Reviewed on PC via Steam. Code provided by Bungie.
In the months leading up to release, Bungie let fans know that Destiny 2: The Witch Queen was going to have a “definitively Destiny campaign”, introducing a new selectable difficulty, new enemies, a new weapon type, and resolution to story questions originally posed to players dating as far back as Destiny’s original release in 2014. While I found myself excited for the new expansion, I was worried that we might face another Shadowkeep or Beyond Light experience: One that, while still fun as Destiny always is, would leave me wanting more in almost every way. Destiny 2: The Witch Queen not only met my lofty expectations, but surpassed them in ways I thought Bungie would never be able to again after 2018’s Forsaken expansion. I can confidently say that The Witch Queen lives up to the hype.
Return to Form
A character driven story with more plot twists than an M. Night Shyamalan film, new Light-bearing enemies in the Lucent Hive, and a campaign that brings the same challenge usually found in endgame content, all wrapped up with a gorgeous bow that is the new Raid which rivals the best of the genre. Destiny 2: The Witch Queen brings plenty to the table that the more recent expansions, while still serving up the same unmatched, trademarked Bungie feel, weren’t able to quite deliver on. The new Campaign has a cohesive story that not only pays off those long established story threads, but fleshes out Savathûn to be more than just the Sister to the Taken King, Oryx. She’s wrought with her own desires and literally goes to the ends of the earth to accomplish them. In her way, of course, is our Guardian, ready to stand and fight for the Light and the remnants of Humanity and while it’s clear that the Witch Queen must be stopped by any means necessary, that means that we once again find ourselves toeing the line between Light and Dark and what the proverbial powers at be really are, and who might be in control of them.
More than just a well told story, Bungie has reintroduced a new harder difficulty with their Legendary Campaign they call Become Legend. I thought this would be little more than a few Nightfall modifiers slapped atop the same two or three campaign missions interspersed between 5 or 6 Adventures, Destiny 2’s replayable short missions that culminate in boss battles. You know, the typical Expansion formula we’ve seen since 2018. Instead, we’re treated a campaign that draws real inspiration from the likes of Titanfall 2, Halo, and Doom. The 8 campaign missions with an additional 7 Quest steps intertwined between them take us through Savathûn’s Throne World and into the depths of the Pyramid Ship on Europa.
All told, by the time I’d finished my first solo run of the Legendary Campaign, I’d spent just over 10 mind-blowing hours with it and I was stunned. After solving the pseudo-detective case and being left with a satisfying, yet gnawing cliffhanger, I couldn’t wait to continue on knowing that Lightfall and The Final Shape are just around the corner. It’s more difficult than ever to put down the sticks and just wait around for what’s to come.
Old Foes and New Toys
While exploring the mysterious new Throne World, players will encounter strange secrets, hidden pathways, and most importantly, the Lucent Hive: new enemies that have the same Light powers as the Guardians we enbody. These new Lightbearers will use Supers, grenades, and even resurrect themselves if you can’t find your way to their Ghosts and crush them quickly enough, adding yet another layer of moral quandary to the player’s already stacked plate. If we can allow ourselves to destroy the very things that give us our powers, are we any better than those that seek us out? Questions like these, and the enemies and levels that pose them, are what make the Witch Queen campaign worth playing for anyone, whether you’re the hardest of the hardcore, a returning Guardian, or a New Light. Bungie has crafted an experience that challenges anything they’ve produced in the last 10 years, and maybe more.
The Lucent Hive aren’t the only ones finding themselves with new Light powers as Bungie has delivered on what they’re calling their “Subclass 3.0” revamp to bring the Light subclasses inline with what Stasis has offered players since the release of Beyond Light. In Destiny 1, Subclasses were laid out in columns of perks that players could freely select to build their Guardians kit the way they saw fit. Since Destiny 2’s release in 2017, players have been restricted to only two (and then three when Forsaken released) Subclass trees, each containing four perks that dramatically affected the way the subclass played, with little experimentation or freedom for customization. Now, the Void subclass on all three classes has been completely reworked to offer new abilities and introduce verbs that are trademarks of the subclass like Suppress, Weaken, and Volatile similar to Stasis’ Freeze, Slow, and Shatter. The other two subclass elements, Arc and Solar are supposed to be getting reworks throughout the year and if they’re anything nearly as cool as Void 3.0 is, we’re in for some insanely cool builds.
On top of an amazing new campaign and the most dangerous enemies we’ve ever faced, The Witch Queen introduces Weapon Crafting to Destiny for the first time. No, this won’t require you to grind Spinmetal on the Cosmodrome like the exotic swords in The Taken King once did. Instead, Bungie has built a system that’s all about finding a gun, using it to score kills, and eventually unlocking the ability to craft it. This system is far from perfect and could use some simplification. As it currently exists, the new currencies, the RNG tied to getting the correct weapons to drop on top of getting them to drop specifically with the red border so that you can earn the blueprints leave players like myself frustrated. Making the requirements for crafting simpler, and eliminating some of the currencies or even just their limits, would be a welcome change to an otherwise great start for Weapon Crafting. Bungie has already promised that come Season 17 on May 24th, many of these issues will be addressed.
Ain’t No Rest For The Risen
Reviewing a product like Destiny is difficult as it is something that lives on well after the campaign concludes. The Witch Queen is no different. After the players finish the campaign, even more possibilities and questions are revealed. Who is The Witness? What’s going on with the decaying Pyramid Ship in the Swaps of Savathûn’s Throne World? Of course, Destiny’s best content is usually its endgame offerings, specifically its Raids and Dungeons.
Vow of the Disciple is this year’s big new raid. Players brave enough to take on the challenge explore that old Pyramid Ship buried in the swamps to uncover yet another world-changing revelation. The history of Savathûn, even as the campaign reveals it, is not quite as simple as we’ve been led to believe. Beyond the story content hidden within, the raid features more of Bungie’s tried and true Raid design with interesting encounters, fun boss fights, and what I consider to be the most interesting final boss fight Bungie has ever developed with Rhulk, the Disciple. Unlike every other boss we’ve faced in Bungie’s previous RAD (that’s Raid and Dungeon) content, Rhulk actually chases the players around and attacks either with deadly four-way energy blasts, or hilariously sassy kicks, sending players to their doom. Vow of the Disciple is fun for experienced raiders, and one that I believe will be the choice raid for teaching newcomers exactly what it means to raid in Destiny.
Further beyond the raid, Destiny’s story and world continue to evolve each week. This year, the seasonal content launched day-and-date with the expansion, changing it up since Bungie first moved Destiny to this seasonal model in Forsaken. The last year’s seasonal content has been the most cohesive we’ve seen yet, all culminating in the release of Savathûn and the exorcism of her Worm. This season, Season of the Risen, has wasted no time nor missed any story beats, taking place immediately after we discover the Lucent Hive. So far, this season has been fantastic and continues the trend of Bungie delivering on an ongoing, television style approach to building up to the next major event in Destiny’s story. It’s been working fantastically for me and it’s exciting to see them continue the trend.
Same Old Song and Dance
Perhaps the most frustrating thing kicking off year 5 of Destiny 2 is Bungie’s promise of content coming to the Crucible, Destiny’s PvP offering, later on throughout the year. Day one did see the return of two maps that were vaulted last year with Vostok and Eternity. Both of which are maps that I personally enjoy, but this certainly feels like too little for a portion of the game that Bungie still insists players engage with on a weekly or even more frequent basis. We’ve been told that at least two more maps and just as many modes would be sprinkled throughout the year, but this feels like Bungie is certainly focused on the PvE side of the game more than its competitive other half.
Even Gambit, which itself has long felt neglected, has received some updates to mixed fan reception. Personally, the new Gambit changes give new life to the mode, but the unfortunate nature of Destiny’s sandbox and intertwined loadout options make it difficult to enjoy a mode where the players themselves have become gods. This turns most encounters into a bit of bore and makes the matches even more frustrating once other players begin to invade. Bungie has made good on updating the mode already, as they said they would leading up to the expansion’s release, but time will tell if it leads to a more enjoyable experience.
Destiny 2: The Witch Queen is not only the best expansion Bungie has ever made for Destiny, but it’s the best release that Destiny has ever had period. From the same tight gameplay we all know and love, to the breathtaking visuals and music the team at Bungie have managed to produce, all the way down to best launch day for any expansion Destiny has ever seen and the roughest Day One Raid event we’ve ever seen. The Witch Queen is more than just another expansion for the now 8-year-old franchise, it’s a return to form for Bungie that I, as a lifelong fan dating back to the Marathon days, never expected to see. My biggest concern now is whether Lightfall can live up to what the team has been able to accomplish here.
|Reviewed on||Windows PC|
|Available on||Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Windows PC|
|Release Date||February 22nd, 2022|
|Rated||T for Teen|