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Ever wanted to roam the underworld in search of gold and glory, all the while combating monstrous enemies and soaking yourself in gore? No, I can’t say I have either, at least not in the real world! But PERISH, from developer ITEM42, looks to satisfy that incredibly niche itch with its fast-paced first-person action and roguelike gameplay loop. As a bonus, PERISH can also be played with up to three other players cooperatively! Is this a successful blend of genres and aesthetics, or is it more a disappointing concoction of ideas thrown together haphazardly? Let’s find out!

To start with, the narrative to go along with your journey through purgatory is not a strong one. Playing as Amyetri (often referred to as simply the Pariah) your goal is to escape this dangerous plane of existence in order to reach Elysium. It’s not quite a leisurely stroll in the park, though, as Amyetri will face off against all manner of grotesque monstrosities out for blood. This sets up the premise of needing to slowly build up your skills and arsenal of weapons to combat this increasingly dangerous threat if you have any hopes of seeing Elysium.

You’ll meet the occasional NPC during your many visits to the small hub area (the Pantheon) and though you are able to converse with them, they mainly speak cryptically and offer little in the way of furthering any potential narrative. It’s a disappointing story — if you can even call it that — for sure, but some of my favourite roguelikes are rather lacking in engaging narratives, so it’s not all bad.

The overall aesthetic of PERISH feels like Ancient Egyptian architecture and designs blended with high fantasy, with a dash of Warhammer 40K for good measure. That is to say, it’s certainly unique, and quite nice to look at, too! If, of course, demonic structures and dilapidated ruins are your idea of “nice”. It’s not all dark and dingy, though, as some locations are awash with colour, gold-coated sarcophagi, and other such lavish designs. Character models are really well crafted, too! Enemies range from your standard reanimated corpses to a giant, cannon-wielding Roman Legionnaire, and even something that kind of looked like an even more messed-up Black Manta? With a wide and unique range of baddies to shoot, it felt like the designers were really able to go wild with their concepts, and it paid off!

The soundtrack does a great job of hyping you up for any battles, with its fast, rock style mixed with the kind of music you hear whenever adventurers across other forms of media venture into the pyramids. If that made no sense whatsoever, then it’s a clash of styles, with more modern guitars and drums spliced with flutes and harps. Combined with the visuals, it makes for an interesting and unique videogame that I can’t quite compare with anything else I’ve played before.

Unfortunately, the performance needs quite a bit of work. For starters, the game has noticeable slowdown during more hectic fights. A few bugs like enemies getting stuck in the floor (whilst amusing) certainly lessen the feel of this battle against demonic beings. How am I supposed to be intimidated by a sword-wielding mutant when it’s waist-deep in the floor and spinning on the spot?

Starting out with nothing more than a broken sword and a few throwing knives, the main aim of PERISH is to attempt to complete runs, bank some money, upgrade your skills and armaments, and try again. Levels start out small, with basic enemies that — whilst still providing a challenge in the early game — don’t offer much resistance. Levels do get progressively larger, and the opposition more fierce as you play, and in order to survive you’ll need to complete a randomised objective and escape to a safe area. Do this, and anything you’ve earned is yours. Fail, and it’s back to the start without the precious resources you’d scavenged on the previous run. There isn’t a lot of variety to the objectives that range from killing a certain enemy to locating a certain item, but it does keep the tried and true “find the exit point” of many roguelikes varied to a degree. Any purchased weapons, abilities, and equipment carry over, so despite a sudden lack of money, at least you’ll still be able to rely on your gear.

Ranged weapons are fun to use, all feeling punchy and satisfying to use, with the added incentive of challenges tied to certain weapons, meaning you’ll be rewarded for experimenting with your loadout. Alternate fire options give added depth to these weapons, really making you feel like a badass when you fire off a full round from your revolver in quick succession. Melee, whilst not quite as enjoyable, still gets the job done when needing a quick escape from a surrounding horde of ghouls. Then there are the throwable items (such as knives or incendiary grenades) which, though limited, are great in a pinch.

You’ll need to be constantly on the move unless you want to end your run early, and this style of quick-reflexes, itchy trigger finger gameplay reminded me of DOOM. This is all about going full-on, with little respite in between enemy encounters. When you do have a moment to yourself, you’re normally in a safe zone that allows you to continue your run or escape with whatever riches you’ve accumulated and return to the Pantheon. It’s an enjoyable risk vs reward system — even if a simplistic one — and the lure of just pushing that little bit further to potentially earn some great loot resulted in my downfall one too many times. Don’t be greedy!

PERISH may be a simple roguelike mechanically, but the interesting and varied aesthetics go a long way in creating a game you’ll want to jump straight back into, especially if your last run ended in failure! With a few friends, it’s infinitely more enjoyable, and though it may not be an overly long title, it’s still a challenging one. A great first outing for developer ITEM42, and one that shouldn’t be overlooked!

7.50/10 7½

PERISH (Reviewed on PlayStation 5)

This game is good, with a few negatives.

A fun, if basic, roguelike, PERISH is flashy, gory, and great with friends. Some performance issues hinder the overall enjoyment, but this is still an enjoyable romp through purgatory!

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Mike Crewe

Mike Crewe

Staff Writer

Bought a PS5 and won't stop talking about it

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