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The First Descendant is a fast-paced looter shooter mashup with legs

Published Jun 26th, 2024 9:00AM EDT
The First Descendant void battle.
Image: Nexon

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Next week, one of the most significant threats to Destiny’s utter dominance in the looter shooter genre to date launches on PlayStation, Xbox, and Steam. The First Descendant is a new free-to-play online third-person shooter from Nexon, and having spent several hours with the game over the past few weeks, it’s safe to say that this is the first shooter since Destiny 2 to get its claws in me and tempt me to spend hundreds of hours grinding for gear.

It’s hard not to compare The First Descendant to Destiny 2, as that’s clearly its main inspiration. In fact, when I talked to the game’s director, Minseok Joo, about influences the team drew from, he specifically cited Destiny, Warframe, Outriders, and The Division. Elements of each of those games pervade The First Descendant, but the structure most closely mirrors that of Destiny 2, down to the instanced zones and repeatable missions.

Let’s start with the general flow of the game. After learning the ropes in the prologue, The First Descendant dumps you in Albion, a hub city similar to the Tower in Destiny 2. This is where you will accept most of the main story quests before opening up your map and venturing out into the world. There are eight fields to choose from on the map at launch, but to begin, you’ll only have access to Kingston, which is where the story picks up from the prologue.

Every field is filled with outposts, mission beacons, enemy patrols, and collectibles. In general, you’re going to be running straight from the outpost where you spawn to a beacon, starting the mission, and shooting a bunch of enemies to get a reward. That’s the very repetitive core loop, so how does The First Descendant keep it interesting?

There are a few big ways that this game sets itself apart from Destiny 2. First, instead of picking a class or customizing your character’s skills, you can play as one of many Descendants, each of whom has their own unique skills and abilities.

A party taking on a world mission in The First Descendant.
A party taking on a world mission in The First Descendant. Image source: Nexon

For instance, Lepic, one of the starter Descendants, is an area-of-effect damage dealer with grenades and an ability that adds a burn effect to his other skills. Ajax is a tank who can create shields, Viessa throws frost shards to freeze her enemies, Bunny can electrocute enemies just by running past them, and Blair throws fireballs. This should all sound rather familiar to fans of Warframe, which features a nearly identical system.

You can unlock all of the Descendants by simply playing the game and gathering the materials necessary to add them to your roster. Or you can buy them from the shop. Remember, this is a free-to-play game, so spending money is always going to be an option.

Finding a Descendant you enjoy playing with for hours on end is the key to unlocking the fun of The First Descendant.

I started as Viessa, the icy debuffer, and I couldn’t find an enjoyable loop using her skills. So, I switched to Bunny and started sprinting around at light speed, electrocuting every dope in sight. Suddenly, missions that were previously tedious and frustrating became fast and fun. All of your characters share the same arsenal of weapons and gear that you gather from mission rewards and enemy drops, but their skills completely change the way you play the game. Everyone is going to have a version of this game that works best for them.

Looking down on a group of enemies in The First Descendant.
Looking down on a group of enemies in The First Descendant. Image source: Nexon

Speaking of weapons and gear, loot is plentiful in The First Descendant. Virtually every firefight you engage in will end with a pile of weapons, reactors, and components on the ground. There are 11 weapon classes altogether, from hand cannons and rocket launchers to machine guns, shotguns, beam rifles, and sniper rifles. Each is available in three tiers: Standard, Rare, and Ultimate. You’ll cycle through them often as you acquire more powerful models.

There are so many other ways to deck out your character as well: Reactors that increase your skill power, modules that grant abilities and perks to your Descendant and your weapons, and external components that can boost your health and shield.

One of the dungeons in The First Descendant.
One of the dungeons in The First Descendant. Image source: Nexon

Other than completing objectives in the fields, you can also take on instanced dungeons called Infiltration Operations, challenging and lengthy Special Operations, and Void Intercept Battles, which are raids that have you facing off against a single enormous Colossus.

My biggest issue with the game in the days prior to launch is that I haven’t had a chance to play with anyone else yet. One thing all these looter shooters have in common is that they are always infinitely more fun to play with friends or even strangers. I’m curious to see if some of the game’s rough edges and repetitiveness are counterbalanced by the fun of running around this world with other players who can bring some synergy and strategy to the combat. It sure would be nice to have someone freezing enemies while I run at them.

The First Descendant launches for PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and PC on July 2.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.