What if Korean-based Nexon made Destiny, played a lot of Anthem, but had Warframe on the brain? You’d get The Last Descendant.
I heard that the game — which I had never heard of prior to hearing about it — was having an open crossplay beta starting today, and after watching some light videos on it, I decided I might as well download it and give it a shot. I liked Destiny and Destiny 2 (I’ll let you mentally add the rest here, GenX), and am kind of cool on the Warframe gameplay, but I really like that game’s particular aesthetic despite the fact that it kind of creeps me out — or maybe because of it. Thing is, Destiny kind of rankled me for a few reasons, like it being only three players instead of four (I could play with friends if it allowed for four, but it being only three, it was always odd-man-out), and the fact that I could never figure out where in the story I was, or where I needed to be which I’m sure is really just a me problem and not a problem with the game. Of course, I am one of ten people worldwide who really enjoyed Anthem, and although I was hoping The Last Descendant would be more like Anthem than Destiny, it still seems like a decent addition to the looter-shooter genre for folks who want “more of the almost-damn-near-exact same”.
The game starts off with exposition, which tells a story of how inter-dimensional aliens called — get this — the Vulgus, swung by and started kicking the crap out of humanity until we got some high-octane DNA infusions from The Ancestors that let us stand our ground as The Descendants — hence the title. This is really just a setup for A) why we’re doing what we’re doing, B) how we are doing what we’re doing, C) the hordes of Halo-Grunt-esque cannon fodder we’ll be facing in random world locations, story, and ad-hoc missions, and D) because it seems to be the kind of thing Eastern developers really go for, you know?
You get to pick from one of three Descendant “classes” — the light-support, the DPS, and the tank, which is totally in Anthem’s wheelhouse — to start. Eventually, through gameplay, you will unlock the ability to hot-swap to what appears to be 11 standard and two “ultimate” characters, probably in the home city.
You only get to choose the character, but later you’ll be able to customize the look of your avatar. For now, each class has their own set of super skills. Viessa, the light-support, uses ice-based skills, so she can fire ice shards, freeze a group with an AoE, and skate around like Iceman, freezing any enemies who cross her trail. These powers use up MP, which can be replenished by collecting drops from dead enemies.
There’s a tutorial mission which has you escorting “Bunny”, a traditionally chirpy young woman whose armor cleaves to close to the joke for any kind of subtlety, to find a Heart, one of the Ancestor’s devices that could end the war with the Vulgus . Here you learn how to move, shoot, sprint, use your freakin’ grappling hook hell yeah, and eventually, your souped-up DNA’s superpowers. You meet the series Big Bad, and end the scenario by fighting a big-but-conveniently-underpowered boss monster. Then it’s off the Last Bastion Tower of Humanity or something like that, Albion.
This is where Destiny fans will either fist-pump or roll their eyes and start screaming on Reddit about the death of originality. Moving around Albion is very much the same as running around the Tower, or that place you hang out in Destiny 2, or whatever the city was called in Anthem. There are important NPCs to talk to for mail, weaponsmithing, faction stuff, PvP (I’m sure), banking, and the whole nine yards. You can see them on the map. You can see other players in your zone moving around as well, if that’s your jam.
Right out of the gate you get your first mission, which is to open the world map and travel to Kingston, another zone to continue the thread of the story. At this point, the Destinying intensifies. After chatting up a local NPC who tells you where to go, you are free to roam around the zone on your way to your
busywork main mission. Here and there you’ll run into beacons which offer missions.
I like they way Nexon handles these side jobs. They provide an estimated play time, the level of critters you’ll be dealing with, and the rewards you’ll get, including gear and other loot-currency. I ran two of these things which were basically just “mow down the enemies and progress through a subset of the map” kind of thing. Part of one mission even saw enemy transports swoop in and drop off reinforcements. The landscape is very well done, and I can tell it’s designed to encourage the use of the grappling hook, although I had no issue fighting off enemies and taking screenshots, so maybe strategy if a bit overkill at this stage of the game.
One aspect of some Eastern projects that I kind of like is the optional “after-mission summary screen”. I didn’t notice it being available the first time I completed a beacon mission, but the second time I checked it out and it told me exactly how long I had spent on the mission, my personal and individual weapon mastery XP earned, damage and kill-counts, and the items I found. Anthem did something similar to this, and I think it really helps track progress and alert players to any loot they might have missed (since the pickup chiron is really small and vanishes really fast).
Mind you, I may sound sarcastic about how close The Last Descendant is to Destiny or Halo or Warframe, but I don’t personally consider that a bad thing. No game is perfect, and while armchair developers have no end of “helpful” suggestions on how to improve, when other game developers get the bug and can actually do something about it, I think there’s value in that. It’s not Destiny: it doesn’t have the exact same story, doesn’t have the same characters, and has a decidedly Eastern aesthetic, so some people who lurve Destiny and consider also-rans as blasphemers certainly won’t be happy someone’s playing in their sandbox, but the gameplay loops are comfortable and familiar, and all else being equal, if you like those aspects in other games then this game should feel really good. The only thing I cannot speak to is how deep any parity will run between The Last Descendant and other similar games. For example, I don’t know how the gunfighting gameplay compares, which seems to be the number one concern people raise when comparing X to Y. Personally, I think it feels good, but FPS is not my primary genre so I’m way more forgiving than others might be. As always, YMMV.
We get three weapons, and any slot can take any weapon from what I can tell, meaning there’s no “sidearm”, “main”, or “special” slots. Grenades are apparently specific to the DPS character, as I didn’t have any. We also get a special “mixture reactor” which is a piece of gear which helps us improve our abilities. These reactors are ability-specific, but we can slot any reactor; the key is to find one that compliments your current character’s abilities for the biggest bang for the buck.
There’s apparently also the option to improve our existing weapons. Enhancements are lootable items which we can slot in specific firearms. Each weapon has a capacity, and each enhancement has a cost. As we level up weapons (or ourselves), this capacity increases which leads to the assumption that in later stages we’ll find enhancements that increase in benefit and commensurate cost.
As of right now I don’t think there’s a cash shop (though it’s Nexon, so…), but I did see the screen where character and weapon skins, emotes, “teleporter” FX, and a few other cosmetic items could be managed. I believe that all of these are unlocked through normal game play by collecting parts and taking them to someone in Albion, but I didn’t spend much time with that screen since I couldn’t do anything with it at this stage of the game. Right now, though, if you log in every day, you will get some freebies in the form of what I assume to be some kind of currency, and a color chip. In one video I watched, I saw how fine-grained the customization system is, allowing for some very specific armor pieces to be painted individually — again, shades of Anthem — so these paint chips will probably be used for that.
I have only played a light about of The Last Descendant — a mere 1 hour according to Steam, most of which was tutorial content — but I’m pretty pleased with what I’ve seen so far. I know this is a beta event designed to test crossplay (Steam, Xbox, PS, and I saw people from every platform in Albion) and is not early access and it certainly isn’t a release candidate. The game ran pretty well, with just a few hiccups, so I think it’ll be a very good release, assuming their servers can handle capacity from across three platforms. That they are launching on all three major platforms is awesome, though. I remember the days when some said this kind of thing was “impossible”. Oh how far we’ve come (since we could have come this far earlier but the Suits were just being dicks).
I loved Anthem and Halo, enjoyed Destiny well enough, and played a while in Warframe, so I think The Last Descendant has a lot for me to like. I think anyone who has played Destiny and has an open mind should kick the tires at some point, if for no other reason to provide a much better comparison than I am able to give. I’m sure it doesn’t break any molds, so I wouldn’t assume it’s going to “fix” anything that anyone perceived as “wrong” or “broken” with other looter-shooters, but hopefully it learns lessons from it’s Ancestors on what to improve on, what to keep the same, in order to become a worthy Descendant.