Survival horror has become a favorite genre for VR games, with the technology providing the means to elevate tension and immersion. Firesprite’s The Persistence is another such game that adds brings its own twists and doesn’t shy away from taking risky design choices. The game is named after the spaceship it takes place in. The latter has been adrift in a black hole and is inhabited by dark and twisted reincarnations of its original crew members.
Players assume the role of security guard Zimri who is being guided by the ship’s AI IRIS. His core objective is to complete missions on each of the ship’s four decks and stealthily make it out of its labyrinth of corridors, locate and activate the stardrive engine and escape the pull of the black hole. Doing so is not as easy as it may sound, as the game tends to exhibit some rogue-lite tendencies. Every time you use a teleporter or get taken out by your horrifying enemies, the ship’s map is randomized and you’ll begin fresh as a new clone of Zimri. Therefore, trial and error isn’t a viable strategy here, since the map layout will be different each time you play. As a result, the game is highly replayable, and for good reason – it’s relatively short and can be completed within the span of just over four hours.
The team at Fifesprite has learned from the discomforts that have plagued many VR games and has therefore implemented a highly customizable locomotion system that lets you play according to your preferences and avoid feeling dizziness during your playthrough. You can move around and rotate in a continuous manner or teleport instantly at small angles. Thankfully, quickly peeking from and moving across corners to track enemy movement during stealth doesn’t result in any VR related discomforts.
The aim pointer is tied to the player’s head movement. It’s an intuitive system that works well here. Switches and terminals are activated automatically once you position the pointer on them. Similarly, you’ll need to position the pointer on an enemy weak spot, such as its neck, before taking it out in stealth via your stem cell collector. Successfully taking out enemies via stealth yields you stem cells with which to improve your vitals. You also have a presence sensor, which tells you what’s looming in your nearby surroundings but only for a fraction of a second.
You’ll be able to use a shield during combat for a limited period of time, as there’s a cooldown system associated with it. Timing it correctly repels enemy attacks. You can also perform melee attacks on up-close enemies. As you make progress, your arsenal of firearms and devices will improve significantly. Particularly worth mentioning is the time bomb, which slows down what happens around you for a limited period of time. To add to the tension, firearm ammunition is kept scarce, and you’ll need to explore the labyrinth of corridors in order to find some. As a result, it’s easy to lose track of where you’re going, therefore you’ll often have to bring up the in-game map to find your way.
The variety of weapons and tools at your disposal isn’t matched by a variety of enemies, who largely remain the same throughout the experience. It would’ve been nice to see a larger array of enemy types, with each type exhibiting unique traits of its own. Given the game’s short length, it is by no means a deal breaker, but it’s certainly a missed opportunity that the studio can capitalize upon for a potential sequel.
The Persistence also features an asymmetric multiplayer mode, which can be played locally with up to four other players. While the primary player assumes control of the core game, his teammates can download an application to their tablet or smartphone to give him a hand by connecting switches or warning him of enemy presence etc. Conversely, it’s also possible to take a competitive stance and send creatures to the main player’s area. Interestingly, these additional players are rewarded both for assisting and creating hurdles for the primary player. It’s a fun and well executed multiplayer solution for this kind of a game that adds a reason to revisit every now and then.
The audiovisual presentation works well in creating the right kind of atmosphere for a survival horror game. The spaceship is dark and terrifying, while enemy creatures look detailed and grotesque up close. Meanwhile, the audio banter between Zimri and IRIS does a good job of building the game’s narrative.
All in all, The Persistence is among the finest VR experiences to date and may prove to be a game changer for naysayers of the technology. The rogue-lite elements and asymmetric multiplayer are well-integrated into its survival horror gameplay, and serve to add plenty of replay value to an otherwise short experience.
The Persistence Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: A brutal VR sci-fi-stealth, horror and roguelike, The Persistence challenges you to survive aboard a doomed colony ship, overrun with mutants.
The Persistence is among the finest VR experiences to date and may prove to be a game changer for naysayers of the technology. The rogue-lite elements and asymmetric multiplayer are well-integrated into its survival horror gameplay, and serve to add plenty of replay value to an otherwise short experience.