Outside of the phenomenon of Fortnite, no game released in the last decade has shaped the landscape of online gaming more than Bungie's Destiny. Shifting things away from the endless deathmatch that Call of Duty still calls home, the creators of Halo shook things up with a focus on high science-fantasy and the same loot-driven gameplay loop that crept into PC gaming decades prior. Nexon's The First Descendent is (ironically) inspired by two generations of this new breed, taking major cues from both Destiny and People Can Fly's Outriders. Despite the exceedingly familiar feeling of gunning down hordes of space mutants with fancy weaponry, the scope on display and the free-to-play nature of the experience could allow Descendent to stake its claim in this still-growing genre.
You choose one of ten predefined warriors at the start of your adventure. These hero characters, called Descendants in-game, each have a unique spellbook of elemental abilities to choose from, some more unique in concept than others. You've seen plenty of video game characters that sling fire and ice, but there are slightly fewer with a poison-based moveset. Nothing will knock your socks off, but the variety on offer ensures that everyone will have a clear favorite as they start leveling up.
Of course, none of that matters if The First Descendent can't back it up with gamepay that's at least on the level of its predecessors. For its part, Descendent does live up to the promise of most free-to-play games. Initially, combat was decent but monotonous. There's just enough of a carrot on the end of the stick to make you want to keep shooting the various aliens spawning around you. Once I jumped from a level one character to one with countless hours of made-up progress behind it, things picked up significantly. Loot games like this always have you playing for the endgame, and that's a worthy endeavor if you're willing to invest your time.
You'll think of Destiny immediately when you first load up The First Descendent but shift your thoughts to Outriders as soon as your character begins to unleash hell. The mix of wild weaponry and flashy powers gave Outriders its initial spark of life, and that same formula works here. Both firearms and elemental blasts have weight behind them and feel great to use, even if some of the enemies you're up against can act as bullet sponges. Levels don't scale with your character at the moment, so you have to set off on a fairly linear path before your shotgun blasts start one-shotting anything that moves. Even in that late stage of the game, there's some fun in warping around and avoiding a renewed swarm taking you down.
Even if you're not looking for a version of Outriders that's free of charge, you might dig The First Descendent for its graphical style. Not only does this feel on par with any other game of this type in terms of scale and character models, but the aesthetic is something that hasn't been seen all too often. I hesitate to say that it's as if an off-brand anime had relations with LawBreakers, but that's probably the best way to describe it. Who knows, perhaps a game with this style can flourish in a market where there's not a megalith releasing a Disney/Pixar-styled blockbuster right next door.
Really, that's the reason to give The First Descendent a shot. The gameplay is serviceable but lacks a unique identity even in its endgame. The story is noteworthy only in its uselessness. It's a hodgepodge of missions where a female version of Peter Dinklage tells your destined warrior to hit buttons and ignore moon wizards. All but the most dedicated lore hounds will rightfully tune this stuff out, and I don't blame them one bit.
Yes, The First Descendent lives and dies on a unique style that has already failed at the marketplace once before. I would personally love to see one of my favorite dearly departed FPS games proven to be ahead of its time, but I have a pretty reliable feeling that's just wishful thinking. Still, both that ill-fated game and Outriders had a fee attached to entry, something neither of them earned with their initial offerings. Perhaps swinging the gates open will attract a crowd that no one expects, especially since Nexon's latest can back up its claims and provide players with a lot of fun with just a tiny bit of investment.
TechRaptor previewed The First Descendent on PC via Steam with accounts provided by the publisher. The critic was provided access to both an entry-level character and a fully leveled-up experience.