The world of VR gaming beyond Half-Life: Alyx isn’t really on my radar for a myriad of reasons, but what that lack of awareness means is that when a title like The Persistence comes along on the Switch, I can play it like a standard first-person horror without initially knowing that it was originally designed for both VR and standard play.
It’s rare that I pick up a game without any knowledge of what it’s all about beforehand, but The Persistence is one such game. Beyond reading that it was a sci-fi horror, I was oblivious to the thrills, and scares, this game brings, and for going in without any expectations, I was left really impressed.
My initial moments of the game weren’t the smartest, playing handheld with my headphones out while talking to my girlfriend I missed some of the introductory blurb from Serena, the AI that is managing the spaceship that bears the name of the game. Scrolling through the log of discussions between your character, security officer Zimri Eder, and Serena I came to understand that some tragedy had befallen The Persistance during it’s colonisation trip across the galaxy. Falling into the pull of a black hole, your goal is to first and foremost survive, and secondly bring the ship back to a fit state to escape the crushing forces it’s withstanding.
Armed solely with a device to harvest stem cells, I ventured to the first deck of the ship and immediately encountered strange noises, telltale signs of death and destruction…and mutants out for blood, but those same mutants providing a key resource of stem cells. My first couple of hours, while learning the ropes and understanding how the game played, were nerve wracking. It’s by no means as terror inducing as Shalebridge Cradle from Thief, but the effects were enough to put the spooks up me and put me off any nightime gaming in bed.
Once I understood how to plot my route through the decks use my scanner to spot enemies and a good headset to hear the mutants, the game changed from being an outright sci-fi horror to being a more manageable survival horror. With enemies who can do some mega damage if you aren’t paying attention, there is a risk/reward calcuation to carry out in your head before entering a new room. Yes, there might be a fabrication machine which will allow you to buy a fancy gizmo, but does it make more sense to head directly to the goal? All too often I would blunder into a room without using my scanner or listening intently, and would end up as dead as the rest of the crew.
There’s no lengthy backstory to unravel via collectable logs or suchlike, rather you develop and understanding of the events at play thanks to the conversations between Serena and yourself. Conversations aren’t regular, but they’re welcome at moments of peace such as finding a medical bay or upon returning in the body of a shipmate. Yes, if you come across a dead shipmate (who isn’t a horrible mutant), you can harvest their DNA, and for a small cost of stem cells be replicated in their body with their corresponding attributes. If hopping between clone bodies isn’t enough, you can also spend your resources on persistant boosts to your health or sneak ability, or purchase suit unlocks that you come across on your travails through the ever changing ship.
The Persistence was built with a self-configuring macrostructure (for reasons) which means that each deck is reconfigured whenever you return from your inevitable grisly death. Yes, that also means that enemies respawn on each new playthrough, though if you’re lucky enough you can acquire unlocks which allow you to skip through decks. In some ways I wish I’d read the useful hints before starting with the game, but there is something to be said for learning yourself that switching suits and clones to meet your more strategic requirements is a sensible idea.
Learning and adapting are keys to success with The Persistence, but unlike something like Dark Souls, you aren’t relying on precision timing to dodge attacks, it’s about being persistent in your approach to improving your clones and abilities. In a way I’m sad that I never experienced this on PSVR like originally intended, but I’m also so glad that it’s been making its way to more platforms throughout the year, in both VR (on PC) and normal modes. I might have been too scared to venture past the first deck in VR, but as it comes on the Switch, it’s a hell of a ride.
The Verdict – Headshot
Platforms Available – PSVR, PC and PC VR, Nintendo Switch and soon to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Platform Reviewed – Switch
Review code supplied by publisher. For more on our scoring policy, please read this post.