When it released all the way back in July 2018, the concept of The Persistence seemed inescapably twinned to the hardware innovations leveraged Sony’s PlayStation VR headset. Now separated from the shackles of PSVR hardware nearly two years later, how does The Persistence, a survival horror roguelike that trades heavily on sensual stimulation, fare in its newly ‘flat’ form?
Much better than you might expect, is the answer dear reader. Oh, and if you’ve not read our original review of The Persistence in its VR guise (shame on you), you can catch up with it here where you’ll find fuller details about the story and other aspects of the game.
The Persistence Non-VR Impressions
Distanced From Its VR Hardware, The Persistence Is Still A Formidably Clever And Terrifying Survival Horror Effort
Starting with the white mutant in the room, The Persistence isn’t as scary without the PlayStation VR headset in use – it just isn’t. Bereft of the additional opportunities for audiovisual and spatial immersion that PSVR provides, it was never going to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up quite so fiercely on end. However, much like Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, when The Persistence is stripped of its VR functionality, you shouldn’t assume that the game cannot terrify you into curled ball – because it still very much can.
In The Persistence you spend so much of your time, especially early on, creeping around the titular ship trying to avoid the unsavory attention of the numerous mutants that are stumbling/wandering/shambling around the place. And yet, even without the PSVR rig, this is still a wholly terrifying proposition as the use of dimly lit environments and top notch sound engineering (especially at the end of the first act), all mean that jump scares are still assured.
On that note too, it must be said that having a decent set of headphones is pretty much essential to The Persistence experience, as the 3D engineered sound accentuates every footstep and enemy that leaps out of the shadows at you with thunderous aplomb. In short, The Persistence is still absolutely terrifying – you have been warned.
Elsewhere on the technical side of things and by making the leap out of PlayStation VR, it just so happens that this is the best that The Persistence has ever looked too. Indeed, PlayStation 4 Pro owners in particular are in for something of a treat, as The Persistence boasts 4K visuals that crank along at 60 frames per second with all manner of extra visual effects and higher detailed textures in play.firespr
Certainly it speaks to the expertise of developer Firesprite Games that even without the PlayStation VR headset, The Persistence is still super atmospheric to say the least. Between the dimly lit corridors, flickering lights, long shadows cast by the mutants and a general sense of unease that wonderfully evokes the 1997 sci-fi film Event Horizon, it’s fair to say that the procedurally generated corridors and rooms of The Persistence are all still stupendously immersive with or without PSVR.
Really though, beyond its deft survival horror terror beats an often forgotten fact is just how clever The Persistence is when it comes to its use of roguelike elements. In The Persistence, because the ability to openly (and confidently) engage in conflict isn’t immediately available, the progress which you make in that regard to make you capable in that regard feels super satisfying as a result when you unlock that new handgun or room clearing gravity bomb.
Where the roguelike side of things really comes to the fore is when you discover corpses of other crew members and harvest their DNA. Once killed yourself (and you will be, many times), you can elect to choose to create your next character from the DNA of those that you have harvested, providing bonuses to crafting, weapons use and other such abilities.
One area where The Persistence feels a little odd when untethered from its PSVR trappings is in how movement is handled. Despite being fully playable without VR, The Persistence still feels like a VR effort where player movement is concerned as you move around the ship in distinctly plodding fashion, while the teleportation controls which have long been a staple of PSVR games, remains present thanks to its use in the game as a handy teleportation device.
All in all then, despite my early reservations when hearing that The Persistence would be pulled from the grasp of the PSVR tech that arguably sits at the core of its design bedrock, the final result is much better than I could have hoped for.
Awash in atmospheric dread, boasting enough jump scares to send your heart rate through the roof and encompassing sizable visual upgrades in addition to maintaining its often overlooked roguelike survival horror gameplay, The Persistence’s non-VR release proves that while it might not escape the black hole like gravity of its VR design bedrock, it’s still far more than just the sum of its superficial parts.
REVIEW SCORE: 8/10
The Persistence is out now on PlayStation 4.
Impressions taken from an earlier copy of the game provided by the publisher.