The looter-shooter genre has been around at this point for a long time. There are a few instances that do it incredibly well, like the Borderlands series or Destiny. But it’s not always sunshine and rainbows for the genre, as there needs to be a good balance between the time it takes to get new exciting weapons and how much use you can get out of each weapon.
The First Descendant is a looter-shooter to its core. I don’t think after the tutorial, I went more than five minutes between each weapon pickup. At times, it felt like I picked up a new weapon every one to two minutes. This creates a multifaceted problem. It meant I was spending a tremendous amount of time cycling through menus and pausing when I was between encounters. It also meant I was barely getting enough time to use a weapon to get comfortable with it before I switched it out for another.
There was just too much loot, and it created this imbalance where I was not able to enjoy the gameplay of The First Descendant and get used to a certain weapon before I needed to switch it out because I found a new weapon that dealt more damage. This is also true for supplementary equipment that heightened certain aspects of your character, like less cooldown for your powers, better handling of weapons, the usual affair.
Story-wise, it felt like mostly a lubricant to get you to more gunplay. This is completely fine, but for it to work, you should at least have some stand-out characters to work with. But unfortunately, they all came across as pretty bland and forgettable. Not to mention the weird camera angles given to Viessa that made her more sexualized than needed. I don’t know who needs to hear this, but it is okay to have women in your game be badasses without needing to focus on their figures. That was near the opening, and it gave me this uncomfortable ick that I hope gets fixed.
“It feels like The First Descendant is trying to be a little bit of everything, where it needs to focus on one aspect of itself rather than spread itself thin.”
That’s not to say the snippets of gameplay between rummaging around in my inventory aren’t fun because they are a lot of fun. Being able to use character-specific abilities like an ice tornado to take down groups of enemies while you blast them away with an incredibly punchy assault rifle feels really good. It’s just a shame it’s all mixed in with having to go into menus every few minutes.
The First Descendant has a certain Destiny-esque feel specifically in its hub world. This is where you will go to check your mail, buy weapons and other equipment, and get your mission run-downs. From here, you can open your map and select the location you want to go. Kingston was the map location I got to know very well during the preview. But, just like Destiny, when you arrive in the hub there are a lot of floating icons, it was very overwhelming and would have felt a little better if they were introduced over time.
“The First Descendant is a looter-shooter to its core. I don’t think after the tutorial, I went more than five minutes between each weapon pickup.”
Not to mention already being able to see what emotes and skins were going to be offered for purchase. But that’s how live service games work, and it’s just scary to see it so open and blatant. The one takeaway is that, as of right now, and from what I could tell, it mainly seemed, if not all, purely cosmetic. My worry is that with how often they are putting you into menus that, if The First Descendant did offer weapons to purchase for money, it would be all too easy to agree to pay for it for the sole fact of not having to keep ducking in and out of your inventory screen.
There really could be something here, something really special. But, with a concentration on taking you out of the fun to micromanage your inventory, my hopes have been dashed. If they could find a way to dole out the loot more evenly or just clean up the interactions with the menuing, I would have a much better time because the core gameplay is fun as all get out. It feels like The First Descendant is trying to be a little bit of everything, where it needs to focus on one aspect of itself rather than spread itself thin.
Overall, I came away disappointed with my experience in The First Descendant. With overcrowded UI, constant inventory management, and dull characters, I’m unsure if I will return for the full release.