Review: The Persistence Enhanced Edition
Originally released in 2018 as a VR only game, UK based developers Firesprite bring us The Persistence Enhanced Edition. Taking advantage of the extra power the PS5, Xbox Series S and X bring to the table there are some new graphical features to show off. But, does this survival horror game lose something moving away from VR? Let’s find out.
The Persistence itself is a huge space craft which is badly damaged and heading for a black hole. Your character, Zimri Eder, is a Security Officer who has been brought back to life by the Persistence AI, Serena Karim. You soon discover Zimri was killed by the murderous mutants who now inhabit the ship and you are now a clone of your former self. Your job is to repair The Persistence and bring it back online so you can escape the black hole. The only thing standing in your way are the mutated enemies hell bend on murder and mayhem.
First off, let me say the story is immediately intriguing. Hearing the voice of Serena in your headset as she explains what has happened, and then instructing you to take stem cells from your dead body is a great way to start the game. The Persistence is all about tone and atmosphere, and it’s a big compliment to say I got Event Horizon vibes. As this is a survival horror game there are jump scares, but there are also some moments of dark humour during the conversations between Zimri and Serena.
The Persistence is a first-person roguelike game where you do have guns, melee weapons and grenades, but I wouldn’t describe it as a first-person shooter. Stealth plays a massive part, and you have several abilities at your disposal, such as being able to teleport short distances and use super sense to detect enemies. Zimri also has a shield which can temporarily be deployed as she parries enemy attacks. All of these use dark matter so you have to be sparing when choosing the best time to use them.
There are different guns which can be bought or found including a traditional six shooter or machine gun style weapon. Ammunition is limited so again; stealth is essential because you won’t last very long if you go all guns blazing. The grenades have different uses as well, such as noise bombs which can distract enemies, or invisibility grenades which give you the chance to escape. All of these can be bought and upgraded using currency called Fab Chips and tokens.
You can upgrade yourself with additional health, stealth, melee damage and dark matter. These cost stem cells which can be harvested from enemies and found on the ship. As you explore you find schematics which can unlock new abilities for your suit and equipment. There are also different deceased crew members which can be found, and their DNA can be harvested to be used at a later time.
So, this sounds like a walk in the park based on the number of different weapons, abilities and equipment at your disposal. Not really. Let me tell you, there will be death and you will expire; a lot!
What makes this a roguelike is whenever Zimri dies, she is brought back to life by Serena. Imagine printing lots of copies with a Xerox machine and you get the picture. When you die (and this will happen a lot) you lose all the weapons you found during that run and start only with your stem cell harvest gun. Thankfully you retain any resources such as stem cells and fab chips which can be spent to make you stronger on the next run. Anyone who has played a roguelike will understand your chances of success increase as you develop your characters abilities, which in turn makes you stronger and therefore makes life easier as you progress.
The crew members DNA I mentioned earlier is used to decide which copy you want to use on a particular run. For example, one copy can give you 25% discount at the item’s shops, whereas another copy can get you more stem cells. It’s all about developing your playstyle to suit how you want to tackle the game.
The other thing to note with each run is the ship itself will change slightly. This is a typical roguelike trope which is used to make sure the game doesn’t get boring as you playthrough the same level over and over again.
The enemies themselves come in different shapes and sizes, ranging from mindless zombies which will attack on sight to hulking brutes who will kill you in a couple of hits. There are other enemies who shoot fire at you and a nice nod to the witch from Left 4 Dead. You hear her sobbing somewhere in the distance which immediately puts you on edge, because she is deadly if you disturb her. Their design is fine, if a little uninspiring. Put it like this, I didn’t feel particularly scared or intimidated by them. They are fairly dumb and can be taken out quietly as they tend to walk in set patterns or face the wall long enough for you to harvest their stem cells.
Although I said this isn’t a traditional first-person shooter, there is still combat with guns and melee weapons. I hate to say it, but it didn’t feel great and there was a disconnect between me as the player and using the weapons themselves. For example, using a club to batter an enemy didn’t give me the feedback I was looking for and felt a bit weightless.
As this is version of the game is enhanced for the latest consoles, it comes with additional ray tracing which didn’t feature in the VR game. You have the option to turn it on and off in the menu screen. My initial playthrough was with the ray tracing turned on. If I’m completely honest I was a little disappointed for a couple of reasons. The game itself is relatively dark, so the ray tracing effect is subtle at best. Ray tracing is the next big thing with console games, and some games which have it definitely provide a wow factor. Unfortunately The Persistence isn’t one of them. One of the big issues with ray tracing is the effect it can have on performance. I’m not a graphics snob by any stretch of the imagination, but the game did seem sluggish and juddered at times when I had ray tracing turned on. When I turned ray tracing off if definitely felt smoother to play. The graphics themselves are fine, but again, nothing spectacular.
I never played the original VR version, so I decided to play the first hour of the game using PSVR. As I’m sure you can imagine, this has a transformative effect on the game creating additional tension to an already tense and atmospheric game. Based on my brief playtime in VR, I would recommend this as the way to experience the game as it was originally intended.
The Persistence is definitely a game you have to be patient with. However I did start to get a little frustrated with my time with it. Maybe that is down to my skill level rather than the game itself? Although they are totally different styles of game, it shares a lot of qualities with recent PS5 exclusive Returnal. However, despite only playing Returnal briefly, I know which one I would rather play.
That’s not to say The Persistence is bad, and it definitely has a lot going for it in terms of its story, tone and atmosphere. I really wanted to like it more, but after a few hours I started to lose interest and get frustrated. If you like survival horror games and fancy creeping around a dark spaceship then maybe, you’ll enjoy The Persistence. Unfortunately for me, much like outer space, The Persistence left me feeling a little cold.
The Persistence Enhanced Edition is available now for PS5, Xbox Series S, X and PC. If you own the PS4, Xbox One or original PC version, you can upgrade to the enhanced edition for free.
Review by Chris.