The Persistence Preview – Dying in Outer Space Never Felt So Good
Space exploration is, by all accounts, an extremely dangerous venture due to its many mysteries, ranging from black holes to hostile alien species. Such a setting offers everything to create a compelling horror game experience, but space horror hasn't seen much love in recent years, despite the horror genre as a whole actually thriving these days thanks to both indie and AAA productions.
One of the very few horror games that masterfully took advantage of the space setting is The Persistence. Released back in 2018 as a PlayStation VR exclusive, the space roguelike developed by Firesprite is finally hitting non-VR platforms (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch) very soon, bringing its excellent atmosphere and gameplay experience to a wider audience. Furthermore, owners of the PSVR game will get the chance to play The Persistence in the new non-VR mode on their PlayStation 4 as well, free of charge.
There are a lot of things The Persistence does well, starting from the story and setting. The titular space ship has been crippled by the effects of a black hole, and only the engineer Serena Karim managed to survive. She cannot restart the ship's stardrive by herself, however, so she brings back to life the ship's security officer Zimri Eder using a clone printer. Unfortunately, the black hole has caused malfunctions all over the ship, and other clone printers have started creating incomplete, crazed humans who will assault Zimri at any occasion. They aren't the only danger players will face, as the ship's security system unleashed some deadly drones due to yet another malfunction.
The Persistence takes advantage of the horror space setting rather well. Exploring the ship is a chilling experience, thanks to the great use of lighting and directional audio, and the malfunctions caused by the black hole aren't just a narrative device, as they impact gameplay beyond the creation of the enemies. The deck modules, for example, are malfunctioning as well, so the four main decks' layout will change every time the teleporter is used, providing a solid justification to the procedurally generated maps. And they will change quite a few times, as The Persistence is a challenging experience, and players will die a lot.
Despite being a challenging experience, The Persistence never feels overly frustrating, as players have a lot of different tools at their disposal to overcome all of the challenges the game offers. The basic equipment includes an energy shield that can block all attacks, a teleporting device that allows for quick movement, Super Sense, which highlights enemies in the vicinity, and the Harvester, a gun that can be used to harvest stem cells for enemies that can be used to improve the clone's health and other stats. The basic tools allow the game to be played as a stealth game, as the Harvester can only be used on unaware enemies, but they also allow players to take on most enemies directly, as the shield will absorb all damage if it is used with the correct timing.
The stealth approach is definitely viable, but there are so many other ways to play the game properly. Scattered all over the ship are Fabricators, which can be used to unlock and craft a variety of different weapons, such as grenades, drones, guns, melee weapons, and more. Variety is extremely high, and the game promotes the creative use of these tools, making for an extremely rewarding experience.
For a roguelike, The Persistence is extremely accessible. The map for each of the four decks is available right from the start so that players can either decide to explore in search of resources or head straight to the goal. Being procedurally generated, there are times when players will get a particularly difficult layout, but the number of tools provided makes every situation manageable. Those who aren't accustomed to the typical challenge level of roguelikes can also play the game in Assist Mode, which tweaks difficulty by making enemies weaker and so on. Achievements cannot be unlocked by playing in this mode, but it is a very welcome addition that can ease players into the game's mechanics without the whole experience being too frustrating.
The Persistence is a game that does a lot of things well. It has a great atmosphere, an intriguing setting, and a gameplay experience that promotes freedom and rewards creativity. The roguelike elements and the procedurally generated layouts may put off those who prefer a hand-crafted experience, but the game does its very best to be as accessible as possible.
If you're in for a solid experience, regardless of genre, keep an eye out on The Persistence when it launches on May 21st, complete with VR headset support on PC for maximum immersion.