The First Descendant Impression
The combat certainly hits all the right notes; it’s very satisfying to take out enemies efficiently and use abilities to get out of a tough jam.
The First Descendant is a new online title from Korean developer and publisher Nexon. A free-to-play sci-fi co-op shooter RPG, the game is planned to release later this year on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S. Ahead of the game’s cross-platform open beta — which runs September 19-25, 2023 — RPGamer was able to check out a closed preview of the game.
The build provided access to the game’s first few areas and the variety of missions contained within. The game is set in a future world where humanity has been devastated by an invasion a century prior from aliens called the Vulgus. Humanity has fought back with Descendants, those who are able to use powers of the reawakened precursors. However, the Vulgus’ new leader Karel is a mounting a new threat. Players first select one of three Descendants as their starter character, with additional Descendants unlocked through the game’s crafting and research systems. Players are then taken through a prologue tutorial mission to retrieve a powerful artifact-slash-weapon called the Ironheart. Unfortunately, the Ironheart ends up in Karel’s hands, but not before players awaken a being within it who becomes an internal guide going forward.
The First Descendant takes place across the continent of Ingris, with the base of Albion acting as its primary hub. With players able to pick and choose which Descendant they are controlling at any time, their character is largely a silent protagonist during story events. Initially, they are instructed to go to various areas and deal with on-going situations assigned by that area’s commander. The areas are semi open-world fields divided into sub-regions, with each of these having a selection of missions. Attention to the story varies considerably; many of the missions are generic skirmishes against a hostile force with no larger relevance, while others hint towards the larger story. The guide appears to be important character, seemingly created by humanity’s precursors. They are the only one to offer any contradiction to the assumption that finding the three Ironhearts will lead to victory for either side.
Most missions involve players fighting waves of enemies as they try to accomplish different objectives. There are varied objectives including defending a straight assault, defending a given area, retrieving and planting bombs, or collecting data, but all of these early missions involve dealing with enemies that spawn in different parts of the map. Missions are quite quick, usually taking around five-to-fifteen minutes to complete. Each mission area culminates into more distinct story missions, including some boss fights against particularly tough foes. Players will be able to encounter other players in hub areas and mission areas. Joining up to three others is a simple matter of inserting oneself into whatever active mission is nearby. There are also certain special missions where up to four players are automatically linked up to take on a powerful dimensional being called a Colossus. Each mission gives players a number of attempts, respawning them until those attempts run out.
While the early missions can feel reliant on simply spawning new waves as the main threat, the shooting mechanics are very strong. The First Descendant encourages players to keep moving as enemies can easily swarm a single spot. A rechargable shield and health is indicated in the centre of the screen along with current ammo. There is a good amount of weapons to choose from — from handguns to assault rifles to shotguns to launchers — with players able to equip three at any one time. Different ammo-types are shared across relevant weapons and indicated on the UI and menus. Enemies regularly drop ammo when defeating, but the ammo type dropped is dependent on the enemy, behooving players to ensure their loadout covers a mix of ammo types so they don’t run short. The damage and general feeling is on the mark; one can easily drop regular enemies with a single headshot from many weapons and there’s a subtle, but appreciable and adjustable, aiming assist.
Each Descendant comes with their own specialty, and in particular elemental skills. For example, Viessa uses her ice powers to freeze enemies, while Bunny shocks foes using static electricity generated from movement. Each Descendant has four such skills to activate, which utilise the skill gauges at the bottom of the screen and have a cooldown period between uses. It can be easy to forget these skills when absorbed in the shooting, but when one remembers them they quickly prove their worth. Players also have a good number of ways to get around including a double-jump, a dodge roll, and a fast grappling hook. The combat certainly hits all the right notes; it’s very satisfying to take out enemies efficiently and use abilities to get out of a tough jam. It remains to be seen if the missions and enemies will remain fresh after playing for many hours.
There are two primary levelling mechanics: individual character levels and an overall player mastery rank. Descendants improve their base stats by leveling up from experience gained as they defeat enemies. Meanwhile, the mastery rank unlocks more loadout options and boosts, as well as other potential upgrade mechanisms. The First Descendant lives up to the looter shooter subgenre by giving players a large amount of weapons, attachments, and accessory drops of varying rarities and levels. There does not appear to be any level restriction, and characters become more proficient with each weapon (including different level or rarity variants) the more they use it. There are many ways for players to impact their characters with equipment, and while the UI looks complex at first, the tutorials do a good job of introducing each element and establishing where the game can handle certain elements if players want to get to the action.
Unlocking more Descendants to play as requires finding or researching special items associated with each Descendant. There is usually a required wait time to complete research, but players can spend one of the in-games currencies to finish it instantly. Players can also research and craft ultimate weapons that provide unique effects. Ultimate weapons are created at level one, but the ultimate weapon crafted through the tutorial brings with it an equipment level-up mechanic so that these can be powerful options for players no matter what level they’re at.
initial media aimed to impress with detailed visuals, and the beta build delivers on what was advertised. Character models and locations are impressively detailed, and there are plenty of pleasing visual effects during combat. The First Descendant features some good customisation options for characters including costumes available to purchase for each Descendant using in-game currency and colorful dyes to be used on those costumes as well as weapons. The UI and PS5 control scheme also work well once players come to grips with them.
From my time with the game, The First Descendant appears to have all of its basics down pat. Combat is pleasing and mission engagements are nice and brief, even if they to do appear to rely heavily on enemy waves. There’s potential for the story to do some interesting things, but it remains to be seen if it will have staying power. RPGamers will be able to get a taste of the action when its open beta begins next week.
Disclosure: This article is based on a build of the game provided by the publisher.