Nexon’s The First Descendant has furious free-to-play action | hands-on preview

It’s not so easy to create a differentiated free-to-play looter shooter game, but Nexon is on the path to do it with The First Descendant.

I played the third-person looter shooter game hands-on for nearly an hour at the recent Summer Game Fest Play Days event, and it kept me in a state of non-stop action. I was intrigued in part because The First Descendant had a particularly good cinematic trailer during Geoff Keighley’s Summer Game Fest show. The game is pretty polished, as it comes out on the PC and consoles on July 2. I played it on the Xbox.

I played it solo, but the game is a co-op action RPG looter shooter, which looks beautiful as it was made with Unreal Engine 5.

Your job is to combat alien invaders known as The Vulgus, who crossed dimensions over 100 years ago and brought with them devastating Colossi and destruction. You have to fight for humanity’s survival and protect Albion and the continent of Ingris. There are tons of missions and raids, and players can team up in four-player boss fights where teamwork and tactics are key.

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The game demo set me up with a hero and a choice of some weapons and dropped me into an icy world with a variety of robotic and alien enemies. When I shot them, they dropped loot. I picked them up just by hovering near them and having them fly into my grasp. They shot back and threw a variety of weapons at me. OK, all of that just checks off some boxes.

There are 16 dungeons ready for the launch of The First Descendant.

But the combat felt pretty good. I didn’t have to worry about getting shot while I was looking at my inventory or picking something up. Stuff just got picked up and packed away. The loot included occasional ammo drops. They weren’t so frequent that I could afford to waste my shots. And the early targets weren’t so spongy that I spent all my time and a whole clip shooting one of them while multiple enemies closed in on me.

In other words, it felt like this game already had a lot of good balance in place before they set it loose among beta testers. I was able to make a lot of progress, until I finally hit some bosses that were pretty hard to take down.

I lost myself in play during that hour. And I emerged from the play session all sweaty and a bit like I’d been awakened from a state of flow.

The HUD details

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A world mission in The First Descendant.

The HUD is fairly intuitive. You can see your mission and quest progress on the left, a radar on the top left, your level and ranking on the top right, and your weapon rounds info and shield info and hit point info right in the middle. You can see your equipped weapon on the right and your other weapons in inventory. Sadly, I didn’t realize this at the time and I often was surprised when I ran out of ammo, even though the info was there before me on the lower right. Also below in the middle are your special attacks and how the cooldown is progressing on them.

The demo

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Frenetic free-to-play fighting in The First Descendant.

I played in normal mode, starting from the Prologue. I selected one of three Descendants, who are special people with the DNA to save humanity. I went with Bunny, the woman character, and transported to Albion. I landed in a region on the map and found the mission beacon, where I got my assignment. I went to a place dubbed Kingston and started battling with the enemies.

I had a choice of using an assault weapon, a sniper rifle or a shotgun. I also had grenades. As I played, my mastery rank grew. Over time, you can acquire Descendants through sub quests or buy them in the shop. It was a snowy planet. You can level up the guns and gain skills over time. I got access to a grenade launcher and it came in handy in the final battle of the demo. There are 19 Descendant characters at launch. You can modify the characters and their capabilities and get a unique experience.

Beomjun Lee, producer, spoke in a video about the demo. The looter shooter game has already had multiple betas. So far, two million Descendants who have played for 1.789 billion minutes from over 200 countries.

The team has done stability tests and found a lot of people are awaiting the July 2 launch on the PC and consoles. Minseok Joo, creative director, said the looter shooter combines third-person shooting with RPG growth elements. It has a grappling hook which looks like it can add a lot to the movement of the game.

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Four-player co-op in The First Descendant.

As a Descendent, you inherit a genetic material called Arche and you are key to humanity’s defense against alien invaders.

There are a total of 11 weapon classes from hand cannon to launchers. The loot stands out as different colors rising from the loot on the ground. You can fly through the air and escape enemies that are closing in on you. There are 560 different modules for customization. The core loop involves players creating their own strategies to reach the endgame, which includes instance dungeons where you take down enormous bosses in co-op play. At launch, there are a total of 16 dungeons available.

I ultimately had to fight a goon named Goroth the Cold-Blooded Vanguard. He wasn’t so smart as he kept on chasing me around a column. My worst problem was running out of ammo because he was a bullet sponge. I had to clear out a lot of lesser aliens first befoer I could concentrate on Goroth. Eventually got him, but didn’t get to see what was beyond that because my time ran out.

I enjoyed the intensity of the firefights. But I’m anxious to find out what more there is to this endless looter shooter that could keep me hooked for the long term. After launch, the devs promise a lot of updates to live up to the games as a service model.

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