There’s no shortage of loot-driven RPG shooters on the market, but in spite of that saturation, Nexon’s The First Descendant, which was originally revealed as Project Magnum, has looked promising since the moment it was first unveiled. Promising a setting rich in story and lore, cutting edge visuals, a thrilling blend of third person shooter combat and deep progression mechanics, and plenty of co-op and solo offerings, the upcoming free-to-play title certainly seems to have its sights set high. To learn more about what it’s doing to make sure it lives up to its billing, we recently reached out to its developers at Nexon, and learned quite a bit about The First Descendant in the process. You can read the full interview below.
"We kept the co-op gameplay in mind when designing the huge boss raids and some of the missions from the beginning. In particular, huge boss raids require a high level of cooperation because each boss has a different gimmick that requires a different strategy."
The First Descendant is, of course, being billed as a co-op RPG shooter, but for those who’d prefer to play it solo, would you still say it’s a viable experience?
The gameplay consists of field missions, and we designed it so you can enjoy this via single play. A “private mode” option allows players to enjoy the game alone without encountering other players. Through this mode, all the players will have sufficient resources for growth. You can also select the “public mode” to play with other users and enjoy co-op.
However, we kept the co-op gameplay in mind when designing the huge boss raids and some of the missions from the beginning. In particular, huge boss raids require a high level of cooperation because each boss has a different gimmick that requires a different strategy. Players must study the optimal characters and gear settings to clear the missions with a high level of co-op gameplay.
A question that tends to get asked frequently about free-to-play titles is how they will be monetized. What can you tell us about The First Descendant, and how it will handle microtransactions?
I believe that many players are curious and concerned about this. Since we have been running on the same track direction since the beginning of development, we were surprised to see that after our game reveals, many players were concerned about the excessive P2W aspects of Nexon’s games.
Ultimately, we aspire not to pursue excessive P2W aspects. The monetization model will also not deviate significantly from games of the same genre.
Paid products will indeed exist, but the characters, equipment, and stages that are needed for gameplay and progress in the game can be earned through gameplay.
What’s been your approach to designing the playable characters, and how much they differentiate from each other? How does all this tie into the game’s co-op nature?
First, I can say that the characters are the essential element of The First Descendant. In terms of game mechanics, the crucial aspect of characters is their combat styles. However, I am aware that players find the character’s appearance, background story, voice, skill set, and many more facets as essential character features. As a result, we began with the character design by focusing on combat style, but we are also putting a lot of effort into the other aspects.
Unique combat styles from diverse skill sets and appearances are all differentiating factors of the characters. Indeed, the various combat styles are tied in with co-op, but we are constructing the game, so it’s not a strict requirement. According to the game content, The First Descendant’s characters have advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, our goal is to encourage co-op play so that players can overcome possible weaknesses of their characters according to content. Working as a team with other players makes up for the disadvantage.
"The characters are the essential element of The First Descendant."
Can you tell us how many characters you plan to offer in The First Descendant at launch?
As announced, 10 characters will be available for experience during the beta test (9 original characters and 1 ultimate character).
We will definitely have more characters at launch, but we are careful to give you an accurate answer just yet. This is because we plan to reflect on the beta test feedback, which might result in some changes. Nevertheless, we are already developing and testing new characters that will not be included in the beta test, so please look forward to it.
In terms of combat, how much of an emphasis does The First Descendant put on things such as abilities, movement, and melee attacks?
As mentioned previously, the character’s skills and guns are the most important. Based on these, we implemented various features in the game to show more of our uniqueness. This would be speedy battles and action, plus the grappling hook which allows free movement, link attacks, and finally, the melee attack. The melee attack, however, was designed as an auxiliary means to not infringe on the significance of the shooter play. However, some characters focus heavily on the melee attack mechanics, so this could also be a fun factor.
How extensive are the progression and customization mechanics in the game? What level of flexibility and experimentation does it encourage in terms of player upgrades and character builds?
Once again, I want to say that The First Descendant’s characters are the framework for setting a player’s strategy. In other words, choosing a character becomes a battle-style choice itself. For example, you can choose whether to play stably using defense-oriented characters or to take down multiple enemies at once using a wide-range skill. Once you have selected the main strategy orientation in battle, you can select from diverse gear to mount enhancements or add-ons to your character and weapon. This means that even the same character’s traits might differ depending on the player. For this purpose, we will offer equipment called “runes” of various options, which will provide players with the fun of combining them to create a new strategy. Our goal is to continuously develop and update equipment to assist in the creation of new strategies among players.
Outside of its story missions, what can players expect from The First Descendant’s side quests and optional content?
In addition to story missions, players can play various co-op missions. Among the co-op missions, some missions require you to survive for a long time without dying. You must cooperate with others and make the appropriate strategic choices to clear them. Moreover, we can’t leave out the essential endgame, the huge boss raids. You can experience the genuine fun of co-op play through raids, where you have to focus only on the battle tactics against the boss.
We are also preparing a variety of missions for those who enjoy single play. It’s not available in the beta test, but we’re preparing content like unlocking achievements and a collection system.
"Ultimately, we aspire not to pursue excessive P2W aspects. The monetization model will also not deviate significantly from games of the same genre."
How is the game’s world structured? Will it feature multiple separate maps, or is it a single, seamless world? What should players expect in terms of size and environmental variety?
The world of The First Descendant consists of multiple separate maps, not a seamless world. We decided that a seamless world is not essential for the skill-oriented PvE play we pursue. Therefore, rather than creating a seamless world, we created a world of separate maps with fewer restrictions on creating spaces of great detail with various themes. We are developing more maps with diverse themes in addition to those we’ll reveal in the beta test. Even in terms of development efficiency, we think it was an excellent decision to go with separate maps since it allows us to create multiple maps simultaneously.
Can you talk to us about what The First Descendant’s endgame will have on offer, and how much content it will have at launch to keep players occupied once they’ve played through the story and want to keep progressing with their character and tackle new content?
The endgame, the core of The First Descendant, will be the huge boss raids. The beta test will offer eight types of boss raids, and we will add more at launch. Players will be able to earn top-level gear as rewards from battling against the huge boss monsters. Our goal is to motivate players to play to earn these rewards and find a preferred combat style in the process.
In addition, The First Descendant strives to be an ongoing product, so we will continue to update it during live service. These updates will include new characters, bosses, and gear which will bring changes to the endgame, creating endless fun.
Roughly how long will it take to play through the story on average?
I can’t reveal that for the launch specs yet. If we were to talk about this beta test only, we expect it to take about 15 hours. This is the time to clear all necessary missions, and there may be differences depending on the individual.
As a free-to-play looter shooter RPG, are you envisioning The First Descendant as an ongoing product that’ll continue to receive support following launch? Can you tell us anything about what those plans might look like?
Since the beginning of the project, one of the most important goals we have ever had was continuous development as an ongoing product. So the answer to the question is absolutely yes. We will continue to upgrade the game and strive to provide stable service. We will continuously improve the game based on feedback from players and plan on content updates every set period. This will include new stories, weapons, characters, and boss monsters.
"The world of The First Descendant consists of multiple separate maps, not a seamless world. We decided that a seamless world is not essential for the skill-oriented PvE play we pursue."
How has UE5 allowed you to achieve your goals?
We started developing The First Descendant with the latest version of the Unreal Engine 4. Unreal Engine 5 was released during development, and our team became highly interested in the visual quality shown by it. I decided to make a bold decision to version-up to Unreal Engine 5 in order to show the best visual quality, although I was a bit worried since the development had already progressed a lot at this point.
The biggest reason for the version-up is the Nanite and Lumen of Unreal Engine 5. In particular, we believe that the lighting quality provided by Luman, a Real-time Global Illumination solution, is essential for next-gen projects, and now everyone on the team is very happy with the results.
Can you talk about the game’s visuals? They look fantastic!
Thank you so much for the compliment! We put a lot of effort into making our characters more attractive and deviate from the grave and dark mood seen in some existing sci-fi-themed content. Based on lighting and environmental factors that seem real, we aimed to make a convincing and, at the same time, appealing setting. We worked especially hard on the design of the huge boss monsters, and I think it’s a pretty challenging visual within the genre. I’m curious about how the players will feel about this.