As I mentioned before, you are going to die over and over and over again. This is why the game is entitled The Persistence; “firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition” is fully the point of the game and the developers will tell you as much if you try to change the difficulty setting in the game after you have started.
You can change to a lower setting but if you want to change it back, you have to start the game over from the beginning. There’s no dropping the difficulty in order to get past a particularly difficult foe so that you can then change it back and continue on. You have to stick with what you start out with once you begin. Deal with it.
I have to admit that the combination of RPG, FPS, survival horror, and the rogue-like genres is a game type that I haven’t spent a lot of time playing before. I love a good FPS, I cut my teeth on JRPGs, and survival horror is a genre that I have loved since RE: Code Veronica. However, rogue-likes have never really captured my imagination until now. There are so many features in this game from other genres that I love that I really couldn’t believe it. The fact that you will fail over and over will be a turn-off for those people that just want to get in and enjoy the story, but if you are looking for a challenge that offers a great story, even better visuals and fun to play then you can do a lot worse that The Persistence.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.