DLC Review – Destiny 2: The Witch Queen
I’ve been a Destiny player since its initial launch way back in 2014. It’s been a flawed but highly entertaining few years that have had incredible highs seen in The Taken King and Forsaken. For every action, there was also a reaction: We may have had these great highs, but we have also faced the horrendous lows of the base games and Shadowkeep. Yet I kept coming back. The core gameplay of Destiny, flaws and all, is still some of the best out there in the realm of first-person shooters.
Now here we are with Witch Queen, the arrival of Savathun. This has been a DLC long in the making. It’s been a couple of months since the DLC and its additional seasonal content have dropped so I had to give it a go. Do they fix the mistakes of the past and live up to Destiny‘s ambitions and full potential? Well, I’ll be honest: they almost got to said point, as they have certainly pulled me away from my obsession with Final Fantasy XIV for at least a few weeks, but Destiny still has a long way to go.
Destiny 2 Witch Queen picks up from where Season of the Lost left off. Savathun’s ritual performed by the Awoken Queen Mara Sov has been completed, and Savathun has been freed from the worm god, but she got away, not before tricking the entire vanguard and stealing the light. Now, a new faction of the hive have risen, with Savathun using the light to power up her own army. As Guardians, we must stop whatever Savathun is planning whilst figuring out how she did steal the light in the first place.
It’s often said that Destiny has fantastic in-depth lore and worldbuilding, at the cost of being lacking on the actual story side. This is not the case in Witch Queen, as we are finally introduced to Savathun, who has long been teased since the early days of the franchise. Witch Queen’s story is genuinely good, with a strong central mystery and an antagonist who manages to be intimidating yet understandable when we delve into her past and true motivations. There are some story revelations here that are just wonderfully well done, most of them which I was not expecting.
Witch Queen’s biggest trick isn’t just the one the witch queen herself pulls, but rather with a brand new enemy type. As previously mentioned, the hive have been upgraded with the light. Certain enemy types have become light bearers, using the light against you. It’s a brilliant move that adds one of the most interesting enemy types we’ve seen. The first time I encountered a light bearer was one of the best moments I have ever had in any Destiny game or expansion. Take down a knight that is wielding light magic, and then he resurrects. After a second fight we crush his ghost.
For the first time as well, the campaign has multiple difficulty settings. Standard is a fairly, well… standard affair. It’s not particularly challenging, which is fine for some who just want to get through the story and progress as normally. This is why I recommend playing the game on Legendary. It’s not a brutally tough endgame challenge, but it will test every ability and tactic you have, by throwing you into interesting scenarios.
It’s a great push to a much more varied and interesting gameplay loop for Destiny. The campaign is wonderfully designed with huge levels that take upwards of an hour to complete. It feels like we just got dumped with a bunch of dungeons which is leaps above what other campaigns have been like for Destiny 2. There’s interesting puzzles, platforming and boss encounters that really show this game at it’s very best. This isn’t just good Destiny content; this is one of the best shooter campaigns I’ve played in a while. It’s such a shame that the rest of the game doesn’t live up to this.
Where Witch Queen fails is in some of its additional activities. Wellspring is yet another 6-player horde mode that just does not have enough new to make it really stand out and instead just becomes a chore to play. And, for some reason, the higher level activity is locked off from matchmaking… just why? Then we have this really annoying mechanic that has you standing on a cart to push it from one side of the map to another. Whilst this wouldn’t be a terrible mechanic for one activity, it extends out from Wellspring into public events, battlegrounds and the post-raid weekly mission.
However we also have some really ambitious additions to Destiny. First off, we get a real look at weapon crafting. Don’t be expecting crafting to the depths of Dead Rising or Dead Space, or even Warframe. This really only allows you to customise perks and build up your perfect version of a weapon. This is highlighted best in the new weapon type, the glaive, which is part melee, part ranged and part shield. An exciting and extremely powerful tool that I’ve had a total blast using. However, its long term impact on the Destiny sandbox is yet to be seen. In fact its short term impact hasn’t been too great.
Beyond Light introduced us to our first darkness subclass in Stasis, an ice based power that can freeze. It was also the most customisable with plenty of grenades and fragments that really made Destiny‘s big step towards becoming an actual RPG. Whilst Witch Queen doesn’t introduce a new subclass, we do get the Void upgraded to this level. Void 3.0 includes fragments, multiple grenade types and aspects that really allow you to really build your guardian.
We also have a new patrol zone in the form of Savathuns Throne World. It’s one of the most beautiful locations that we’ve had since Dreaming City, and is packed full of secrets and interesting ideas. The lost sectors are a lot of fun on higher difficulties and I had a really good time exploring it. My one complaint is that this place is really lacking in enemy density, with only small pockets of enemies showing up at a time.
Season of the Lost
As is tradition with the seasonal structure, the launch of a new expansion also means the start of a new season. Whilst this review is mostly focused on the main Witch Queen expansion, it’s still worth talking about, since this is the season to go alongside it. Season of the Lost tells the own story of Zavalla and the Cabal leader Caital working together to stop the Lucid Brood. It was an incredibly solid storyline that developed the Crow and Lord Saladin whilst also solidifying Caital as a mainstay character and one of the most fascinating allies that we’ve had. I am very looking at seeing how the story unfolds over the coming year.
The content released in this season isn’t bad and can be fun but just a little bit uninspired. Essentially coming down to another version of the Battlegrounds from Season of the Chosen. The activity is fine and can be fun to play except for the map that takes place in the Cosmodrome and another completely uninspired payload objective. Then we have the same miserable battle pass that is an unnecessary grind to get through padded out with useless junk whilst the majority of actual interesting stuff is sitting in the store. With the price of Destiny 2 rising year over year now it’s a bit ridiculous that we aren’t getting more in return.
The seasonal structure isn’t inherently terrible and we’ve had the occasional standout. However something needs to change going forward, because it’s getting old. Especially for constantly returning players, who have enormous grinds every season doing the same content that can often be considered too easy to get to the good stuff that we actually want to play. The pinnacle grind every season is still terrible and the activities need a bit more work.
The State of Destiny 2
I also want to go into some detail of the state of Destiny 2 because, despite this phenomenal expansion the game has issues that need to be addressed. First up is the incredibly controversial content vault. Part of The Witch Queen‘s release is the vaulting of one half of Forsaken, that is often regarded of some of the best content Destiny has delivered (until now). What has gone exactly? Well, the entire Forsaken campaign, making the new player experience even worse without a solid jumping in point. It’ll be like watching Endgame without watching the previous MCU movies. Sure, it will be entertaining, but not a lot of it will make much sense.
The entire Tangled Shores patrol zone alongside two of the three strikes that resided there are now gone. Whilst Bungie have given their reasons that could very well be valid, it’s still had to think that we’ve not been cheated out of all this. Now the two strikes that do mention Cayde are going to be even more confusing. As a whole the content vault does nothing but destroys the new game experience for new and returning players who missed a lot of the older content and will have to resort to outside sources to understand what’s happening. Raids are still gone, entire patrol zones, strikes, dungeons and exotic quests. Destiny 2 is missing a lot.
Moving on from vaulting one thing that has been bothering me is the lack of rotation on weekly dungeons. Meaning Shattered Throne, Prophecy and Pit of Heresy don’t provide any meaningful progression, whilst Grasp of Avarice (which is by far the worst dungeon) is still the only way to progress up light level each week. It’s a dull and meaningless grind that only serves to show Destiny at its absolute worst. Why is Bungie limiting the value of the content that is still here playable in the game? Especially content that has been put in high regard?
Then we have the PvP activities, something Destiny has always struggled with. Crucible is still pretty much abandoned, with the only real addition being maps they previously removed. Trials of Osiris matchmaking is still botched, not accounting for party sizes when doing matchmaking meaning if you are going in without a full fireteam you are almost guaranteed to a loss.
Was Witch Queen worth it?
So despite my rantings about the state of Destiny for long time fans, was Witch Queen worth it? Very much so. The beefy and epic campaign provided some of the best content we have seen from Bungie since Halo: Reach, with multiple huge missions, a compelling story that has some pay-offs and massive implications going forward and that same core gameplay experience that we know and love.
Despite being a regular Destiny player, I am also a cynic. The last couple of years haven’t been kind to the game (and the franchise as a whole) and I didn’t go into this expansion with the greatest of expectations. However, Witch Queen has quickly become my favourite Destiny experience to date and a huge step in the right direction. We ended up getting an amazing and rather beefy campaign that shows Bungie at their very best, but there’s still a long way to go with everything else in the game.
Final Verdict: 8.0
Destiny 2: Witch Queen is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PC and Stadia.
Reviewed on PC.