Previews

We dive deep into the world of The First Descendent in our first hands-on

It’s hard breaking into the looter-shooter space. There are already some heavy hitters, and some high profile failures that will dissuade most developers from even trying. The most recognizable names like Destiny 2, Warframe, The Division 2, and the Borderlands series continue to dominate the space, and any cracks in your game’s armor can reject you faster than you can say Anthem. Korean developer Nexon isn’t deterred, however, and at Summer Games Fest we got our first real hands-on experience with their upcoming free-to-play looter-shooter, The First Descendant. After just a short while with the game one thing became immediately apparent – those other games just got a brand new serious competitor.

The First Descendant│Gameplay Sneak Peek│Summer Game Fest 2024

The thing that stuck out to me most about The First Descendant (other than the absolutely magnificent Unreal Engine 5-powered graphics – WOW) is how surprisingly approachable it is. Korean MMOs and shooters haven’t always been very easy for newcomers, often overstuffing their game mechanics with innumerable complicated mechanics, affixes, and loot items. It’s often overwhelming and impenetrable for anyone who doesn’t join at the game’s launch. Talking with Lee Beom-jun, Producer of The First Descendant and the head of Magnum Studio in Nexon Games, and Minseok Joo, Director of The First Descendant, they were both eager to dispel this notion.

The team gave us access to the game with a brief video introduction about the game’s setup, and welcome from the team. No fanfare, no instructions – go forth, do damage, have fun. We entered the main hub of the game with a gorgeous rendered cutscene and with nearly zero loading, teleporting onto a pad. The team suggested we try Lepic in our first trip into Albion. Billed as “The Final Grenadier”, he’s more of a gunner with heavy explosive skills. Far from our only choice, we also could play as Ajax, Viessa, Jayber, Bunny, Freyna, Gley, Sharen, and Blair, just to name a few — many more lie beyond this first taste, as well as their “Ultimate” versions, which will touch on in a bit.

All of our Descendant choices were pre-leveled to 40 and already sporting a ton of weapons in their inventory, as well as a ton of customization options and consumables to maximize our playtime. At the first opportunity I switched to Bunny because she’s highly agile…aaaand she has ears like a bunny.

Each Descendant has four active skills and one passive skills to bring to battle, and they couldn’t be any more different than one another. This game can be played solo, but it’s already obvious that this is a team-based game where complimentary parties will be far more successful than solo soldiers.

Heading over to an Infiltration Operation Terminal, I could select from a number of strategic operations throughout the continent of Ingris, select either Normal or Hard difficulties, with rewards commensurate with the additional challenge. I picked a Quarantine Zone that I could run solo to learn the game’s controls, starting a private operation. I could see the various modifiers that would switch up how this mission plays, as well as the rewards I’d get, including special crafting materials XP, and cash.

This game is an absolute feast for the eyes thanks to Unreal Engine 5. As Bunny roared through the area, our Guide rattled on about some Ironheart particles and that the “Vulgus performed the inversion process here”, but I was here to cut down enemies. I was making short work of them, but I also wanted to see what was under the hood.

Opening the inventory I could see three preset loadout panels for the various modules in the game. There are 1,000 of them, though not all of them can be used by your current Descendant. Each module would improve things like defense, max shields and HP, various resistances, how much power our skills used or unleashed, any modifiers when we unleashed skill fusions, and more. All of these carry an MMO-like rarity, with grey, purple, blue, gold, and orange colors, along with a pip that runs up the left side to indicate power bands within the rarity. If it already sounds overwhelming, stick with me a second.

The dev team was clear that they didn’t want these modules to merely be stat modifiers, but instead a way to completely transform the way your character plays. I equipped Bunny with a Tonfa that allowed me to do serious concussive damage at close range. I then switched it up to a shortsword that moved far faster and when coupled with Fire Master, set enemies on fire. Sniper rifles that could stun enemies and then set them on fire, freezing, lightning, stamina buffs, energy collection or explosions, curses, venom, and just about any other modifier I could readily think of awaited me to modify Bunny into precisely the type of battler I could want.

The First Descendant│New Prologue│The First 17 Minutes (4K)

The team recognized that they would be compared to the likes of Destiny, and in some ways they pushed in a different direction, and in others they embraced it fully. Bunny’s main weapon, at least for my starting loadout, was a submachine gun with plenty of ammo. Her backup weapon was a long rifle with a little less ammo, but only two shot bursts instead of three and a little bit longer range. Her special weapon is a sniper rifle with a very long reload time, but ridiculous range and incredible stopping power. Also in familiar territory, ammunition sprays like confetti throughout your fight, so keep your eye out for enhanced rounds, impact rounds, enhanced rounds, etc. as you gun down hordes of foes.

Beyond your weapons, there’s also a grappling hook bound to your center mouse click. This allows you to attach to the ceiling, enemies, columns, or anything else in the environment, yanking your Descendant towards whatever that item is to close the distance. Combined with that melee shortsword, I was impaling folks in no time — something that became increasingly important when the Follower Shield Bearer enemies showed up with their nearly impenetrable light shields.

Working through the objectives, I eventually finished off the boss that awaited me at the end (albeit after a few attempts!) and returned back to the hub world. You can tackle the mission again on Hard, and the name absolutely fits. You can also tackle a horde mode that has you defending a location for a period of time. The game will launch with a number of RAID battles, complete with ultra-tough boss fights. The team is insistent that the game will feature near-constant updates, with smaller updates every week, and major updates every month. There’s already a two year roadmap of content, so you won’t be short of things to do.

The First Descendant│Official Launch Date Reveal│Summer Game Fest 2024

As I tinkered with the various Descendants I was surprised at how different they all were, and yet how accessible. They don’t feel like reskinned versions of one another, and with all of the module options they certainly can feel very different in the blink of an eye. Time and progression will tell how true that is when they aren’t pre-leveled, but so far so good!

I promised I’d get back to those Ultimate versions of the heroes. Each of the Descendants have an ultimate edition of their character, replete with a handful of new ways to play, fresh skins, and more. The team was tight lipped about what all they’d entail, but they promised that they’d be well worth earning. Naturally, they looked the part, all gold and sparkly, reminding me of Prime Frames from Warframe, for a direct analogy.

I mentioned that Korean looter-shooters can feel overwhelming with certain obtuse mechanics and different currencies. The first part was easily solved as Nexon has provided a single-click “auto-configure” option that’ll optimize your character based on the equipment, skills, and modules you have on hand. Building a strong team where, as an example, you have Ajax acting as a tank with his Bulwark skills, Lepic unleashing explosives, Bunny wreaking havoc from a distance with a sniper rifle, and Viessa using cold magic to crowd control should be a blast. Based on the short time I had playing with one of the dev team in a harder dungeon, it’ll be pure chaos with explosions of loot around every corner.  Here’s the dev team talking about some of that endgame content:

The First Descendant│Dev Talk│Endless Endgame Content

I blinked and my demo time was sadly over. The game already felt like it had more of a story than most looter shooters, and with far more options. Small and short missions, longer raids and team outings, a touch of RPG elements, inestimable combinations of upgrades and modifiers, horde and boss runs, and constant updates sounds promising. Nexon has kept this in the oven long enough to make sure that it’ll be locked and ready for launch when the game ships for North American audiences on July 2nd, 2024. From what we’ve seen so far, it looks like it’ll be very much worth the wait.

Executive Director and Editor-in-Chief | [email protected]

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming.

Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter.

Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 28 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes), and an Axolotl named Dagon!

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