If Destiny 2 and Warframe had a baby, raised it to adulthood on 70% protein and 30% bath salts, then dressed it as though every day was a cosplaying convention, the result would look something like The First Descendant. It’s a 3rd person sci-fi looter shooter from Naxon, and it’s nothing if not ambitious.
Not necessarily in terms of the market, either. Every new looter shooter is looked to as some kind of “Destiny killer”, when no amount of bullets, fire, or stakes through the heart can kill Destiny quicker than Bungie will. But then The First Descendant doesn’t need to go for anyone’s crown. There’s room enough at this table for another looter shooter, given that besides the aforementioned examples I’d struggle to count five off the top of my head that have made enough of an impact to survive.
The First Descendant just might manage it, by blatantly cherry-picking its mechanics from more or less every live service game released in the last decade. So yes, it’s derivative as all hell, but as long as the pie tastes good no one is going to mind if they borrow a few ingredients from elsewhere, right? If it’s good enough for Soulslikes, it’s good enough for Nexon.
It’s set at an indeterminate point in the future, about a 100 years after an alien force known as the Vulgus invaded Earth through a dimensional portal with an army of Colossi; huge, living weapons of mass destruction. From out of nowhere humanity was gifted the power of the “Ancestors”, which amounts to a whole lot of themed superpowers ranging from command of the elements to special grenades on a cool down. It’s context, at least, for your Descendant to be slinging magic around amidst the gunplay.
Ultimately your goal here is to free the Earth from the grip of the Vulgus, who have a new leader in the form of Karel, a mutated human possessing immense power. He’s after three McGuffins to merge the worlds, and you have to stop him.
The full game will have a wide variety of Descendants to choose from. In the open beta we were able to pick one from scratch, or play a boosted account with all Descendants unlocked and leveled to 40. I played a chunk of the former as Viessa, an ice-powered Descendant who is sent into Vulgus-occupied territory alongside Bunny, an operative in an armoured rabbit costume with a squeaky voice and the kind of quippy, blasé attitude that makes you wonder how she survived this long. I also played with a few of the leveled heroes but, while it was fun to lob fireballs around as Blair or manipulate water with Valby, I kept going back to the early game.
And that’s because The First Descendant has a very decent gameplay loop, tried and tested mechanics, and enough loot to keep you dashing, grappling, and blasting without ever having to think too hard about what you’re doing. You have a grapple hook that not only lets you reach higher platforms but also allows you to swing in and out of combat, around corners, and through hails of enemy gunfire.
If anything, the powers don’t seem all that effective early on. You can level them up, and level up your guns individually, but I kept forgetting I could throw ice around the place because wielding the powers of the elements just wasn’t as effective as shooting things in the face. The mod system is borrowed wholesale from Warframe, down to the appearance of the UI and the way you can reduce the slotting cost by installing similar mods adjacently. You can mod your Descendant and each of your guns, but frankly there’s too much here to fully understand without spending significantly more time with the game.
The First Descendant isn’t shy about heaping on extra currencies, systems, or items, and tutorialising them with brief tooltips that give you nothing but the facts. Likewise, the area maps and even the UI in the hub city is flooded with icons and points of interest. I’ve played a lot of similar games and I figured most of it out from experience, but newcomers to the genre might need a bit more explanation.
Graphically it’s pretty good looking. The environments don’t do anything super new, but the character design is interesting. It’s halfway between Warframe and Lost Ark, with a spread of skins available for both the Descendants and their guns. It’s impossible to guess yet how much this game will rely on its cash shop, but what I’ve seen had me fairly confident that it will at least launch with a healthy slice of content – especially as the base game will be free to play.
With only a week to play through some carefully curated content, it’s difficult to tell if The First Descendant will have the legs to carry it beyond its launch window, but after the beta, it certainly has my attention either way.
The First Descendant is coming to PC, Xbox and PlayStatiion 5 in Q1 2024.