I used to be what you might call a Destiny addict. Back in the mid-2010s, I was all-in on the first Destiny game, practically playing it daily. I had a dedicated crew I ran raids with, chased the highest-level gear I could find, and competed in the Crucible like it was a job. I clocked over 400 hours playing the game over the course of a few years, and when Destiny 2 came out in 2017, I started on that same path.
But life changed. My free time became more scarce as I got older and the idea of spending all my time on one game became unrealistic. I had other things I wanted to play and it no longer made sense to keep up with an MMO where the grind was always climbing. I still checked out every major expansion, playing through any new story content, but I began to feel like I wasn’t getting a fulfilling experience if I ignored the grind.
The Witch Queen is the first Destiny expansion that actually feels flexible and tuned to my changing habits. While it brings more live-service hooks for dedicated Guardians, it finally offers a self-contained story campaign that works on its own outside of the grind.
When The Witch Queen dropped in February, I had reservations about buying it. In the past, expansions like Beyond Light weren’t exactly built for players who just want to dip in, continue the grand story of Destiny, and bounce. Beyond Light’s story was more of a tutorial meant to teach players about the new stasis class, while Shadowkeep was more an introduction to the Moon location than a compelling narrative. I didn’t want to spend money on something that wasn’t going to have an immediate payoff.
After months of debate, I finally bought the expansion in April. I resolved to buy the base DLC and not tempt myself with a content-filled special edition or even this season’s battle pass. I wanted as little commitment as possible this time.
Thankfully, The Witch Queen completely works when played like that, which I can’t say for most — if any — other Destiny expansions. That’s largely due to the primary story campaign, which gives players the best set of story missions Bungie has made since its Halo days. The story of Savathûn is sincerely gripping, with several plot twists that deepen the lore and play with players’ understanding of the universe’s established rules. It all ends on a jaw-dropping development that immediately sold me on the game’s next planned expansion, Lightfall.
Once I finished the story missions, which took around eight hours, I got a miraculous feeling that I’ve never felt in Destiny: I had no problem putting the controller down. In the past, the grind has been the game’s main hook. Meandering narratives left me feeling like I’d need to get my money’s worth in some other way. I’d replay the same strikes or join in public events I’d played 100 times before, turning the game into a series of chores.
I don’t feel that same pull after playing The Witch Queen. There are still activities and quests I want to check out, but not because I feel like I need to. Rather, I’ve bought in on the story unfolding in the world and want to learn more about what’s happening with the Hive and the Traveler. The fact that I’ll get better gear by doing so is icing on the cake, rather than the cake itself.
For a long time, I wished that Bungie would ditch the live-service aspect of Destiny entirely and just give it strong story updates once or twice a year. That desire wasn’t actually what I wanted. Instead, I just wished the game was flexible enough to account for different levels of commitment. I love that I can geek out over lore with friends who are raiding regularly. I still feel like I’m part of the Destiny universe, even if I don’t log back in until the next expansion.
The Witch Queen is a healthy change of pace for Destiny 2. It puts the emphasis back on its creative sci-fi setting and the complex politics between space races (and worms). As a longtime player, that’s what I ultimately care about after living in this world for so long. I want to see my Guardian’s long journey continue, even if I don’t move past rank 10 on this season’s battle pass.
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