Nexon doesn’t want The First Descendant to be just another looter shooter — it wants it to be the next looter shooter. Revealed at Gamescom last month, this futuristic sci-fi action game dazzles with fast combat, massive bosses, and a cast of characters that each pack a punch of unique abilities. It’s a free-to-play game with sharp hooks that refuses to be associated with any of the cash-grabs looking to make a quick buck. And in an interview with The Escapist, Producer Lee Beom-jun says that The First Descendant was made to be one thing above all else: entertaining. We spoke with the producer to find out more about Nexon’s third-person shooter, how it compares to other similar games, how it will be monetized, and more.
The Escapist: Who are you, and what is your role regarding development on The First Descendant?
Lee Beom-jun: Hello, I am Lee Beom-jun, the producer of The First Descendant and the head of Magnum Studio in Nexon Games.
How did the idea for this game first come about?
Lee Beom-jun: It all began with the goal of creating a global online RPG PC game. When this project was first brought up, the Korean game development industry was highly focused on mobile games. Thus, not many companies were up for the challenge of creating a new PC online RPG.
In the process, I came to propose the development of a looter shooter, a genre that I have always been interested in. I believed that the looter shooter genre with shooting and RPG combined still has a lot of potential and that it was a genre worth challenging.
When I saw The First Descendant’s Gamescom trailer, I couldn’t shake how much it reminded me of Digital Extremes’ Warframe. This already has me excited, so could you talk about what projects influenced the game’s development and how they impacted the team?
Lee Beom-jun: As you all know, it’s our first time creating a looter shooter. Nevertheless, we are all in love with this genre. We think that Warframe is a great game along with the Destiny series, the Division series, Outriders, Anthem, Borderlands, Halo, etc. Thus, we studied and worked hard to develop our game to stand proudly alongside these prominent titles. As a result, it seems that their various aspects have influenced us. I think it’s an honor to be compared to these titles. Of course, we put a lot of effort into creating our unique content, such as the co-op content — the huge boss raids!
How did Unreal Engine 5 allow the team to better execute its vision for The First Descendant?
Lee Beom-jun: We started developing The First Descendant with the latest version of Unreal Engine 4. Unreal Engine 5 was released during our development, and our dev team became highly interested in its visual quality. Although I was a bit concerned since the development had already progressed a lot at this point, I decided to boldly upgrade our game to Unreal Engine 5 for the best visual quality.
The main reason for the upgrade is the Nanite and Lumen of Unreal Engine 5. In particular, we believe that the lighting quality provided by Luman, a real-time global illumination solution, is essential for next-gen projects. Now, everyone on the team is delighted with the results.
Could you explain The First Descendant’s core gameplay loop?
Lee Beom-jun: First, the most significant part of our core loop is character acquisition, as players must be able to use various characters to take on multiple missions and co-op content like raids. Therefore, players must collect and produce the necessary resources to acquire different characters while playing. You also have to earn weapons and diverse gear to make easier progress or take on more challenging missions. Players will need miscellaneous gear to create various strategies.
You have talked about and given us some glimpses of the huge bosses, but can you talk about what it will be like to fight them compared to regular enemy encounters?
Lee Beom-jun: The typical field PvE does not require co-op, but co-op is necessary to take down the huge boss monster in raids. It is designed so that four players must form a team for a boss battle in a space dedicated to huge boss monster raids. There are several species of huge bosses, and we divided the raid into two difficulties: normal and hard for the co-op level to vary. You will be able to experience these different co-op levels during the beta test.
Additionally, I saw that these bosses have “gimmicks,” so could you give us some examples of those gimmicks and how they shake up gameplay?
Lee Beom-jun: Bosses have certain “parts.” You can either shoot and destroy those specific parts or cling and rip them off with a grappling hook (as shown in the trailer). You can use this to target the boss and earn additional rewards effectively.
In addition to the common gimmicks, such as the destruction and extraction of the boss’s body parts, there are specific unique gimmicks and combat methods for each boss. I suggest you check this out in the upcoming beta test, as it’ll be a lot of fun to figure out a strategy by experiencing it yourself. Simply put, there are intuitive bosses consisting of only simple gimmicks, and there are bosses with complex secret gimmicks requiring a higher level of co-op play. I recommend that you experience it for yourself.
I love that The First Descendant allows you to group up with friends. That said, is this still a game that solo players can enjoy? I’m curious to see how the single-player experience is different from the multiplayer experience.
Lee Beom-jun: The gameplay consists of field missions, and we designed it so you can enjoy this via single play. A “private mode” option allows players to enjoy the game alone without encountering other players. Through this mode, all the players will have sufficient resources for growth. You can also select the “public mode” to play with other users and enjoy co-op.
However, we kept the co-op gameplay in mind when designing the huge boss raids and some of the missions from the beginning. In particular, huge boss raids require a high level of cooperation because each boss has a different gimmick that requires a different strategy. Players must study the optimal characters and gear settings to clear the missions with a high level of co-op gameplay.
How does The First Descendant handle difficulty? Are there difficulty options?
Lee Beom-jun: There are no difficulty options for basic missions. However, we will provide different difficulty options for some co-op content, such as boss raids. Through the difficulty options, we would like to present the users with the fun of forming strategies to clear much more difficult levels.
The First Descendant will be free to play, so can you talk about how the game will be monetized? I’m interested in what players will be able to purchase not just at launch but in the future, too.
Lee Beom-jun: I believe that many players are curious and concerned about this. Since we have been running on the same track direction since the beginning of development, we were surprised to see that after our game reveals, many players were concerned about the excessive P2W aspects of Nexon’s games.
Ultimately, we aspire not to pursue excessive P2W aspects. The monetization model will also not deviate significantly from games of the same genre.
Paid products will indeed exist, but the characters, equipment, and stages that are needed for gameplay and progress in the game can be earned through gameplay.
You recently announced beta test dates (congrats!). Can you talk more about what players will be able to do and access during the beta? Will their progress in the beta carry over to the final game?
Lee Beom-jun: Thank you! Players can experience some aspects of what the final game will be like during the beta test. Although it is only a portion of what the final game has to offer, diverse factors and content will be prepared for the beta. So, there is no need to worry about the shortage of content to experience. Players can choose various characters to enjoy and progress in the story and participate in missions and raids requiring co-op. Raids will also be open with multiple difficulty options and various bosses.
Unfortunately, the progress in the beta will not carry over to the final game since we will be improving the game a lot based on the feedback we will get from the beta test. Instead, we are reviewing ways to offer perks to those that will be joining our beta.
The First Descendant is still without a release window, but can we expect the PC version and console versions to all launch on the same day?
Lee Beom-jun: That’s right. Our goal is to launch our game simultaneously on all the platforms that were revealed in the trailer. (Steam, XBO, XSX, PS4, PS5)
In addition, we have ambitious goals to support cross-play and cross-progression. The goal through this is to ensure that your progress is shared no matter which platform or device you play.
Is there anything else you’d like to add about The First Descendant or Nexon?
Lee Beom-jun: I was surprised that many were concerned about the monetization model of Nexon when our trailer was revealed. I am aware that our target players and the direction our game strives to go for are different from those of Asian games, including Korea. Thus, I would like to [emphasize] that our most significant goal is to create an entertaining game and not to force payment from our players.
The First Descendant will eventually release for PC via Steam, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X | S. A PC beta test will begin October 20 and runs until October 26.
This interview about The First Descendant has been edited for clarity.