February 2, 2023
Taking inspiration from old-school shooters like Doom spliced with cooperative roguelike mechanics, Perish is the new FPS/melee action hybrid on the block. Painting a vivid and biblically themed world, the game comes to us from two-person, English development team Item 42 who took notes from Greek and Roman mythology to create their own captivating world. With a smooth 4-player coop experience on offer, Perish proves to be largely impressive, though struggles somewhat with its ambitions.
Perish sees you play as a condemned soul, one that needs to go through many hostile trials in their journey through purgatory. A quick tutorial introduces the player to the basics of melee combat, gunplay, blocking, and dashing before throwing you into the gloomy chambers of the Pantheon. This a home base of sorts where players begin their runs into the various realms of purgatory and can retreat back to with any accumulated wealth to acquire new weapons and gear.
You start off with only a broken sword but each subsequent run into the perilous chambers of purgatory will help you build up your arsenal to take on the various enemies and bosses that block your path to salvation. Perish is an immediately competent experience. The game looks the business, passing itself off as a much higher-budget game than one would expect to come from a two-person team. The gameplay works well too, or at least the basic tenants of moving and shooting. It does feel at times that not all weaponry is as viable as others, with gunplay feeling as though it works better with the game’s design than melee combat does. Overall everything works as expected as you move from area to area, trying desperately to stay alive whilst completing whatever trial is in front of you.
“The upgrades feel powerful and you’re even given incentives to try new weapons as challenges help you unlock new actives and passives.”
Progression feels pretty good here. It’s not the kind of game you’re going to be able to complete on your first attempt. Instead, it will take many attempts as well as some smart retreats so as to not lose all your gold. New weapons and other upgrades can be found whilst playing and then unlocked in the Pantheon with your accrued wealth. Pretty soon that broken sword will be replaced with a much more powerful revolver or axe, you’ll have a ring to increase your health pool, and a crown that shoots deadly electrical bolts at foes semi-randomly. The upgrades feel powerful and you’re even given incentives to try new weapons as challenges help you unlock new actives and passives.
The worlds you move through are all well-designed and different. This is a roguelike so any death means restarting from the beginning. Of course, this means the opening areas of the game will see a lot more playtime than those towards the end of the experience, though Perish does a good job of creating variation by offering different tasks to complete. Most objectives involve simply killing things or holding an area—some fairly basic questing tropes—though others showcase a bit more creativity such as a venture down into a dimly lit sewer system.
Boss fights are also staggered throughout the game, though they didn’t feel balanced all that well for multiplayer. Playing Perish solo and I got a real challenge from these bosses, especially the third one you come across which features fire and lava hazards that can be a real nightmare. Though with four players all equipped with shotguns or semi-automatic rifles, the beast’s health plummeted rather disappointingly fast. Harder difficulty modes help alleviate this issue somewhat, though there’s still a feeling of boss fights finishing a bit too quickly and not giving off that grandiose or insurmountable feeling you’d want.
Perish’s Roguelike design won’t work for every player. One run will take you through many realms, boss fights, and objectives. It’s not a quick and easy jaunt to the end and the differences between one run to another largely occur in the equipment you take with you. So restarting fresh from the beginning can come with its annoyances, especially if you don’t have any cool new toys to play with. There’s a repetition here that other roguelikes managed to iron out, but Perish hasn’t completely. You do get upgrades whilst you play that come in the form of cards offering different passives, but compared to the depth of the mid-run upgrades you’d find in something like The Binding of Isaac, it does feel rather inconsequential. Rogue Legacy 2 is an example of a roguelike where much of your progress and upgrades are done outside of the run itself, but that game at least offered the ability to unlock teleportation to deeper parts of the game. A similar mechanic wouldn’t have gone unwarranted here, even if it makes the overall experience easier.
Performance issues are also a problem for Perish, with the game struggling to maintain a consistent framerate even on beefy hardware. A thorough options menu helps to tailor your experience and remove the sluggishness of over-tuning things, though even when I thought I had things stable, a new area with more effects stopped by to show off its framerate dips. It’s a shame and what seems like possibly the symptom of over-ambitiousness. The same game with a less taxing art style or fewer concerns over graphical fidelity may have worked better.
Whilst it won’t go down as a must-play release, Perish is certainly an enjoyable affair, especially if you have a squad to team up with. There’s just enough depth to the objectives where some planning and strategising will help. There’s enough lore and a cool enough universe to engage those interested in the setting. The combat and movement are competent enough to hook your average old-school shooter fan. And though it may not excel in any one given area, the game does enough to provide a fun playground as you build your way through to completion.
- A surprisingly detailed and impressive world
- More than competant moment-to-moment gameplay
- Cooperative implementation works a charm
- Some repetition to the game's design
- Additional tuning and balancing would go a long way
- Framerate dips aren't uncommon
Perish offers a great world to explore and a surprising amount of graphical prowess for an indie roguelike. The setting is intriguing and the combat varied and engaging enough. The game stumbles with framerate drops and a gameplay loop that may not have been finetuned to perfection, though if you have a crew to play with, Perish still offers a good amount of fun that’s worth your time.