‘Destiny 2: The Witch Queen’ review: Bungie pulling no punches

Our pick of Destiny

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Destiny 2 is the best it has ever been” so frequently that it’s now met with a “yeah sure” and a shrug. Well. Destiny 2 is the best it has ever been. The Witch Queen expansion takes everything Destiny has been building for years and pushes it ever closer to, if not its final form, the best form it’s ever been in.

The expansion features a nicely sized campaign; a hunt to find out what Savathûn, an evil Hive god of cunning, is up to. Somehow she has taken control of Destiny’s sci-fi nonsense power, the light, and is using it to her own ends.

Destiny stories have often been obtuse and require a companion podcast or playlist of YouTube videos to understand. Still, with The Witch Queen, Bungie is finally taking deep lore and presenting it large and, most importantly, understandable. Not only is this a fantastic campaign, but it also has a second difficulty mode called Legendary that will help veteran players feel as helpless as the narrative would lead you to expect.

Destiny 2: The Witch Queen. Credit: Bungie

Those familiar with Destiny lore will find a campaign that delves into deep history, confirms theories, and swings with dramatic reveals. New players will get pointed at a Big Evil, with  enough lore presented to catch up the newest Guardians. Some of the more intricate events may be lost on them initially, but there is nothing as jarring and open as Destiny 2’s base campaign was at several points.

Another question commonly posed at Destiny releases is, “Is this a good place for new players to jump in?” It’s tricky to answer because Destiny has so many systems working all at once, and they often take far too many words to explain. However, the campaign does an excellent job of easing players into the idea of power levels, subclasses, and gameplay mechanics, even if Destiny 2 kind of sucks for new players.

Also, all items are automatically boosted to the level required to start the story mission, so returning and new players can jump immediately into the action. Ultimately it will always be easier to start if you have a friend with you to explain certain eccentricities, but if you are going to give it a go, now is the time.

Destiny 2: The Witch Queen. Credit: Bungie

Speaking of eccentricities, The Witch Queen introduces a new system to Destiny 2, weapon crafting. Gone are the days of farming for god rolls, at least on some guns. Instead, it is now a farm for crafting materials and weapon levels. To explain it simply, players can now find weapons, unlock their patterns and craft them with perks and abilities they want.

To unlock the perks to be selected, players must level up weapons. It’s a new and interesting way to pare down some of the reliance on randomisation and could prove to be a handy system. However, its long-term benefits and enjoyment will take some time to mature.

While technically a separate release, The Witch Queen also launched a new season. Destiny 2 seasons behave a little like comic books, asking players to come back week by week and chip away at a unique story and unlock tree. With the last expansion, Beyond Light, the accompanying season was entirely disconnected from its campaign. However, this time, it’s clear that Bungie has put together the narrative threads that will carry the game to its subsequent expansion, Lightfall, and the one after, The Final Shape.

Destiny 2: The Witch Queen. Credit: Bungie

Way back with Season Of The Hunt, Bungie was putting the pieces in place for this expansion. As such, the new Season Of The Risen is perfectly knitted to the campaign’s narrative. The story continues without missing a beat even once the campaign is completed. The next question is if Bungie can continue this coherency between seasons for the rest of the year, and it is looking likely.

As with the previous Beyond Light expansion, Witch Queen introduces a new enemy archetype, and it is a doozy. Thanks to Savathûn’s theft of the light, there are now hive enemies with access to the same powers that players use. This includes supers such as void bomb and blade barrage, but also the ability to resurrect. Sliding between a hunter’s blade barrage to get in close with a shotgun they simply dodge away from, it’s hard not to feel like they are stealing your gimmick. Once one is defeated, its ghost appears to resurrect it after a short period. This adds a fun target priority to combat. Sure, it’s easy to throw a rocket vaguely in its direction, but if you can’t close in on the ghost, then it is all for nothing. Each time you smash a ghost, you get a satisfying animation of crushing the thing in your fist, signalling the foe is gone for good.

Destiny 2: The Witch Queen. Credit: Bungie

Alongside the Hive Lightbearers, there are also Lucent Moths. These annoying bastards give enemies an over shield. However, the moth escapes once the shield is gone, ready to find a new enemy to protect. Should there be no one left to assist, the moths will simply charge the player and explode. Taking them down requires you to pull your sights off the far more deadly foes and pop them out of the sky while they are vulnerable. This benefits you because they are no longer fliting about providing shields, but they also explode, dealing damage to anything around them, letting you turn the Hive’s light against them.

If all of that wasn’t enough, there is still a raid on the way. Vow Of The Disciple will launch early in March and will allow teams of six to take on some of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of Destiny. Raiding has always been a highlight of Destiny, and those jumping in for the first time shouldn’t feel intimidated. While the mechanics will be different, much of the puzzle-solving needed was displayed in the campaign: Matching symbols, earning buffs to do damage, phase-based boss fights, all of the broad “how to raid” subjects were covered.

Destiny 2: The Witch Queen. Credit: Bungie

The Witch Queen expansion feels like a culmination of several years of tweaks, redesigns, and narrative improvements that have been coming from Bungie. While Destiny 2 has undoubtedly experienced some dark days, it is clear that those are in the past, with everything on offer in the latest expansion setting an impressively high bar that, if maintained, will lead to a great year of Destiny 2 content.

Destiny 2’s The Witch Queen expansion is available wherever you played Destiny 2. We reviewed this on the PC. 

The Verdict

The Witch Queen is a pinnacle of what Destiny can be. A great campaign supported by an incredible villain with side characters and quests that are equally as engaging, The latest expansion provides everything you could ask for while setting up the next three years of content. Not only does Witch Queen feel like a conclusion to several years of questionable design choices, it feels like a fresh start that hits all the right notes from the word go.

Pros

  • Great campaign
  • Tons of new content
  • A solid entry point for new players

Cons

  • Some lore is unclear for new players
  • The normal campaign gets too easy towards the end
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