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

by David Jagneaux • July 20th, 2018

Editor’s Note: This preview is from December 2017, but it has been republished today as a lead-in for the game’s launch on Tuesday, July 24th. Our full review will be live the night before on Monday, July 23rd at 9PM PT.

Original: 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? TheĀ  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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