PSX 2017 Hands-On: The Persistence Is A Tense, Sci-Fi VR Roguelike

by David Jagneaux • December 20th, 2017

One of the biggest issues facing the VR market right now is that most of the content is too short to hold anyone’s attention for more than an hour or two. We’ve gotten some long, elaborate adventures as of late such as Skyrim VR, Fallout 4 VR, and even Resident Evil 7, but for the most part VR games can be “completed” in a single afternoon. The Persistence from Firesprite is not one of those games.

Since The Persistence is designed to be endlessly replayable it borrows many design principles from the roguelike genre. In these games you typically play as a single character and attempt to reach the end of the game. Usually you don’t on your first, or second, or third try, so when you die you start over, but get to keep some progression across playthroughs. What makes these sorts of games special though is that you don’t replay the same levels — things tend to change each and every time.

Footage from a hands-on event in March 2017

In The Persistence You’re meant to explore a massive spaceship, picking your way through it as you gather loot and fight terrifying enemies, slowly making your way to the ship’s core. Each time you die the ship’s layout gets altered, but you can download samples of your past life’s DNA to maintain some progress.

At this year’s PlayStation Experience (PSX) I got the chance to go hands-on with a brand new build of the game and came away even more excited than before. The game’s mechanics perform well and it feels similar to most other head-tracked first-person action games such as Resident Evil 7 and Skyrim VR using the DualShock 4 with a mixture of teleportation and full, smooth locomotion.

Weapon variety was great with a nice mixture of pistols, larger rifles, grenades, and melee weapons. My favorite weapon I got to try out in the new demo was a gravity-based weapon that suspended enemies in the air and let me control them with my head movements. After picking them up, I could whip my neck up, down, and side-to-side to slam enemies into the walls, floor, and ceiling. Seeing the blood spatter across surfaces was very satisfying in a sort of dark, twisted way.

The Persistence also features second-screen functionality enabling another player sitting next to you to pull up an app on a tablet or mobile device that interacts with the game world in real-time. They can do things like highlight areas of the environment, alert enemies, uncover loot, and even hinder you from time-to-time to secure their own upgrades and progression. None of it is essential to the experience, but it does offer a unique twist that’s never been seen before in a game like this either inside of or outside of VR.

Another point about The Persistence worth mentioning is that it’s on the borderline of basically being considered a survival horror game. I found myself having to crouch and sneak through rooms very cautiously and felt a sharp sense of tension every time an enemy discovered me and rushed forward to attack. There is a real sense of fear and danger here, which is nice, and should add to the unique atmosphere aboard the spaceship.

For The Persistence the biggest question mark is going to be how varied does each playthrough feel? The  developers are claiming a single, full playthrough without dying will take approximately four hours to finish, but will players have a real incentive to try and complete it once, twice, or even three more times?

Games like From Other Suns are facing similar questions, but at least in that scenario there is cooperative multiplayer to offset some of the issues. We have no idea if The Persistence is going to pack enough content to really carry itself, but we will find out soon enough.

The Persistence from Firesprite is coming to PSVR in 2018. If you’re hungry to try it out for yourself, you can check out an older demo build of the game on the most recent PSVR demo disc batch. Let us know what you think down in the comments below!

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  • iUserProfile

    So are there differences in the actual build compared to the demo build. I wasn’t a big fan of how they handled interactions and menus and of how the weapon “handling” felt.

    • It felt fine to me, but I don’t know of any major gameplay/technical differences from what I played. I’d imagine it will only continue to get more polished over time though!

      • Did review from the demo build that we got on the PSVR Demo Disc 2?
        I’ve played that one, and I totally agree with your assessment of it. It’s a good game with a lot of potential that makes you generally paranoid as hell as you play it due to the tense atmosphere of not knowing whether that next cabinet is going to be booby-trapped with a grenade, or if that nutcase you’re sneaking up on is going to turn around and knock the crap out of you right at the last wrong second.

        If they bring it with a good amount of content… or, alternatively, bring a DLC later on that expands on the gameplay areas significantly, they could have a fairly sizable hit on their hands here.

        I can only speak for myself on this, but I love SciFi-Horror that get’s it right. Alien:Isolation is one of the games that does. The movie ‘Event Horizon’ is another that get’s it right. It’s the factor of the scientifically unknown that makes this genre scary even to those of us that despise slasher horror as being too low brow and trivial. Though, don’t get me wrong… I love RE7… game scared the hell out of me and still does when I replay it… I think that game gave me a bit of PTSD… but I love it!

  • direx1974

    I liked the demo, despite of the interaction issues. But I was expecting something with a story. I am not the Roguelike type of gamer …

  • Gary Moran

    Aim support 😀

    Really, any game where you have to point a gun in PSVR is improved by the Aim. Even DOOM VFR: I hated Aim implementation for a couple of days, now I wouldn’t play any other way; and its implementation is bad, but its still better.

    • drd7of14

      I disagree about Doom, but otherwise…Yes, the AIM is definitely a superior addition to PSVR Shooter titles. Just make sure support implemented well and not weird (like Doom VFR).

      • Gary Moran

        Weird is right, I was playing with the Dualshock 4 for a few days, then played with Aim because I’d been on Farpoint, and suddenly it clicked and was just awesome.

        But I hope they patch so that it’s even more awesome.

        • drd7of14

          Maybe I’ll give it a 2nd chance. See if I can get used to it or not. Worth a shot.

          • That was more my take. I preferred DS4 over Aim with Doom VFR, but I think it’s just me, because I wanted it to feel more like Doom 2016. Still though, the Aim was cool too. I might check that out again this weekend… I think it’s been patched since I last played a few weeks ago, but can’t remember now… it’s been hell week, getting ready for holiday leave and end of year.

  • Blair Renaud

    Fantastic, but can we do it without the extreme horror / deadspace vibe? 😛 I got scared just watching the trailer.