Why I'm going to miss The Mountaintop: a defence of Destiny 2's controversial grenade launcher

The Mountaintop
(Image credit: Bungie)

Last night, having finally called time on my double-loot Nightfall marathon, I unequipped the Mountaintop and transferred it to my vault. With the release of Beyond Light, chances are I won't be using it for a long time, and then only for nostalgia. The Mountaintop was one of a number of 'Pinnacle' weapons which Bungie introduced to spice up Destiny 2's seasonal content model. Each of these weapons was designed to reward players for spending time grinding out laborious quests in (often unloved) playlists, the incentive being that they offered unique perks not found anywhere else in the game.

The problem with that idea was that several of the pinnacles were more potent than exotic weapons, but as legendaries didn't have the restriction that you could only equip one at a time. It also meant that they were often best-in-class in terms of their archetype and completely crowded out non-pinnacles, leaving precious little room for 'normal' legendaries. After all, why use a fusion rifle with a well-rolled set of perks when you could use Loaded Question, which unleashed a torrent of fizzing arc energy that blows through an entire wave of adds with one shot? And that wasn't even one of the problematic pinnacles.

Fighting Mountaintop users in the Crucible was a huge pain in the ass

The Mountaintop was the biggest offender of all. When it was unveiled, people weren't particularly excited about it, because breech-loaded grenade launchers were largely considered a joke or at least too finickity for all but the best players to use effectively. The Mountaintop lost its meme status as soon as players saw it in action. Rather than firing a looping, bouncy 'nade, the signature 'Micro Missile' perk meant its rounds travelled perfectly straight, very fast, and exploded on impact. In PvP it was a one-shot-kill to the body and, even if you missed, the splash damage enabled easy cleanup with whatever primary you swapped to.

Destiny 2 pinnacle weapons

(Image credit: Bungie)

The result was that fighting Mountaintop users in the Crucible was a huge pain in the ass because you were dead before you'd really had a chance to react—and with a mouse it's easy to aim Mountaintop cross-map. The 'sweaty' community of competitive PvPers soon decried the weapon as a no-skill crutch and that anyone using it deserved the bag. Mountaintop was the kind of gun that if you had it equipped in a Trials match, the opposition would often also put it on out of a sense of "oh, that's how it is?"

But if Mountaintop was a menace in PvP, it was even more of a powerhouse in PvE. In fact, according to Charlemagne, the stat-tracking Discord bot, Mountaintop is still the #1 Kinetic weapon used in PvE (whereas it's actually #3 for PvP). Obviously, the ability to do sudden, accurate burst damage from a long distance is attractive in both modes, but in PvE it's arguably even more important because major targets, particularly in Grandmaster difficulty content, have such large health pools and need to be neutralized asap or risk being overrun.

The Recluse

The Recluse

(Image credit: Bungie)

Another powerful pinnacle being sunset is The Recluse, which had a perk called Master of Arms, which once procced meant that all body shot damage received the same multiplier as crits. It was the best primary weapon the game has ever seen (and probably will ever). Despite being earned via the Competitive PvP playlist, The Recluse utterly dominated all PvE activities. Everyone used it for everything because it was like taking a heated chainsaw to a stick of butter. Even after The Recluse eventually ate a much-deserved nerf, a lot of players kept using it because their brains couldn't seem to compute it wasn't OP anymore. 

Mountaintop also benefits from being incredibly economical when it comes to ammo. It's simple to spec your character with Grenade Launcher Finder, Scavenger, and Special Ammo Finisher mods in order to never run out of shots. The result was that Mountaintop played a significant part in chasing whole other weapon archetypes out of the meta. Rocket Launchers, in particular, looked ridiculous in comparison, because Mountaintop could generate much the same damage, more efficiently, without using Power Ammo bricks. 

In fact, such was Mountaintop's efficacy, particularly when used in combination with Anarchy—a heavy Grenade Launcher that does damage-over-time—that it led to multiple auto-loading effects (eg Titan Barricade and Lunafaction Boots) being nerfed because they enabled wild DPS. Essentially you just sat in a Warlock's Well of Radiance, stuck a couple of Anarchy shots to the boss, then spammed Mountaintop as fast as you could click. Many melts ensued.

So, given how strong Mountaintop and several other of the pinnacles were, it's no surprise that Bungie gave up on trying to balance them. Instead, with Beyond Light the game is introducing a system that 'sunsets' all legendary weapons according to the season they were released. Starting today, the pinnacles will no longer be meta in endgame content because their power is now capped below the level required (thereby gimping their damage).

The Mountaintop, stowed.

(Image credit: Bungie)

Down to Earth

In Mountaintop's case, Bungie's sandbox team is so determined to stop the weapon from remaining a problem, particularly in non-power-enabled PvP playlists, that it's also having its splash damage and missile velocity nerfed. All of which is, I guess, entirely fair enough. No doubt pinnacles restricted the design space, and over time it was hard to envisage running a loadout that didn't use them. Last week, game director Luke Smith told me: "No other MMO on the planet lets you have shit for as long as we let you keep and use it… That’s a trap of our own making."

Phil's Take

Lord Shaxx, resplendent.

(Image credit: Bungie)

Yes, Mountaintop was a scourge in PvP. But honestly, in Crucible, there are bigger problems at play. I feel players put too much stock in the fiction of a perfectly tuned competitive experience when this is a game where you can use swords and emotes to peek around corners; where bullets are magically drawn towards your opponent's head; where you can turn into an invisible knife prick who can easily wipe the other team. In Crucible, Mountaintop wasn't really the problem, as much as the entire ecosystem that Mountaintop existed in. The scapegoat is being nerfed, but none of the deeper issues are going away.

For all that though, I will miss The Mountaintop, and many of the other pinnacles. I actually think the hatred towards it was overdone. Listen to the competitive PvP community long enough and you'll eventually believe that any weapon that isn't a hand cannon or snapshot sniper is bullshit. In every meta we've had, they lurch from complaining about one supposedly degenerate weapon to another. (Yes, I am still salty about Erentil getting balanced into obsolescence.) 

Was getting killed by Mountaintop kinda cheesy? For sure. But I honestly kinda liked the counterplay of trying to get airborne and avoid it. Another point I would make in its defence was that it was also one of very few weapons that could be used to outplay aimbotters, because it doles out its damage so fast. 

More than anything though, I liked that Mountaintop took an otherwise barely-used archetype and made it the most must-have weapon in the game. So much so that people paid hundreds of dollars for more-skilled players to do account recoveries to 'earn' the weapon for them, which is probably another big reason Bungie felt the pinnacles had to go.

Regardless, Destiny is at its best when the sandbox is surprising you, making you think about your loadout and encounters in different ways. In a game that's fundamentally about chasing loot, I mourn the death of the pinnacles. Fundamentally, they were cool. Each season I looked forward to what crazy new perk had been cooked up and how it could be incorporated into my build. Still, that loss should be compensate by our new cosmic ice subclasses. This hot take wake is over. Time to head to Europa. 

Tim Clark

With over two decades covering videogames, Tim has been there from the beginning. In his case, that meant playing Elite in 'co-op' on a BBC Micro (one player uses the movement keys, the other shoots) until his parents finally caved and bought an Amstrad CPC 6128. These days, when not steering the good ship PC Gamer, Tim spends his time complaining that all Priest mains in Hearthstone are degenerates and raiding in Destiny 2. He's almost certainly doing one of these right now.