Developer Update #3 – The Reactor Core

Today we’ll have a look at the final part of any level – the reactor core battle! But first, let’s have a look at some of the overall improvements made this week.

Randomized pickups

Pickups are one-time consumables spread out in a level that give the player various bonuses, such as restoring health, armor or ammo, giving extra XP, temporarily increasing damage or speed, and so on. Rather than being static per level, pickups now randomize – with a table that makes sure more powerful pickups are less likely to appear. This makes each playthrough different and adds to variety when going through the same level multiple times.

On the Veteran difficulty level, which is aimed at making the game less based on luck and more old-school in nature for those who prefer that kind of experience, all pickup randomization is disabled (with the exception of pickup spawners, detailed below).

The game has 3 difficulty levels: Normal, Elite, and Veteran. Normal is the baseline experience while Elite makes combat more challenging and increases the punishment for dying. Veteran is more of an alternate version of Elite, which removes almost all randomization elements as well as the leveling system – it is an optional side mode which aims to make the game play closer to old-school FPS games.

The Pickup Spawner in action.

The Reactor Core Battle

The final objective of any level is to destroy its reactor core. The route there as well as the core chamber layout varies greatly from level to level, but nonetheless the overall goal remains the same. The core has 3 modes:

  • Dormant. The initial state – the player can freely enter the chamber and damage the core. Any spawners are inactive and the core turret cannot fire.
  • Lockdown. As soon as the core takes damage, it enters lockdown – the outer blast doors close so that the player cannot leave (and if the player dies they now respawn inside the chamber), the core deploys defensive shields and activates the turret, and any spawners are now enabled.
  • Meltdown. Once the core is destroyed, it goes into meltdown – all defenses are inactive and the blast doors are once again open, but the player only has a limited time to escape and find the emergency exit before the core explodes.

Below is an example of a smaller core chamber, and descriptions of everything it contains:

Blast doors

These exist at the entrance of the chamber and close as soon as the core enters lockdown – preventing the player from leaving until the core is destroyed.

Blast shield

This is positioned between the blast doors and core and block all projectiles. Its purpose is to make sure the player has entered the chamber before the core can take damage, so that they cannot run out as soon as lockdown begins.


This needs to be destroyed to progress, and is vulnerable as the player enters the chamber.

Core shields

These are initially inactive, but as soon as the core takes damage they deploy around it to protect it. They can be damaged and destroyed with player fire, and are segmented so that the player has to choose which area to take down first.

Core turret

This is also inactive until the core takes damage, but once started rotates around the core and fires at the player. The turret is invulnerable and unlike the player, it can fire straight through the core shields.


These cylindrical objects usually surround the core and provides the player with strategic cover. As the core takes damage, these gradually lower into the ground, until there eventually is no cover remaining.

Pickup spawners

To prevent the player from running out of ammo and to encourage moving around, ammo and other pickups randomly appear through pickup spawners around the chamber. Only half of the spawners can have a pickup simultaneously, so the player will need to be mobile and keep running between the spawners.

Enemy spawners

These spawners gradually create new enemies during lockdown, though only one at a time per spawner. Only the first spawned enemy provide the player with XP and score. They are not necessarily present in all chambers.

The Meltdown

Each level has an emergency exit – its location varies entirely depending on the level. Before the core has been destroyed the exit is locked down, but once the core enters meltdown the player needs to locate the exit (if they haven’t already) and enter it before a countdown timer runs out. If playing on the Normal difficulty level, you still proceed to the next level if you fail, although losing out on a large XP bonus and losing much of your equipment. On the Elite difficulty and above, the player loses a life and restarts the level – so successfully locating the exit before destroying the core is highly recommended!

As a side note, if you want a better explanation of how the player survives even if failing to escape the meltdown in time (aside from “That’s how Descent did it!”), it is covered in the storyline and will make a lot of sense!

Next time

There will be a one-week hiatus of developer updates – the next update will be on August 11th, focusing on laying out a detailed roadmap of the work to come and target release period.