The Destiny franchise has seen its fair share of ups and downs over the years. The original had a less than ideal launch with a lack of content, problematic loot system, and disappointing set of expansions. It wasn’t until The Taken King that it felt like Bungie had a firm grasp of what they were working on. After a two-year run, it was time for the sequel.
Destiny 2 was meant to be the clean slate that learned from all the mistakes in the previous title, only for it to arguably have even worse ones. A lackluster campaign, a botched fixed perk system, and another set of expansions that would do more harm than good up until Forsaken. With a story that featured killing off a beloved character in the franchise, Bungie wanted to send a message that they were planning to shake things up.
Fast forward to 2021 and Destiny 2 is having its best year yet with a ton of systematic changes to the gameplay and the narrative team in its best form yet as it served up one gripping storyline after the other — a direct contrast to the usual criticism that although the lore has always been top class, it’s been buried under vague storytelling that disconnects more than it entices the player.
After a six-month-long season 15 due to a delay, Destiny 2: The Witch Queen is here. The much-anticipated expansion gives us the chance to finally square up against the franchise’s ultimate villain, Savathûn. Was the wait worth it? Given that this is definitively Bungie’s best work for an expansion in all of Destiny history, then yes. It most definitely is.
A Story Years in the Making
Destiny campaigns have always been a novelty more than an essential part of the experience. Players could easily blaze through missions with one hand tied behind their backs. The non-existent difficulty and depth made most of it a chore. There was no reason to replay any of it whatsoever.
The only real reason to go through any of them is to watch the cutscenes and listen in on tidbits of the story and lore to set up for future events — if the writers aren’t too busy trying to make their “best” vague-dark-souls-storytelling impression and hilariously failing with lines like “I don’t have time to explain why I don’t have time to explain.”
It was only a matter of time until the narrative team catches up with the first-class gameplay Destiny 2 has always had. I’m just going to straight-up say it, The Witch Queen’s campaign experience alone is worth the price of admission.
For the longest time, it felt like every single release was just meant to set up what’s to come. The next big bad, the next cataclysmic event, the next whatever it may be. Destiny 2 stories felt like an overcharged MCU without the satisfying payoffs to make up for all of it.
The previous expansion, Beyond Light was one of the biggest offenders of this. It was touted as one of the major key events in Destiny 2’s story. Guardians, who have predominantly used the Light as their main source of power will now be involving themselves with the darkness in the form of the stasis subclass. A perfect blueprint for an emotionally charged narrative that explores the blurring of lines between good and bad and how far can we take it for it to be acceptable? It ended up being another form of killing a set of forgettable lieutenants to eventually kill the forgettable boss while doing so in the same repetitive forgettable locations.
Destiny 2: The Witch Queen comes and addresses every single problem the community has had with these major expansions. An engaging story that is focused and complete in what it set out to do. Savathûn is finally here. The villain that was only heard of but never really seen. The Hive god of cunning. And her debut could not have been executed better.
The main campaign takes place in Savathun’s throne world. An environment that is rich with detail and haunting visuals. Bungie is taking advantage of the fact that this is a place that is completely foreign to the player. You are now on the main villain’s turf and you will never know what will be in the next corner. You are going up against a god that has spent years and years tricking and manipulating everyone she comes across with.
To make matters worse, the Hive now has the Light. The one thing that guardians have held so close to them thinking it was an incorruptible entity that was always fighting for the good side. You are going up against enemies that now have the same powers as you and in an environment that is completely alien.
A large part of the narrative has everyone scrambling for answers, not knowing what is going on, why is everything the way it is, and how to go about it. The sense of confusion and desperation is felt throughout the runtime and it added so much more to the experience that was always just a power creep run-through-everything-with-ease before. How do you beat someone that has always been one or two steps ahead before you even knew of her existence? The stakes are high and Bungie wastes no time in letting you know.
Every story mission felt like it had a purpose for being there. There was no filler, no taking you out of the action to farm something to progress, or no play this mandatory side activity. Every story beat had its moment to shine and boy did it do so.
The events of The Witch Queen do a set up right. The future of the franchise is flipped in over its head with an uncertainty that fascinates more than it frustrates. The story ties up as many loose ends as it can with a few twists and turns that I believe will catch some fans off guard. Bungie has a good narrative skeleton to build upon for the rest of the year with its seasonal content. As early as now, I can’t wait for the next major chapter in Lightfall come next year.
Redefining a Definitive Gameplay System
Destiny 2 houses some of the best first-person shooting gameplay in the industry. It’s impactful, addicting, and in-depth. The Witch Queen’s campaign features two modes — normal and legendary. I would be very disappointed if this wasn’t the norm moving forward for major expansions.
These are game-changing additions to the experience. Normal mode is no slouch. Enemies using the Light already forces a more decisive playstyle compared to the run-and-gun in previous expansions. Back then, enemies and the scenarios the players were placed in did not place a threat. The player was always above and beyond everything else. Now, either you play smart or get smacked.
The legendary mode makes an already great campaign experience even better. More enemies, more factors to deal with, more damage is taken, more enemy health to consider. It’s not as hard as endgame content, but it does require a more strategic approach. While a solo-legendary run is possible, going through the legendary campaign with a friend is one of the most fun I’ve had in the game in a long time.
Campaign missions feel almost like semi-dungeons with a few puzzles and interesting mechanics to spice things up in between the combat sequences. And last but most definitely not the least, bosses actually feel like final bosses this time. No spoilers, but that final one? Yea, that’s what I call a final boss for a major expansion.
Bungie incentivizes players going through a legendary run with double loot making it so much faster to reach the power level cap for the season — which is 1500. And once you reach the end of the legendary campaign, you will receive 1520 power level gear to make it even faster to set your character up for endgame content.
On top of all of this, the launch of The Witch Queen also features Void 3.0, a complete overhaul of the Void subclass similar to what was done with Stasis when it was first released back in Beyond Light.
The amount of utility, customization, flexibility, and build diversity Void 3.0 provides had me smiling all throughout. And I was just playing as a warlock for the most part, I still don’t have much experience with the hunter and titan changes but from what I’ve been seeing, it’s all thumbs up from the community. I never took off the Void subclass since launch and I don’t think I have plans of doing so anytime soon.
Bungie has already announced similar treatments will be done to both the Arc and Solar subclasses later down the year, if what we have now with Void is anything to show for, I’d say we have one heck of a year to look forward to.
Think that’s it? Bungie pulls another card out of their belt and introduces crafting in Destiny 2. It starts first with creating your first new weapon type, the glaive. A mix between a gun and a spear that packs a punch. Weapon crafting allows you to pick and choose what perks to use in a gun. Thankfully, this is not bogged down by tedious grinding for rare components that just slows the gameplay loop down to a crawl. The potential of this new system remains to be fully realized but as of now, it’s a fun little addition rather than an overbearing necessity, which I appreciate.
Exciting Times Ahead
I have barely scratched the surface of what The Witch Queen has to offer to players. New exotic missions, new dungeons to release later down in the year, new subclass changes, and a bunch of others that is still yet to be fully revealed.
The all-new raid, Vow of the Disciple is gearing up to be one of the best in the franchise with major lore implications that carry over straight from the conclusion of the main campaign.
The launch of the expansion also comes with Season of the Risen — the 16th season with another strong narrative about blurring the lines between friend and foe and how far can we take it to deem our methods necessary or morally acceptable. It’s in these types of nuanced discussions where Destiny 2 has slowly found its momentum starting from the excellent lineup of stories from 2021. This is yet another thing to look forward to in weekly resets to see where the story takes us.
What more can I say? I am now the most excited I’ve been for a year of Destiny 2 than any other time with the franchise. We’re now all in the wild west and I look forward to seeing what comes in the next few months.
Final Verdict – 9.5/10
If you are a fan of the franchise, I don’t see a reason why you wouldn’t get Destiny 2: The Witch Queen. It is a package that’s worth every cent from what I’ve seen so far and the fact that we know there are so much more to come, only solidifies its value proposition.
The story implications of the main campaign sets up a future for the Destiny franchise that almost everyone is unsure of what’s going to happen. Up until this point, we knew that we were going to have to face up against Savathun eventually. But moving forward, it’s all blind speculation and anticipating what’s to come. Similar to what the characters are feeling in the story, and that is what I call an effective story.
An amazing campaign, gameplay innovations, new loot to play around with, a crafting system to get lost in, a great new raid, and more content to come for the year. The Witch Queen is hitting a home run with no signs of slowing down.
There is a reason why Destiny 2 is one of the biggest action MMOs in the market today and Bungie is cementing that status further with the release of The Witch Queen.
This is a huge win for the developers who have been working on this alongside the delays and the complications of working from home. Joining in on their success, this is also a win for the community who has been anticipating this expansion for so long after the disappointing release of Beyond Light and coming off of a strong 2021.
The expectations were monumental, and Bungie did not disappoint whatsoever. Destiny 2: The Witch Queen receives a 9.5 just because I’m saving that .5 for what Bungie has in store for us in 2022. Eyes up Guardian, this is one to look out for.
This review was made with a Destiny 2: The Witch Queen review code for PS5 provided by the publisher.