The First Descendent is a game-as-a-service co-op centric looter shooter by Nexon, and gearing up for its western release, the company recently ran a beta. We got to give the beta a shot, and while there wasn’t TOO much content—it was just a beta after all—we did manage to get a good idea of the core game loop, the setup to its story, its setting, and a small taste of the endgame’s Void Intercept Battle system. Without wasting too much time, here are 10 things we learned from The First Descendent’s beta.
If you look at The First Descendent’s Steam page, it becomes quite clear that high-fidelity graphics are supposed to be one of its selling points. Having spent a fair bit of time with the beta shows that this isn’t just a marketing bullet point; The First Descendent is definitely a gorgeous-looking game. Right from the tutorial boss fight in the opening down to the hub town of Albion and even the first real zone you enter—Kingston—The First Descendent manages to show off a variety of different aesthetic styles.
It becomes quite clear that no small amount of effort has gone into making The First Descendent a PC game. What I mean by this is that the game offers an almost obscene amount of options for PC players to tinker around with for its graphics. While the beta’s upscaling options were unstable (it was a beta, after all), just about every other option was fantastically optimised. Having tried the game out on two different graphics cards—an AMD Radeon 5600 XT and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti—proved The First Descendent to be surprisingly scalable as well. While I had to turn the graphics options down by quite a few notches while playing on the older Radeon card, the 3060 Ti could handle just about any option I threw at it.
The First Descendent has a relatively lengthy prologue that’s supposed to work as a tutorial, and it might just be one of the best tutorial sections in looter shooters out there. Compared to a game like Destiny 2, The First Descendent’s prologue teaches you all of the ins and outs of the core game loop, how you can use your various abilities, how the loot system works, and even how important various aspects of movement can be in a tense firefight.
The core gameplay of The First Descendent is essentially an incredibly fast-paced third-person shooter. You’re given a variety of options in terms of weapons and abilities, and even verticality plays a big part in the game’s various firefights. Key to all of this is the fact that you have a grappling hook allowing you to essentially jump across the game’s zones at incredible speeds. While the grappling hook does have a cooldown—you can’t just spam it non-stop—it does a lot to make the game’s encounters a lot more interesting than just circle-strafing and shooting bosses would have been.
Since The First Descendent gives you a grappling hook, the movement, level design and encounter design quickly become some of the most interesting aspects of the game. Since you have effectively limitless options when it comes to gaining altitude within the confines of a single battle arena, the encounter design in the game becomes quite fun knowing that enemies can start coming in from just about anywhere. Also, and I can’t really stress this enough, shooting enemies while grappling around the ledges of various buildings is incredibly fun.
Possibly the most important aspect of a looter shooter—it’s right in the name—the loot in The First Descendent wasn’t something I was able to test out as much as I would have liked. While it did seem promising, with even the early game offering a good variety of loot not only in terms of the weapons themselves, but also the kind of bonuses I could add on to the weapon through the relatively-complicated runes system. While I did get to play a bit of the endgame, I was basically given a maxed out character and could largely just judge that part of the game on the merits of gameplay alone. The level of theorycrafting that’s bound to pop up once The First Descendent is out is going to be a better signifier of whether there’s a solid enough loot system in the game.
The First Descendent’s story isn’t particularly groundbreaking. Much like many other looter shooters out there, humanity has to fight off a seemingly-alien threat in order to survive. Along the way there are undoubtedly quite a few spanners thrown in the wrench to make things more interesting—an enigmatic character makes herself known quite early on once you get to Kingston—but aside from its blend of sci-fi and fantasy tropes, The First Descendent’s story isn’t going to be blowing minds or setting records for creativity. It is, however, quite serviceable when it comes to giving the player an excuse to shoot down hordes of bad guys.
Quite possibly one of the weakest aspects of The First Descendent, you don’t really get to make your own character. During the beta, I was allowed to pick from one of three characters, each fulfilling a different aspect of the holy trinity of tank/damage dealer/support. While the studio does plan to support the game with the addition of character skins and other forms of customisation, the fact that it’s never truly *your* character might be a let down to some. Unfortunately, despite having you pick a bespoke character, you don’t really get much in the way of personality out of them aside from a little bit they get to show off in the opening cutscene for the prologue. The characters are hopefully more fleshed out later in the game’s story, but from having played only the beta, they felt like little more than a superficial way to distinguish between different abilities.
To try out the endgame, I was given access to maxed out characters so that I could take part in Void Intercept Battles. The variety of these battles was quite interesting, and the co-op gameplay was a lot of fun. Given the right difficulty tuning, I could see myself logging into The First Descendent just to have a couple of runs of the Void Intercept Battles. The tuning is something I can’t comment too much on, however, since game balance often isn’t the highest priority for developers. It was also good to see that Void Intercept Battles offered matchmaking. While relatively difficult, these battles weren’t too complicated, and I could see The First Descendent having something along the lines of Destiny 2‘s raids in the full release.
If it weren’t obvious by the fact that Nexon is developing and publishing The First Descendent, and the fact that the game’s aesthetics are right out of a South Korean-developed game, The First Descendent is clearly made with a South Korean audience in mind. And while there’s still a lot of work left to be done in terms of localisation, the beta was surprisingly well-polished. Aside from one relatively minor instance of seeing Korean text suddenly pop up on my objective list, just about everything from the writing to the voice acting was well done. Aside from minor translating errors in the UI—again, these things happen in betas—The First Descendent looks to be in pretty good shape for its launch.