Review of The First Descendant in progress


At this point, I’ve played The First Descendant in three or four different betas, and each time I’ve been unsure whether it’s something I’d want to play with friends or just another sci-fi shooter in a sea of ​​similar games competing for our attention. After spending over 45 hours in the pre-release preview over the past week, I’m only marginally closer to answering that question – but I’m certainly not having a bad time. I still have a lot to play, including the all-important endgame, so for now I’m still not sure whether The First Descendant will be my next looter shooter or another one that doesn’t live up to expectations.

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Nexon’s free third-person multiplayer game takes place in the same space as Genshin Strikewith cool-looking characters to unlock and countless currencies and materials to grind, all of which can be missed by those who are just willing to shell out their hard-earned cash. And, like some of its polished contemporaries, there’s a pretty good game here, despite a user interface that requires a PhD in RPG gibberish to decipher and an annoying monetization model that does crazy things like force you to pay with real money, to enhance inventory capacity or obtaining RNG dye packs to simply change the color of your inventory. Running around with friends, shooting enemies, and unleashing engaging supernatural abilities on alien armies is undoubtedly a lot of fun (as in Destiny, Warframe, and Outriders, to name a few), and the deep RPG mechanics and loot systems are a spreadsheet-loving nerd’s dream. It’s also a pretty nice game that feels a lot more premium than you might expect in the free-to-play space, despite the occasional frame rate drops or crashes (at least in its pre-release state). That said, the free-to-play model is as eyebrow-raising as it sounds, the story and dialogue are laughably bad, and most of the campaigns are filled with filler that can be a real snooze.

I split dozens of hours spent running around compact central areas performing repetitive tasks into much more meaningful missions and boss fights against kaiju robots called colossi. These self-contained missions and boss fights are exactly what I expect from an action-packed co-op game: truly amazing fights that rival those of its peers, engaging enemies to defeat, and a loot system that had me regularly trying out the newest shiny weapon I pulled out from some idiot’s corpse. If The First Descendant had just let me get through this part, we would have come up with something and I would have made a decision.

Impressive standalone missions are hidden beneath lifeless tasks.

Unfortunately, so much of this is bottled up behind sections where you do a series of really lifeless tasks, like defending a piece of technology from waves of enemy attacks, collecting items from fallen enemies to assemble into a collectible robot, or just killing stuff until a mini-boss appears that you can defeat. Even the awesome fights can’t stop the boredom of hanging around for minutes waiting for compact groups of enemies to appear, until you’re told you’ve done it, and then you’re directed to the next location on the map to do it all over again. These sections also make up a pretty gigantic portion of what you do during the main story, seemingly there to fill out the adventure so you don’t burn through the more engaging activities too quickly. Worst of all, there are only a few flavors of these types of tasks, so you’ll be asked to do them multiple times between each boss fight or more substantial story mission.

Even though I’m only halfway through the campaign, it’s not looking too good so far, dude. Full of nonsensical sci-fi gibberish like “dimensional walls,” “reverse data codes,” and “Arche’s release,” this is one of the sillier stories I’ve seen in a while. Most of the dialogue is absolutely terrible: At one point I burst out laughing when the bad guy ominously declared, “Kliphoth will consume Ingris. The roars of Vulgus will fill this land with fear!” In another part, I shook my head when an antagonist character named Jeremy (a grown man with the voice of a whiny, spoiled teenager) turned out to be the most annoying person in the world and was cruel to me for no reason when I completed tasks for him. It’s truly disgusting, but some of it is so bad it’s humorous – I eventually found myself waiting for the cutscenes, eager for the next sci-fi blockbuster and the butchered voice performances. (Apart from the absurdity, the English voices rarely match the mouths of the characters who are speaking. That’s fine if you like watching dubbed anime, but I find it quite distracting.)

Thankfully, the most engaging characters are the ones you can unlock and play, like the unflappable electric sprinter Bunny (my personal favorite) or the sarcastic and slimy grenade-throwing soldier Lepic. Some of the cast still feel a little shallow, mostly because you only get a little backstory and character development for most of them, but listening to them cheer as you blow monsters to bits and watching their charming animations — which clearly put a lot more effort into than the NPC animations — is quite enjoyable. Only one of these playable characters has an actual questline associated with them (and more are planned for the future), but the bits of story I played were some of the better content available in The First Descendant at launch, so I hope they deliver in that regard, at least.

In fact, learning how to play them is also great, although I still have plenty of characters to unlock before I can take them all for a spin. One character can control the battlefield with explosive AoE attacks, while another covers enemies with devastating ice-based debuffs. Bunny deals incredible DPS by running as much as possible to generate electricity, then releases it in powerful blasts. Since each character has their own play style, switching between them offers a distinctly different experience, much like Ajax, a hefty tank with protective abilities, is about standing in your place. Most games with playable characters as the main goal are to survive or die depending on how convincing these unlockable avatars are, and so far The First Descendent seems to be filled with distinctive options that are definitely worth going through the trouble to get them.

Similarly, the weapons, gear, and upgrades you earn as you shoot your way through the levels are amazing. The loot drops steadily, the gameplay with most weapons is distinct and satisfying, and watching the numbers climb as you modify and upgrade each modern toy in your arsenal makes The First Descendant rigid to put down… until it forces you to move on to approximately 15 separate menus to juggle dozens of materials and so many different systems that it’s worth having an inhaler on hand. Granted, this sort of thing is pretty typical of looter shooters, but even given the already gag-inducing standards of the genre, it’s particularly unpleasant to learn – especially since the tutorial robot that shows you the ropes in the social area, explains things to you in a series of texts that go by so quickly that they challenge your speed-reading skills.

Even after putting dozens of hours into this pre-release version of the game, I have a lot more to play and an endgame to dive into when it launches properly next week. Check back in the coming weeks for my final, scored review.

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