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The First Descendant review – a familiar destiny

The First Descendant review – a familiar destiny
The First Descendant – taste the blandness (Nexon)

Destiny 2 and Overwatch provide the inspiration for yet another free-to-play live service game that wants to take over your life, but should you let it?

In theory, new IP (Intellectual property) is exactly what the video games industry needs. When almost every new game, particularly bigger budget titles, is a sequel or licensed product, new blood is vital. And yet with each new generation, as development costs soar, the risks associated with creating something new becomes ever greater. But just as a sequel doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of new ideas, new IP doesn’t guarantee anything original.

The First Descendent is one of the most unoriginal games we’ve played in a very long time. As a third person action role-player, that’s also a co-op shooter and a free-to-play live service game, the premise is as cynically unimaginative as it’s possible to be.

Destiny is the primary influence, right down to copying many of the same icons , but what’s more distasteful is how little space has been left for any unique ideas of its own. Instead, this feels like Destiny and every other remotely similar game – from Overwatch to Halo – has been stuffed into a proverbial blender; the resultant grey goop isn’t entirely inedible, but it is entirely without flavour.

To start off with a positive, the graphics and art design in The First Descendant are often quite good. As a sci-fi game the planetary settings are interestingly alien at times and while the overall art style isn’t very cohesive (because a lot of it is still copying Destiny and others) it’s at least notable. Which is more than you can say for the storytelling, which is so completely unengaging it might as well not exist.

We suspect many of the visuals we don’t recognise are probably copied from an anime, or some other source we’re not aware of, but since we can’t identify them, we’ll give the game the benefit of the doubt. Not that it deserves it though, given how much it copies from Overwatch in terms of character abilities and personalities. Although its icky sexualisation of female characters leans more in the direction of fellow Korean-made game Stellar Blade .

Structurally though, it’s Destiny 2 which dominates this patchwork of other people’s ideas, with a very similar mix of ad hoc open world missions and more linear dungeons, capped off with a boss fight. The gunplay may not be as good as Bungie but it’s still good and, as obvious as the game’s many appropriations may be, they are at least pulled off competently. Which means that it is perfectly possible to have fun with the game.

The only thing close to an original idea – in that it’s a generic video game concept and not something it stole from Destiny – is that every character class has a grappling hook, which helps ensure combat is more mobile than average, while obscuring the fact that everything else about the action is so familiar. Although it’s disappointing you don’t have to put it to more imaginative use in boss battles.

Where The First Descendant starts to get into real problems is that Destiny 2 didn’t start out as a free-to-play game and Nexon’s attempts to lean into those traditions are clumsy and unwelcome, with a tediously large number of resources to collect and various limitations to circumvent when trying to craft any halfway useful equipment.

Because the game is constantly trying to nudge you into spending money on microtransactions, everything takes too long to do when playing for free, not just in terms of crafting but levelling up as well. It’s very easy to be stuck with a character or weapon you end up not really liking, or which proves ill-suited to the next boss, and yet it will have taken hours to obtain and it’ll be even longer before you can unlock an alternative.

One set of problems that at least has a chance of being addressed is the poor performance at launch, with unreliable online connections, frame rate problems, and no proper public matchmaking. The game frequently disconnects mid-game or has other players stuttering around like trapped souls and frankly it’s not worth persevering with at this point.

Will The First Descendent be successful, despite its many problems? Perhaps. As we’ve said, it is perfectly playable and entertaining, when it’s working, even if it’s nowhere near as good as the games it’s cribbing from. As we type this it’s the fifth most played game on Steam, but then it is new – at a time of year when very little else is – and it’s free.

But if you can’t find a better way to spend your video game time, we’re not sure you’re really trying. Especially as, even within the looter shooter genre, Warfarme and Destiny 2 are both free and vastly superior games. Despite being a brand new IP this feels more stagnant and lazy than any sequel we’ve played in recent memory. In the end, it’s not the age of the franchise that’s important, it’s the ideas within it and The First Descendent has virtually none it can call its own.

The First Descendant review summary In Short: A depressingly generic free-to-play looter shooter that steals shamelessly from other, better, games but never has the nerve to try and create anything of its own.
Pros: Most of the game, especially the combat, is perfectly competent, as it should be given how closely it copies from its various inspirations. Good graphics and occasionally interesting art design.
Cons: Painfully unimaginative on every level, with no sign that the developer is even trying to put its own stamp on anything. Poor performance at launch and terrible storytelling.
Score: 5/10

Formats: PlayStation 5 (reviewed), Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, and PC Price: Free-to-play Publisher: Nexon Developer: Nexon Release Date: 30th June 2024 Age Rating: 12

The First Descendant – this all looks very familiar (Nexon)

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