The First Descendant Is A Fun But Forgettable Mash-up Of Better Games

Image: Nexon
Image: Nexon

The First Descendant, Nexon’s new third-person sci-fi free-to-play online looter shooter is a lot like a bowl of so-so mac and cheese. I promise that opening sentence will make some sense by the end of this article, okay?

Released earlier this month on PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC, The First Descendant tells the story of a group of special, powerful people with cool abilities who are “descended” from ancient god-like beings. These special people—the Descendants—are the key to saving humanity and use their abilities (as well as guns and explosives) to fight back an invading alien force and giant inter-dimensional monsters. I’d tell you more but there’s not much more to explain. If this setup sounds a lot like other sci-fi movies or games, well you’ve picked up on what The First Descendant really is: a mish-mash of what came before combined into a package that is fun to play but hard to recommend.

Every part of The First Descendant feels like it was ripped out of other pre-existing live-service shooters, like Destiny, Warframe, The Division, and Anthem. You zip around levels like the space ninjas in Warframe, the combat is tight and snappy like The Division’s third-person gunplay, and many powers and abilities feel directly inspired by Destiny. (And some of the game looks to be literally ripped from Bungie’s FPS…)

First Descendant also lacks a consistent art style, beyond “just do what other games did.” The post-apocalyptic worlds you explore across the game’s main campaign don’t really gel with the anime heroes and their various cosmetic items. Similarly, First Descendant has a strange collection of enemy designs made up of baddies who appear to have fallen out of games like Anthem, Destiny, and Outriders. Some enemies look and act like creatures, others are more mechanical and robotic, a few look like weird space zombies, and then some are just dudes in hazmat suits. I was never really sure what I was fighting or how they all connected to each other beyond apparently being part of some big evil alien empire. And most stuff dies so fast that I didn’t really need to know what I was shooting.

As with all the games I’ve mentioned so far, First Descendant can be played solo or online with other players. Like Destiny, the open worlds you visit will contain other players who you can play with or ignore. These open worlds feature three to four missions that ask you to protect something, kill some stuff, collect a few things, or destroy a target. Repeat until you reach a larger, more involved mission aka an “Operation” aka a Strike from Destiny. And once you’ve done all that, the story moves forward a bit and you do it all again in a new location.

It’s mind-numbingly dull and if you’ve played any of these live-service looter shooters you’ll have done this song and dance a thousand times before. As with its story, art, enemies, and gameplay, First Descendant breaks no new ground or tries to do anything unique. It checks all the boxes it needs to check to be considered an online RPG shooter and doesn’t do much more.

And yet I keep playing. Not just because it’s my job and I have to play First Descendant. No, I keep playing even though there are other games I want to play instead. It’s not just because the game’s grappling hook feels nice and makes traversing its boring worlds a bit more enjoyable, though that helps. It’s not solely down to wanting to see numbers go up, though there’s plenty of that in Nexon’s shooter for those who love that kind of thing. First Descendent is like a bowl of mac and cheese at a crappy restaurant. Yes, I’m finally going to explain the metaphor.

Image: Nexon
Image: Nexon

I have a theory that as long as the noodles are cooked and there’s some cheese in the bowl, you can’t really be too mad at some warm macaroni and cheese. Sure, you can do more with mac and cheese. You can add bacon, bread crumbs, multiple cheeses, experiment with noodles, spices, sauces, etc. But in its most basic, by-the-book, no-thrills form, a bowl of mac is good and I’ll eat without complaint every time.

That’s how I feel playing First Descendant. It’s like eating a bowl of totally fine mac and cheese. In the moment, I enjoy it. I’m happy that I’m eating/playing. Yay, mac and cheese! Yay, snappy combat and loot! But the moment I pull myself away from The First Descendant, I quickly forget about it. It provides some comfort, sure, but ultimately, it offers nothing memorable or exciting. It does what it’s meant to do, it checks those boxes, and that’s it. Like a boring bowl of mac at some fast food joint or a friend’s house. Just enough to make you happy, but quickly forgotten.

So do I recommend you play First Descendant? Not really. If you’ve played Destiny or Warframe or other similar games it offers nothing new and does little to stand out. I guess if you’ve burned yourself out on other live-service shooters, it might be nice to take a break from those grinds and check out this new shiny grind instead. Still, I don’t think First Descendant will keep these kinds of players around for long, especially as its endgame treadmill to unlock new characters seems like a horrible slog and one which Nexon will gladly let you pay your way around.

But The First Descendant is also free and you might be thinking “Why not? I’ll give it a shot.” And I can’t blame you. If I was offered a free bowl of mac and cheese, all gooey and warm, I’d probably say yes, too. Just don’t expect any breadcrumbs or gouda.


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