As a new free-to-play looter shooter, The First Descendant faces heavy competition. Between established juggernauts like Destiny 2 and Warframe receiving regular expansions and the regular stream of smaller games, making yourself seen in this crowded genre isn’t easy. After spending time with The First Descendant’s upcoming beta test in solo play and four-player co-op, I don’t believe this will be the one to break through. What’s here is enjoyable enough, just nothing especially compelling.
The First Descendant’s story wouldn’t feel out of place in a classic sci-fi novel; it’s that old tale of humanity fending off alien invaders. Here, you can choose one of ten playable Descendants, each bringing unique skills to repel the Vulgus. You’re initially limited to choosing between three, unlocking the rest later through a Research Institute. With differing stats and combat skills, differences aren’t just skin deep; be aware that you can’t customize a Descendant’s appearance. Nexon Games says you can decorate them, a feature unavailable during this beta test, but the team wishes to retain everyone’s unique aspects.
Once I’d chosen my character, I arrived in Albion, The First Descendant’s pretty hub world. Here, you can upgrade your weapons, take on quests, and more. I ventured towards the Kingston region, picking up several field missions. Between defending set objects to investigating broken detectors, there’s some variance. Boss fights are separately contained within Void Intercept Battles, accessed from terminals across Albion. These fearsome foes have specific weak points to target and can’t be played alone, unlike field missions.
However, I didn’t find missions in this beta exciting, even when playing with friends. Despite the differing goals, you’re always taking down waves of enemies with generic designs at most steps, which soon becomes tedious. One objective had me taking down continuous waves of enemies to power down a target’s shields, and I had to repeat this several times. When playing co-op, I also discovered that if I started a mission, this didn’t activate for the whole party, which caused some initial confusion. Each member must individually join or shoot an enemy in my existing mission. Not the biggest problem, sure, but hardly the most intuitive method. Considering this is an early beta, I’m hoping that’ll change before the full release.
I still enjoyed The First Descendant’s combat, thanks to each Descendant’s varied playstyles. Everyone has four active skills in battle, ranging from defensive moves like Ajax’s Reverse Door shield to offensive options like Viessa’s Ice Beam. Everyone’s packing something different, encouraging you to explore and unlock the other characters. You can also equip three guns at once, flicking through them with your mouse’s scroll wheel. If you aren’t happy, defeating more formidable Vulgus usually provides a better gun.
I still enjoyed The First Descendant’s combat, thanks to each Descendant’s varied playstyles.
You can boost existing weapons through runes, too. Those offer additional benefits like electrocution immunity, increased running speed, HP recovery when killing an enemy, etc. Runes are blanket applied into categories based on your gun type, so as an example, torrent runes only apply to machine guns and tactical rifles. There’s a set capacity for what you can equip for each category, and more powerful runes cost more. It’s much more effective than using runes on individual weapons, saving considerable time when you’ll likely be juggling through plenty of weapons. I appreciate how the Descendant class of runes lets you choose your melee attack.
You can improve your capacity and the runes directly through Albion’s Rune Master. It’s a nice touch to combat which provides suitably varied battle perks to fit different playstyles, and there are some solid customization options here. Once you’ve finished battles and missions, you can visit a separate event terminal in Albion, rewarding you with new weapons or runes. You’ll gradually increase your Mastery Rank by defeating monsters, which helps you unlock benefits like additional rune slots.
There’s potential in The First Descendant’s customization and progression system, but this doesn’t mean much if the field missions aren’t that interesting. Right now, it feels like your average looter shooter with fancier visuals. While there is every chance things could improve come full release, right now, I’m just not swayed by this beta. If you’re curious to try it, you can jump into the open beta next week on Steam. Otherwise, The First Descendant launches next year on Xbox One, Xbox Series X and S, PS4, and PC.