With the number of games released every day steam, it’s easy to feel a sense of deja vu every time you look at the new releases page. Everyone has encountered their fair share of hentai abominations, cheap mobile ports, achievement farming games, and the never-ending barrage of asset flips – all seemingly in large quantities.
But that’s rare in the world of big-budget gaming, especially when it’s not a game that emulates a popular thing or copies certain looks/mechanics months or years later. No, this is about the fall of the White House and the fall of Olympus.
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And yet that’s exactly what’s happening on Steam right now. On September 8th, Tencent’s (Level Infinite) NExT Studios was released Synchronized, formerly known as Synced: Off Planet. This is a free-to-play sci-fi third-person co-op shooter set in a post-apocalyptic world where rogue machines have destroyed human civilization.
According to SteamDB, the game saw very modest player engagement, peaking at just 10,272 concurrent players. It currently receives a mixed review on Steam, based on nearly 2,500 player reviews.
So far it looks like another free-to-play game from Asia that can’t quite break through in the West. Nothing special.
But then you see this: The first descendant, whose open cross-play beta currently enjoys a good spot on Steam’s most played games list. At the time of writing, The First Descendant has over 77,591 concurrent players and that number continues to rise. It’s easy to imagine it ending up in the top 10 at the end of the day.
So what is it? Well, The First Descendant is a free-to-play sci-fi third-person co-op shooter set in a post-apocalyptic world. But instead of one in which rogue machines destroyed human civilization, you fight monsters to ensure the survival of what’s left of humanity after an alien attack.
The First Descendant is developed by Nexon (basically Korea’s Tencent). The beta is live until September 25th, but there is no release date for the full version. Even in these busy weeks for major video game releases, the game already has a sizable audience. Obviously, it remains to be seen whether all of these players can be brought back to start.
It’s hard to tell the two games apart, and similar to their film counterparts, only one of the two seems to run well. To be fair, however, there are differences between the two apparently exist. Synced has PvP combat, while The First Descendant is exclusively PvE (and four player compared to three player Synced). The First Descendant also runs on Unreal Engine 5 and prides itself on encounters with colossal monsters, but the gameplay in the two games is difficult to distinguish from moment to moment.
I previewed both Synced and The First Descendant, barely two months apart! They both felt really interchangeable. Neither was particularly exciting to play, as the only major mechanic in the latter was a (jerky) grappling hook.
Characters have abilities that are assigned to a hotbar. You shoot weapons that lack momentum, and when you shoot them, you shoot out enemies in large numbers. Unless you’re already familiar with both, you won’t be able to guess which is which – especially given the very generic titles.
And I can prove it! I’ll embed a few screenshots of the two games below. See if you can tell which is which – without consulting the respective Steam pages first.
The more choice there is, the better it is when it comes to games. If you need the “Rogue machines are destroying humanity” solution and not the “Fight aliens to prevent extinction” solution, you’re in good hands right now.
However, it’s fascinating to see that two similar games can resonate so much with players – especially when we’re in such a busy time with good results. Whether any of these games will survive for a few more years remains to be seen – service games have been dropping like flies of late.
In the short term, it’s safe to say that The First Descendant is being cleaned up, and it certainly helps that it’s the more interesting and better looking game. One to keep an eye on if nothing else.