Destiny 2: The Witch Queen review – Bungie puts Destiny back on track
Destiny 2’s Witch Queen expansion might be its best yet and sets a high bar for its successors while leaving the franchise’s narrative in an exciting place. Here’s our full Destiny 2: The Witch Queen review.
The best expansions in Destiny’s history have revolved around story moments that are grand in scale but somehow still feel personal. The battle against the Taken King in Destiny 1 was wrapped up in a familiar tale of revenge after we’d killed Oryx’s son, while Forsaken represented Destiny 2’s zenith with our own tale of vengeance after the death of Cayde-6.
The Witch Queen continues that form, spinning a tale with galaxy-ending ramifications with an antagonist that’s every bit as close to our Guardian as the Vanguard has ever been. Make no mistake, we’re looting and shooting, but Savathun is the real focus here and The Witch Queen is all the better for it.
Destiny 2 Witch Queen – Key details
- Price: $39.99 (USD) | £34.99 (GBP)
- Developer: Bungie
- Release date: February 22, 2022
- Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X
Destiny 2 Witch Queen trailer
Throne to the Wolves
After the short but sweet Season of the Lost epilogue, Destiny 2’s latest expansion sees Savathun emerging from hiding, seemingly weakened by her run-in with the Vanguard and her hasty escape from her exorcism. As you’d expect from the Hive god of cunning, she’s not quite playing fair, and has returned imbued with the Light.
A big part of what makes Savathun such an integral part of the Witch Queen is that she’s almost always involved in every step of its journey. While Ghaul, Aramis, and the Barons always felt like eventual boss battle fodder that you could ignore for much of their respective campaigns, Savathun is always in focus — either when exploring her Throne World (which is essentially a physical manifestation of her psyche) or when she makes her presence known throughout.
We could wax lyrical about the narrative implications of The Witch Queen for thousands of words, but it’s easily the most compelling story Destiny has told since 2014. That may sound like a low bar for many that remember the “no time to explain” memes, but if you’ve been enjoying the excellent seasonal storylines over the last couple of years then you’re in for a treat. Bungie doesn’t bend over backward to explain things but does set them up fairly well for newcomers. Still, those who have been paying attention will certainly be rewarded for it.
We were constantly surprised by new developments, and for every question answered a new one emerged. And yet, things wrap up in a satisfying way that heralds a really exciting new era for Destiny.
The Throne World is a highlight, too. Its swampy outskirts and cavernous network of tunnels surround an eerily pristine fortress carved from the Light. It bends to Savathun’s whims, and it’s the first destination since The Taken King’s Dreadnought that feels teeming with life and chock full of secrets to discover in the coming weeks.
After Europa’s snowy plains and our return to the Moon in Shadowkeep, the Throne World is a breath of fresh air, aided by a new Deepsight ability that allows for creating platforms out of thin air. It calls back memories of first stepping foot on the Cosmodrome, where for every easily slain group of rank and file enemies there’s a Hive Knight waiting to cut you through with Light abilities of its own.
Not to be taken lightly
Light abilities, you say? That’s right: Savathun has passed on her Light to enemies throughout the campaign, meaning every now and again an enemy will power up and start throwing Void, Arc, and Solar abilities around just as you’ve been doing for the last 8 years. It’s not used too often, at least on the standard campaign difficulty, but it’s an addition that prioritizes smart decisions about when and where to use your heavy weapons and abilities.
Speaking of prioritizing targets, some Hive will now carry a sort of moth with them that will flee once they take damage, locking onto another enemy to buff them instead. It’s a small change but makes battles feel much more dynamic, with split-second decisions required about whether to kill the moth, or the next target. There’s a “push and pull” to combat now, and with Hive Guardians needing to be put down with a Ghost-crushing finisher, there’s a lot going on.
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That likely wouldn’t matter if the campaign had shaken out the way others in the franchise’s history had, with lengthy resource and bounty grinds getting in the way of the best bits. Thankfully, there’s none of that here — some side quests task you with seeking items out or ticking off bounties, but this campaign is all killer, no filler.
We’re remiss to spoil the finer points of the mechanics, but Bungie makes full use of Savathun’s bizarre Throne World to make all feel as though it’s not as it seems. Expect unique twists in each mission, with every set piece bigger than the last. Each mission is now divided into a series of encounters, more akin to a Raid or Dungeon, meaning rewards drop regularly from chests. For a franchise that used to be all about the grind, Destiny 2’s Witch Queen expansion just keeps on giving.
Then there’s the Legendary Campaign, a solid test for solo and team players alike, with better rewards earned after each encounter. It scales, too, offering up more challenge for full Fireteams, while still providing plenty of challenge for duos. This feels like Destiny for the Halo fans, and that makes it feel much less like an on-ramp for endgame content and more like time well spent.
PvE players will also be pleased to know that there are two new Strikes to be added to the playlist, too.
New tools for the job
Beyond Light introduced Stasis as a new wieldable element for all three classes, and while Witch Queen doesn’t add any fresh damage types, it does pack its own new toybox.
Of the new weapons, the Glaive stands head and shoulders above the rest. A melee weapon in first-person sounds a strange decision, but with combo attacks, a deployable shield, and a ranged attack that feels right at home in Bungie’s sandbox, we couldn’t get enough of it.
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It’s also the first weapon in the expansion you’ll craft using the new weapon crafting system. The full range of custom builds on offer here are unlikely to be established anytime soon, with a huge number of variables based on perks, intrinsic abilities, and leveling weapons through usage. It rewards constant rotation of your arsenal, pulling materials from weapons you’ve spent time with and plowing them into new creations or reshaping current ones to build your own tailor-made arsenal.
Finally, there’s Void 3.0 (which isn’t restricted to those that purchase the expansion). If you were left a little cold by Stasis (get it?), the Void overhaul allows for excellent build crafting. Reworking new buffs and debuffs can make for a wide range of offensive options, between invisible Guardians to vampiric ones, while setting up a chain of enemies for a Void explosion like popcorn never gets old.
After a strong couple of years, Destiny 2 has hit a new high in The Witch Queen. It’s undeniably the best expansion for the MMO shooter yet, with narrative payoffs both surprising and earned, a fantastic campaign, and fun new gear to chase and build.
Destiny 2 Year 5 is off to an excellent start, and the future has never been brighter for the franchise.
Reviewed on PlayStation 5, with time spent on PC
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