Expectations were built so much for developer Firesprite’s PS VR title The Persistence that I was ready to be disappointed, as oftentimes the hype does not lead to the high expectations. It could be the story didn’t turn out the way you wanted, or the controls never really came together in a substantial way. Regardless, for whatever reason, the game that you hope to play just wasn’t the one that was delivered.
That being said, I’ve been excited for The Persistence ever since it was first revealed, calling it my most anticipated PS VR game and that could have been setting myself up for a major letdown. Thankfully, not only did The Persistence deliver on all of my expectations, but the longer I played the more I realized they actually exceeded every single one.
The Persistence initially looks like a first-person shooter set in space, much akin to the settings of Dead Space, but on further investigation it’s clear that this is far more similar to a vast array of rogue-lites, with the fun factor of Rogue Legacy being the closest to compare. There are a ton of experimental items, weapons, grenades, and of course guns to find and unlock to help you on your mission, all of which simply disappear every single time you die. This means you’ll have to restart the level from scratch with any weapons or items you found from the previous run.
The main exception to that rule are your permanent stat upgrades that are purchased with stem cells that are scattered around the ship or harvested from enemies. Occasionally, you’ll find rare schematics that once you construct them act like perks. With that being said, even the best weapons and strongest perks aren’t going to save you every time. Over the course of my first play through, I died more times than I could count, but each one felt productive that despite my momentary setback I was always moving forward. This makes The Persistence incredibly frustrating, but also one of the most addictive games I’ve ever played.
There are only four decks on the derelict ship to explore, but gameplay length is not a complaint. In fact, my only complaint about The Persistence is the environments are fairly generic and dull. They are also much darker than they should be while playing in VR. It would have been nice to have some drastic level variety, but it simply never came. Each deck looks and feels only mildly different than the one before. Fortunately, everything else The Persistence does makes up for the in successful ways.
Using the Dualshock 4 controller is a necessity and thankfully handles the complex controls admirably. The 3D sound design is absolutely incredible and you’ll usually hear mutants, even in other rooms long before you see them. The music and ambient noises swell at just the right times to build suspense or to help scare you to death. Not since playing Resident Evil 7 in VR did feel as frightened, jumping at every single scare.
The first few hours especially were beyond intense, sometimes making even just walking from room to room stressful. As you get better and build up your character though, you’ll acclimate to this space ridden horror setting. This will allow you to gain the much-needed confidence to engage enemies in some creative combat. Just be warned, The Persistence is extremely scary and just as difficult. Also, one neat added feature is if you let someone watch you play, there’s a free downloadable app for your tablet or smartphone that let’s a second, non-VR player invade your game. They can help you if they so choose, but can also make your life miserable and not knowing really makes for some interesting gameplay sessions.
It took me about fifteen hours to see the end of The Persistence, and being that it wasn’t a good ending I’m inclined to go back and try to earn some honorable resolution. This gives plenty of incentive to go back, keep leveling up, and giving it another go. I could go on about how The Persistence keeps giving back to the player, and there’s even a separate Survival mode that I still haven’t unlocked, but figuring this game out, failing at it, and eventually learning from your mistakes is all part of the fun.
Overall, I went in expecting The Persistence to be an adequate PS VR shooter title, but was blow away by just how great it actually was. I was completely enveloped into the world with simple but clean visuals, deep gameplay systems, and an addictive nature that many rogue-likes strive for, but ultimately fail at providing. It may not be groundbreaking, but The Persistence is one of the best VR titles available.