I’ve had to come to terms with a lot in my roughly 25 hours with Rage 2, id Software and Avalanche’s new open world shooter. There’s the barely-existing story, the eerily empty roadways, the core abilities so well-hidden in the world that you may never unlock them, but hey, this is a game about turning people into goo.
But in my hours clearing roadblocks of wasteland raiders, there’s one obstacle I haven’t been able to get over: Rage 2’s fall damage.
In Rage 2, the protagonist dons ultra-powerful armor that lets you fly up into the air and come down on enemies with enough force to liquify them. And yet, my character has died numerous times from falling down a slope that was just a little too steep, or from dismounting my low-flying personal quadcopter without first touching down. It sucks.
In a game that seems to be defined by its… well, let’s call it minimalism... the inclusion of fall damage is a baffling and frustrating choice. It’s not ever-present, but it is poorly handled in part due to the design of the game’s main story. There is an upgrade that mitigates fall damage, but it’s locked behind the upgrade tree tied to a particular character who lives way out in the boonies. After 25 hours of clearing out an endless series of objective markers around important local NPCs, I still have not deigned to travel all the way across the world to meet this character, although I eventually will to complete the game.
This was clearly a mistake on my part, and Rage 2 apparently wants players to criss-cross the entire map at the very start of the game to meet particular NPCs and get upgrade trees started. I have never in my life played an open world game in this fashion. And so, I’ve been stuck with fall damage. I’m an overpowered, god-like warrior stalking the wasteland, killing scores of powerful enemies, but if I fall from a height of, like, 10 feet I die.
Fall damage, in general, is a terrible idea that has never been fun, ever. Recently, the once-common mechanic has been conspicuously absent from some of the most popular and well-reviewed games. For example, the popular online shooter Apex Legends doesn’t punish the player for falling or jumping, and neither did 2018’s Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. Players can expect to die, a lot, in FromSoftware’s recent Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, but never from slipping off the edge of a shingled roof. (Fall damage is present in Sekiro, but it’s minimal enough that it’s pretty much impossible to die from it.)
Rage 2’s core component—clearing outposts—is fun, because it feels a lot like id Software’s excellent 2016 reboot of Doom. In my mind, that part of the game is probably more fun than a lot of the recent competition in the open-world-outpost-clearing genre. But the rest of Rage 2 is damn rough—including its insensitive portrayal of a common birth defect—and full of utterly baffling choices that undercut the experience, like fall damage.