Space is always a very good setting for horror games. As many of Gene Roddenberry’s Starfleet Captains have said – Space is the final frontier. It’s the one place that we know next to nothing about. Are we alone? What if we are? What if we’re not? These and many more scientific questions are yet to be answered. This is why sci-fi horrors really appeal to me – they could all be real…
The Persistence is a first-person Roguelike, set aboard a sprawling Starship. It has been developed by FireSprite and has already been released for PlayStation 4 as a PSVR title. For this review I am reviewing the Xbox One version of the title and will be playing on an Xbox One X console. Before I begin – remember “In Space no-one can hear you scream!”
The story for The Persistence is a pretty straight forward affair. A pesky Black Hole has reeked havoc on board and everything’s gone haywire. We start our lives in the boots of the ships security officer – Zimri Edar, who has recently been brought back from the dead. Our saviour is the incidents sole survivor – engineer Serena Karim.
Serena needs our help to repair the ships stardrive to escape the Black Holes influence. However, before we can do that we have to complete an objective on each of the ships four decks. This is complicated further due to the deck modules suffering their own malfunction. Every time Zimri uses a teleporter, this causes the decks to shift positions, as things in Roguelike often do.
This causes the whole layout of the ship to constantly change. To add icing to our cake, the cloning machine has gone haywire and in creating our new body it has started to churn out horrifically mutated botched clones that now roam the desolate corridors.
The Persistence is a massive starship that is made up of four decks. Each deck comprises of a number of rooms as well as housing the main objective for that deck. The decks themselves are a maze of corridors and service ducts that connect the rooms to each other. By traversing these decks you can catch glimpses of what life was like for the crew, before the disaster struck.
Occasionally you can stumble across a story room which opens up a brief snippet of backstory as well as a new body to control. Each deck has its own objective, such as reactivating the ships A.I. or powering up the reactor. You are under no time limit to reach this objective, this means you are free to explore as you wish.
The dark gloomy and often danger filled corridors and rooms are littered with all kinds of loot for your chosen host to scavenge. One main currency is stem cells. Stem cells are used in-game for upgrading our host body in a manner of different ways. This can be achieved by using a device which harvests stem cells straight from the various horrors that roam The Persistence.
Once harvested these can then be used to increase our core attributes, which then increase our chances of survival. FAB chips can be used to purchase supplies and upgrades from the many fabricators. Each upgrade adds added power and ammo to weapons and grenades, and is signified by the tradition loot rarity colours of other RPG games.
There are even schematics of different rarities to be found, which can then be used to craft upgrades for your suit’s abilities. The best of these can be found in special challenge rooms dotted around the map that must be beaten in order to unlock a loot crate. Some of these crates also hold Porter keys that allow you to skip decks that you’ve already played through, a must-have for repeat playthroughs.
The Persistence sells its self as a stealth horror game, but this is only true for the first couple of hours. Before your character is sufficiently upgraded each encounter is a cautious affair, but once invested in a few upgrades and character abilities the horror aspects diminishes.
Combat is pretty straight forward. You have basic attacks which depend on what weapon is equipped, and you also have a supply of Dark Matter. Dark Matter is used to fuel your special powers of a “super-sense see everything” ability and a short range teleporter.
Dark Matter can be upgraded by using stem cells. Our primary weapon is aptly named the “Harvester” and is our way of harvesting stem cells. By sneaking up behind an enemy you can attack them with the Harvester. The Harvester then attaches to the back of their necks and sucks out their stem cells with a grim, drill-like churn.
There is a great selection of weapons available and each feels exciting to use. One of my favourites to use was the Ivy Serum, which injects a mind-altering drug into your target that instantly converts even the most fearsome of foes into a loyal ally who’ll protect you with their lives.
Once you’ve gotten used to the games mechanics and learned how to use your Super Sense to spot hidden threats, you’ll soon feel brave enough to come out of the shadows. There’s nothing to stop you going the stealth route but a huge part of the fun lies in discovering and experimenting with the arsenal of weapons available.
GRAPHICS AND AUDIO
The Persistence isn’t the prettiest game to look at – some of its textures are basic and the enemies can start to feel rather samey. In contrast to this the audio is superb and helps make the game world feel real and authentic. Occasionally loose panels will spark and the howls and wails of distant enemies do a great job of stopping you dead in your tracks.
Despite the games strong start, once you reach Deck 4 the tone seems to shift. The rooms are emptier and there is a pattern of forced encounters. This all leads to a climax that is both uneventful and short. To me it felt like FireSprite had ran out of steam and trusted players to be scared off long before this point.
The Persistence is a great purchase for horror fans. You can see that a great deal of care and attention has gone into crafting the world. The deep Roguelike elements mean that each playthrough is different and each mistake can prove to be costly. It took me roughly 11 hours to finish my first playthrough and I left many of dead clone in my wake.
You will die and you will die a lot, but the procedurally generated levels means that the frustration of multiple deaths doesn’t really seep in. Whilst you can skip straight to the objective, The Persistence is a game of persistence, and with a little bit of it you can go a long way.
A review copy was supplied for this game from the publisher and was reviewed for Xbox One using an Xbox One X console. The Persistence is also available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and PSVR.
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