I spent four hours getting bludgeoned, shot, spat on, burned with lasers, and ripped apart limb from limb by angry hordes of hooded acolytes, only to reach a colosseum where a hybrid of Eldritch horror and Greek mythology stood ready to crush a moon like an egg just so he could conjure a sword. My flimsy little shotgun felt like a water pistol. Still, I persevered and buried him in bullets to the chorus of clapping husks, leaving him dead, despite shards of the scattered celestial body ripping into the atmosphere. But the second I left for the poisonous labyrinth with a tower made of death-beam-firing skulls, I knew I wasn’t long for this world.
Perish is a tough-as-nails shooter, one that often feels unfair and bogged down by its roguelite motifs. When you die, you’re dragged right back to the start, only this time you can buy new weapons and upgrade your skills for the next run. So far so good. Problem is, that next run will look exactly the same, except each zone will cycle between a few bog-standard objectives (fix a ballista, go on an inconsequential fetch quest, light some fires, etc).
There’s not much in the way of variety, the thing that makes a roguelite so replayable, and that extends to Perish’s skills and upgrades. They’re minimal, essentially functioning as classes. The major difference in each run comes from the cards you pick after each zone, but these don’t do much, offering boons like fiery versions of your throwing knives or the removal of the end-of-zone healing fountain, swapping it for an ability that lets you get a slither of health back for 20 kills.
Each run is so similar to the last that it quickly becomes tedious since it’s more akin to losing hours of progress than getting another go with a completely different build. You can only swap your weapon at the hub or at the end of a zone, meaning that each run pigeonholes you into just one choice despite being faced with the usual FPS variety of ranged, close-up, and horde enemies. Shotguns make for bad snipers, who would’ve thought? This can be overcome by playing with friends, but if you’re running solo, the balance is completely thrown off, despite it being an option listed front and centre on the main menu.
Weapons don’t feel punchy or impactful, either. Doom has its iconic crumbling sprites that become a mass of pixelated gooey gore, Half-Life’s explosives blow enemies into scattered gibs, Blood’s flare gun sends the undead into a frenzy as they collapse into ash, but Perish’s arsenal merely bounces off its enemies while they keep coming. It makes it far less satisfying to rip and tear through each zone, but it also makes it hard to visually read if you’ve hit an enemy, with bosses essentially being walking health bars that you gradually click down to zero. So, even though there is a variety of weapons to unlock, you can only use a few on each run and they’re not satisfying to handle, especially as you progress and find yourself facing metal soldiers where bullets simply ricochet off their armour.
These core gameplay issues would be less egregious if there was a nice hub area, but it’s also fairly bare. There’s a table where you can buy upgrades, weapons, and skins. That’s about it – you’ve got a shop and a doorway. There’s an NPC, too, but her entire purpose is to dump exposition. You won’t find Hades-level interactions or anything worth picking apart. This is another aspect where Perish’s roguelite elements show their shallow side, as the shop’s upgrades do little to change each run, and you make no noticeable impact on the world around you.
Perish could’ve brought Hexen and Heretic’s medieval boomer shooter vibes kicking and screaming into the 21st century to the tune of howling metal riffs, topped off with a roguelite twist. However, it offers little to incentivise you to go back for replays. Every death feels like starting the whole game over from scratch, with so little changing that each run turns into a chore. The striking set-pieces, like the twisted Herculean monster, with a cage of heads for a, well… head, crumbling the moon just to beat you, are fantastic, but they’re too few and far between to justify Perish making you start from scratch and slogging through shallow mechanics to reach those exciting moments.
A PC code was provided for this review.
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