Before there was Returnal, there was The Persistence. Being tethered to PlayStation VR at launch, Firesprite’s roguelite sci-fi survival horror never quite got the attention it deserved, but it was a well-executed marriage of genres. Set aboard an abandoned deep-space colony ship overrun by a mutated crew, you find yourself revived by the system’s AI as a series of “printed” bodies, with your ultimate goal being to restore the craft’s systems and prevent it from being ripped apart by a deadly black hole.
The narrative serves largely as justification for the gameplay loop, which sees you dying frequently and gradually upgrading your arsenal and abilities. Stem Cells can be violently extracted from foes and spent on persistent unlocks, making you increasingly more capable in combat and stealth as you progress. The gameplay is actually extremely well designed: should you get detected then you can use a shield to counter enemy attacks, creating an opening for you to strike.
Levels are predominantly randomly generated, although set-piece closing encounters on each deck allow the developer to author pre-designed jump scares and set-piece moments. The sense of progression is excellent throughout, and very few runs will feel like a complete waste of time; like the best roguelites in the genre, it always feels like you’re edging forward, even if you’re not necessarily progressing narratively.
Furthermore, Firesprite demonstrates excellent command of the PS5 hardware – it is allegedly working on a high-profile PSVR2 title, so no surprise there – with an eye-popping ray tracing mode that practically turns the entire space ship into a mirror. Personally, we preferred to play at 60 frames-per-second with the ray tracing disabled – the screen space reflections are still really good – but it’s a great demo of what the tech is capable of.
Our only criticism is that the gameplay hasn’t quite made the transition to pancake play perfectly; looking at objects made sense on PSVR, but is odd in a more traditional medium. You get used to it quickly, though, and from there the rewarding loop hooks you in.