Originally published at: Impressions | The First Descendant - XboxEra
Over the last week I got to try my hands on Nexon’s first third-person looter shooter. ‘The First Descendant’ takes players through a world ravaged by the ‘Vulgus’ and humanities hopes and dreams are pinned on a resistance group that fights alongside powerful (and playable) soldiers called ‘Descendants’. With lots of playable units to choose from as well as offering a gorgeous presentation, The First Descendant has a chance of being a solid choice for your looting and grinding desire(s).
And so, we’ll be The First Descendant.
That First Mission
On starting The First Descendant, players will be greeted by three of the game’s decently sized roster of playable characters. Unlike many looter-heavy titles on the market, this game has you take on the role of a character with a fixed class and skills. Customisation largely comes from not just cosmetics, however (and there’s plenty of that), but weapons and modules to those and your character. I’ll touch on the cosmetics for now, so let’s get to the start of the story and the meat of the game: the loot.
The First Descendant starts off after you pick either Ajax, Lepic, or Viessa. You are chosen by the resistance group’s commander ‘Alpha’ to go on a mission with the happy-go-lucky ‘Bunny’ to collect an Ironheart. This heart is “key” to winning the war against the Vulgus and must be collected before their leader, Gregory (I think), gets to it and absorbs its power. You encounter the Ironheart and begin to see an AI telling you to not collect the heart, but to destroy it. But you don’t get to do that anyway—the Vulgus show up, they seize Bunny and take the heart, and Greg (in his wicked looking armour suit) bodies you into a wall.
From there on you are sent to Albion, where the story continues. Albeit mostly in basic cutscenes and some full ones when you hit milestones in the game’s story. I found the story a means to an end, but on the bright side it’s at least told well. Albion, on the other hand, is your main hub and a place where you’ll meet other people, visit shoppes and upgrade stations, and head to mission areas to complete your tasks. The mission areas are a part of the continent, and you can always teleport to them from just about anywhere which is appreciated.
Now The First Descendant is a solid third-person shooter. Every Descendant has their own skillset and I largely stuck to Ajax because he looked wicked. Matter of fact, I really like the character and armour designs in this game. It’s a mix of futuristic cybernetics, sci-fi, and modern military—with horns to boot. But I digress. Skills vary, and in the case of Ajax he is primarily a defense style character, with crowd control and shield skills akin to the deployable cover shield in Halo Infinite. The other characters have cool skills as well and I got to try them out in their prime, blasting away ice powers or fire magix.
The shooting feels good. I mistook it for a Warframe-like at first and tried to play it as such, but it really isn’t like that. It’s slower paced and kind of reminded me of Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer mode. Skills aside, there is a decent selection of weapon types and ammunition that you need to keep track of, but as you progress through the game you’ll be upgrading and junking a lot of weapons based on their DPS and viability. There’s also the grappling hook, which is super nice, although I wish it had a much longer range. It can be used twice and can be chained to get you to places and parts of large bosses as well.
One downside, and a frustrating one for me, is that the game’s melee is awful. The First Descendant is so focused on its shooting that it forgot to give my super duper knight-in-shining-armour a decent punch. Even worse, the default binding for melee is tapping both bumpers in succession. It has a cooldown too, so on top of having an already weak punch visually and mechanically, tapping both bumpers during its cooldown gives your baddies the weakest feather tickle I’ve ever seen in triple-A gaming.
I get that this game is largely focused on shooting and blowing things up, but a strong melee (even just as a visual effect) is important to a shooter. I hope that gets improved when the game launches.
The World, Baddies, and You
Of course, loot doesn’t just rain from the sky. In The First Descendant, combat areas are all sectioned off and are otherwise just empty set pieces until you start a mission. For example, think of Destiny’s combat zones and how you can wander into an instanced mission or simply roam the zones and fight wandering groups of enemies and world bosses. Sadly, Nexon’s shooter lacks that energy in its levels, where enemies only spawn once you’ve engaged a mission. To add, the mission zones often feature a lot more invisible walls than I expected. If you’re trying to zip around with the grappling hook, you might just end up a little disappointed.
Now the quests themselves are straightforward. You either defend a point, raid an area, or fend off waves and deliver payloads to a select point. There are also raid bosses you can join from Albion as well, where you take on huge baddies with other players. The boss I fought was the one you fight in the prologue mission, a spider with plenty of parts to shoot off and latch onto called ‘GraveWalker’. It’s a cool fight but unfortunately, the one time I did join a world raid, I ran into no one to help me and taking on the huge boss was a bit of a hassle. Thankfully the game does adjust difficulty for that, but I hope to run into more players the next time I play The First Descendant. And I got a lot of purple weapon colours all to myself, the ‘rare’ stuff.
Speaking of bosses, let’s talk about your opponents. The Vulgus come in many forms, but they’re usually just big brutes, brutes with shields, geth-looking grunts, and bum-rushing stick guys. You’ll run into other special enemies too like snipers or explosive bombers which will require you to keep not just an eye out, but an ear as well. Before I forget to mention this, The First Descendant is not just a beautiful game, but it uses sound very well. Be it warning the player of incoming danger or a change in situation, or even the weapons and skills you use. The sounds are concise, prompt, and explosive with the right surround system.
But I’ve yet to cover the game’s loot. More specifically, weapons and modules. Weapons are dropped at random, but depending on enemy rarity you might get ahold of something with a high damage per second (“DPS”). Submachine guns, assault rifles, snipers, launchers, you name it. These weapons can’t just be used willy nilly though—you’ll need the right ammo type which can be found through the game’s overworld and dropped by baddies. You might have a strong shotgun for example, but ammo for it will likely be scarce and you’ll need to save it for the right Vulgus.
And then there are modules. Modules are dropped by baddies, too, and can be outfitted not just to your weapons but your suit as well. For the runtime of the beta, I didn’t fiddle with these much but thankfully there was an auto-equip function, and I took advantage of that. You might also end up with lots of modules and weapons that are junk and hog your inventory space. The game’s management interface, for the most part, is intuitive and you can easily junk anything you don’t need for parts. But I can imagine inventory space is going to be one of many places Nexon will expect you to pay for. Par for the course for any looting game or MMO, really.
Lastly, cosmetics comes up. The Descendants might be gender and class-locked, but they can be dressed up in a lot of cool skins and colours. The developers gave us enough currency to unlock several kits for us to dress up in style with and all I can say is the Ajax’s suit looks sublime in a full white blowout.
A Strong Start
The First Descendant is a lot of fun. I spent quite a bit of time roaming around and killing just about everything that moves. Repeating missions doesn’t take long and each one gives an estimate time of completion so you don’t jump into something you might not have time for. Though the melee is weak, grappling into baddies and punching them at least looks cool and the guns more than make up for that. I didn’t run into many players, but crossplay was enabled which is always a plus. The world maps do need wandering grunts though—it’s really important that these zones are populated with something to do that doesn’t necessarily require commitment. And while I didn’t get to ask Nexon about whether cross-platform progression would be available, seeing as KartRider: Drift has it, I’m not worried about it not being implemented in the final release.
I’ll personally be looking out for the next testing run and The First Descendant’s full release.