The First Descendant Preview - Nexon's Answer to Destiny

The First Descendant is almost here, so check out our preview so you know what to expect!

Published: June 26, 2024 9:00 AM /

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I'm always on the search for the next "podcast game," as I like to call them. You know the type of game you can just have going on one screen, with videos, music, or podcasts rolling in the background? It might be terrible for the attention span, but The First Descendant fits that criteria to a tee.

Developed in-house by Nexon is the soon-to-launch The First Descendant, which we saw a fancy new trailer for at Summer Game Fest. I also had the chance to test it out in LA a few short weeks ago, and further access to a pre-launch build was also granted to me. Needless to say, I've already put several hours into The First Descendant, and I might just be hooked.

A choice of Descendant in the beginning of The First Descendant.

Becoming a Descendant

The First Descendant is a massive game, and Nexon is going all gas, no breaks to make it their next hit. Using Unreal Engine 5 to power this beast, The First Descendant boasts top-of-the-line visuals and the polish. It's a looter shooter that has to contend with the likes of Destiny 2 and The Division 2, so those are big shoes to fill.

During my play session at Summer Game Fest, I had unrestricted access to pretty much every item, character, and upgrade in the game; likewise, I was able to test this out more in depth using a preview build. There's also a mode that started me fresh, so I got a taste of both the beginning of the game, and end-game.

A look at Bunny from The First Descendant.

The beginning of The First Descendant tasks me with choosing a hero, dubbed Descendant, to control -- these are pre-made characters that have a unique set of abilities. I went with Ajax, a tank/bruiser-type hero that specializes in shielding and disrupting foes.

I'm taken through a linear beginner mission to get acquainted with the gameplay of The First Descendant. Here, I learn about my abilities as Ajax and I get familiar with the gunplay and traversal system. Every Descendant is equipped with a grappling hook (because every game needs one, duh), but I can't complain because it's really fun to use.

A look at combat in The First Descendant.

Lootin' and Shootin' in The First Descendant

Like any live service game, you're hit with a deluge of information explaining the various systems at play. Don't get too stressed by The First Descendant -- it might not necessarily ease you into things, but you're able to intuit most of the mechanics even if some aren't explained all that well.

You have open-world missions you can partake in these hub areas, as well as more linear dungeon experiences. These can be tackled with friends or others online, so there's a communal element to The First Descendant.

Of course, what I gravitate towards the most is loot and progression, of which there is a lot in this game. First, you level up your descendants and gain more power as you do so, all the while gaining new abilities and looting new weapons and modules to upgrade them with.

A look at modules in The First Descendant.

Loot is actually my biggest gripe with The First Descendant. There's a decent amount of weapon types, approximately a dozen or so. Weapons within each type feel almost if not exactly the same as the last. The only difference is, you'll have modifiers that make a gun more powerful, but it's not like Borderlands where guns can vary wildly.

Even the modules, which you use to upgrade the stats of your guns, are bland. You get percent increases like increased damage or fire rate, but it's hard to notice a difference. Even modules like "Electric Enhancement," which makes your guns shoot electric-based attacks, doesn't seem to look or feel individualized.

When I tried out a late-game, fully equipped character with the very best weapons and upgrades, I felt more powerful, sure, but weapons behaved the same as they did at lower levels. Looter shooters are so fun because of this unknown element of what the next gun might be, but I'm not really feeling it here.

That said, the guns do feel punchy and enemies go down relatively easy, so you feel powerful. Combine the gunplay with some Descendant abilities, and combat is just enticing enough to keep me engaged. Moving forward, though, I hope for more weapon types and variation in gunplay.

Blair from The First Descendant uses an ability.

Will The First Descendant Keep You Hooked?

The First Descendant plays it very by the books, which means it's a safe bet for a fun time, but I do fear for its longevity. Is it unique enough to distinguish itself from others on the market? How long will it take for me to get bored of it?

Because my progress was fast-tracked in the demo, I'm not sure how progression will be, but I hope that core gameplay loop of going out on missions, grabbing materials, and upgrading my descendant is enough to justify playing a game that demands a lot of time.

For now, I'm pretty impressed by the overall package. It's polished, runs decently well (and the implementation of DLSS is appreciated), and I like how individualized the Descendants are with their abilities. We won't have to wait very long to see the final product, which will be available on July 4, 2024.

The First Descendant was previewed after about 40 minutes of gameplay at Summer Game Fest, and 5 hours with a key provided by the publisher - all screenshots were taken during the preview process.

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| Staff Writer

Austin cut his teeth writing various  fan-fiction stories on the RuneScape forums when he was in elementary school. Later on, he developed a deep love for… More about Austin