Appreciating All the Little Details of Nessus in Destiny 2

A walk through Nessus... without all the murderous Vex.

Ever just stop and look at all the tiny details in a game? Someone had to put them there. Sure they may have been painted with brushes. Some of it may even be procedurally generated! But there’s so much minutia that most players don’t ever stop to appreciate — propelled forward by the action and guns and loot around them. Fortunately or unfortunately, I’ve been cursed with a huge appreciation for tiny details some might find unimportant. Whether it’s the way water flows, how clouds move, or the ground texture blending incredibly well together, I can’t help but stop and appreciate the finer details from time to time. Today, I’m applying that easily distracted eye to Destiny 2‘s Nessus and its environments.

In this series, I take some time to revisit the games I’ve played and try to capture some of those moments to share with you. Maybe you’ll discover things you overlooked, or just have a good time remembering some memories you have from the game. Either way, I have an excuse to go back and take a slower look at some of my favorite titles.

Destiny 2 Nessus Skybox

Bungie has to have some of the best skybox artists in the world. It’s really hard to name another game that consistently wows me with skyboxes as consistently as Destiny does. Nessus is no exception. I still remember loading into it for the first time after the Leviathan, flagship of the Cabal emperor, arrived. You could watch it break down the planetoid into wine for Calus — the ground tearing away, breaking apart into chunks, while the giant ship shredded the ground itself. Load back in today, however, and the Leviathan is once again gone, replaced by smaller ships in service of Empress Caiatl. The scene isn’t as striking as it once was. Though I’m still glad to take the time and stare for a while.

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A Guardian looks up at Caitl's ships floating in the atmosphere of Nessus. The ground is cracked and jagged, filled with clouds, ruined by Calus' planet eating ship.

I love how the clouds clouds intermingle with the jagged cliffs and cracked rock.

First person perspective of a Guardian overlooking a giant hole filled with clouds. The ground continues into the distance before dropping off.

I can’t imagine the challenge of trying to convey such vast distances while making sure everything still looks right.

Nighttime on Nessus is somehow even better than the day. Everything already striking and colorful turns to these cooler, soothing shades. I particularly love the way the ruined obelisk contrasts against both the ground and the sky.

First person view of a Guardian walking up a hill on Nessus at night. The ground is almost entirely black while the sky shines a bright blue. A white Vex tower is in the background.

A calm vista on an otherwise violent world.

First person. Guardian overlooked a Nessus overhang complete with lake, rock outcroppings, and Vex structures.

I can almost feel the moisture in the air here. Don’t ask me what’s up with those two rocks though.

Nessus Level Design & Textures

One of my favorite things about areas like Nessus, where the robotic Vex are prominent, is the sheer level of detail that goes into simple things like this hole in a wall. The ground, the sides, all of it could just be dirt or rock. Instead it’s this highly detailed, incredibly intricate metal machinery serving a purpose I don’t understand. Everything is full of jagged edges and other angular shapes. Because of this, even the most mundane nooks in a mountainside are interesting to explore and poke around. Not to mention how good all of it looks with some fantastic lighting.

The entrance to a tunnel through a Vex wall. Intricate metal machinery full of jagged edges and other angular shapes encroach on the hole. First person. A guardian overlooks a tall circular Vex structure. The outside looks worn down from time.

While it’s certainly a nightmare if you’re trying to glide through, all of these outcroppings are solid.

The screenshot below is literally just a hole in the ground meant to give Guardians a way forward to the next area. Yet I always want to stop and spend some more time here. The lighting and atmosphere make me want to just stop and sit for a while.

A hole is about 15 feet away. This circular room is lit with a green/gray light with far more detail than is necessary for what is a dead end.

A Guardian's shadow is cast on a nearby wall to the right. The ground path going left and right is flanked by intricate Vex walls.

Most of Nessus is green and blue, but this one single corner bathes everything in red.

A red light shines, casting aggressive lighting down the slope and towards the camera.

From this angle you can see how the red light falls onto the path leading downward.

Vex walls and materials line all but the floor here. Jagged, square shapes jut out adding an incredibly amount of detail to what is just a ceiling.

I don’t like spending time in this hallway which means missing the highly detailed ceiling.

Motes of bright yellow dust cascade from the ceiling. A cluster of six lights in the wall shine bright enough to cause a glare, bathing the entire underground scene.

The mood here is harder to convey with a screenshot, but the cascading motes of dust are mesmorizing.

Vex Portals

Most people who see a Vex portal just run at them full tilt, sprinting to the objectives on the other side as fast as possible. Have you ever stopped and just stared into one, though? There’s something deeply satisfying about the designs rotating and changing in a pattern while the dots behind them endlessly siphon towards the middle. It’s hypnotic. I could honestly stare at it all day. The VFX of these are honestly some of the most overlooked out there because us Guardians constantly forward and through, trying to reach our rewards as quickly as possible.

Even something as simple as Microphasic Datalattice, a basic planetary resource, is something we don’t think about anymore. But take a minute or so to just slow down and watch how they grow. How they change. See the minute beams of light move and change over time. In my mind, Datalattice was always just this bundle of floating squares, but it’s really an mini-spire of light or information.

A Vex portal stands contrasted against a completely black background. The subtle glow highlighting the machinery around it. A Vex portal stands contrasted against a completely black background. The subtle glow highlighting the machinery around it. The pattern has changed since the last screenshot. An up close look at Microphasic Datalattice with beams of light connecting the moving squares.

Vex Architecture

The buildings and constructions of the Vex are the most iconic in the entire Destiny franchise. Repetitive triangles, circles, and squares, towering geometric shapes are what makes Vex architecture what it is.

Concentric triangles mark an entrance into a Vex tower. The shapes reflect in the water of the pond just outside. Rocky outcrops decorate the area.

This screenshot is honestly something straight out of a concept art book. Your eyes are drawn to the center of the concentric triangles, but the details around are just as satisfying to look at.

Have you ever stopped to look up? Or heck, even just paused as you look over a precipice? There’s a ton to appreciate that is easily missed.

Looking up into a Vex mechanism which is made up of rotating concentric circles as it climbs higher and higher.

More concentric shapes as the circles lead higher and higher up the mechanism.

Ten floating triangles in a seemingly random shape are connected by beams of light with two triangles connecting to something out of frame. Another circular mechanism lies above it.

I’ve never fully understood the seemingly random triangles here, but they’re one of the few things not mirrored here.

A side view of the floating triangles reveals there are three different means connecting them to the walls. A larger center triangle stands in the center of the mechanism.

Another angle of the floating triangle structure.

A Guardian stands over the hole into the Well of Flame, foot visible.

I’ve jumped down this hole so many times, but never stopped to really look at it before now.

One of my favorite structures on Nessus is the towering rectangular spire that drips radiolarian fluid. It’s such a simple, yet perfect backdrop that makes me want to explore the planet even more.

A view from one of the Nessus spawn points complete with the Vex "milk" waterfall, the crumbles Vex tower, and another Vex structure in the distance.

If someone asked me what Nessus was like, I’d show them this screenshot.

A square Vex monolith with and overhang which has exposed machinery rather than white rock. A light shines from within and fluid falls out. Red moss circles the top.

This Vex monolith was one of the first structures in Destiny 2 which really made me stop and think about the scale of everything.

The smaller Vex waterfall near the spawn point on Nessus. A bright blue light shines from a broken circle on the wall.

You’ve probably sped past this little Vex waterfall a million times without really looking at it. Have you ever stopped and listened to how loud it is?

A ruined Vex tower stands at an angle across a lake of Radiolarian Fluid. Trees just out into the sky, shrouded in darkness at night.

Another angle of that Vex tower across the river of Radiolarian Fluid. The trees are such a great contrast to everything.

A blinding red and orange light shines from within a circle on a wall on Nessus causing a glare. Lots of nooks and crannies surround it.

It really can’t be overstated how gorgeous Vex walls are.

Nessus Flora

Out of all the planets in Destiny 2, it’s strange to admit that one destination which is almost entirely mechanical somehow also has the most striking flora. Giant, winding tree branches contrasted by the blood red leaves and moss makes for an incredible visual against the green or blue backdrop of the sky.

A larger than life tree dominates the left side of the screen as green god rays shine from above. Red grass and red moss decorate the ground and tree.

Another area most player speed through. The red is so aggressive but also somehow beautiful.

From a ledge we see another tree and its branches. Bright blood red leaves decorate the canopy.

It is wild just how blood red the tree canopies can get.

From underneath the tree we see a mossy red rock, and dark red, verging on black leaves above in the canopy.

Underneath all of that it’s much darker and less aggressive.

Green light shines down into a valley of sorts, decorated with a plethora of smaller trees and branches.

Elsewhere you can find less dense flora where it appears to be just growing in.

Lots of smaller flora sways in the breeze with a giant tree on an overhang in the background. Its roots have grown through the rock and hang in the air.

Even the tiny bushes and brush are great to look at, though the tree in the background doesn’t exactly look great when the game is in motion.

I leave you this week with a couple of shots which don’t really belong anywhere. The shores of the Nessus radiolarian waterfall don’t look all that impressive from up close, but from afar you can see what Bungie has accomplished. The waterfront comes across as mossy and green in color. Almost like a marsh. It’s something I never noticed until I started taking screenshots for this piece.

The waterfront of the Vex river viewed from above at a distance. It's mossy and green in color, almost like a marsh.

Despite spawning nearby countless times and looking at the remnants of Failsafe’s ship, I always forget there’s a whole spaceship attached to the hull still. A cool detail that’s easily overlooked.

The crashed remains of Failsafe's ship bathed in green god rays, a spaceship still attached by three arms towards the back.