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Destiny 2: The Witch Queen review: Watch the throne

Guardians fighting against the Lucent Brood in Destiny 2: The Witch Queen.
Destiny 2: The Witch Queen
MSRP $40.00
“Destiny 2: The Witch Queen is the expansion that players have been awaiting for years.”
Pros
  • Incredible campaign
  • Challenging Legendary mode
  • Fantastic new area
  • Much-needed Void overhaul
Cons
  • Difficult for new players

This review will be extremely difficult for me to write because I am currently in a moderate amount of pain. My hands are aching from instinctively squeezing my controller too hard while playing Destiny 2‘s latest expansion, The Witch Queen. My eyes sting from staring at my television screen for hours on end. My head is swirling as I barely got any sleep since I stayed up until four in the morning in order to beat the campaign on Legendary mode.

And folks, I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

Destiny 2: The Witch Queen feels like the culmination of years of hard work and worldbuilding finally paying off. After completing the campaign on Legendary mode and doing a plethora of other activities, I felt like I finally played what Bungie envisioned Destiny was when this whole series started. This is the best Destiny 2 has ever been, but it’s still a daunting entry point for new players.

Make way for the queen

The Witch Queen is the latest expansion for Destiny 2 and one that kicks off this year’s major content updates. This expansion brings in a new campaign for guardians to sink their teeth into, a new zone to explore, an updated Void subclass, and a whole new weapon-crafting system. This expansion spoils players with a myriad of things to do, and the majority of it is an absolute blast to play.

The main draw of this expansion is the story campaign, something that seems obvious at a glance but is actually really significant for Destiny 2. Looking at Beyond Light, Destiny 2’s previous expansion, its campaign felt self-contained and disposable. Once Eramis was defeated and Stasis was mastered, every guardian lost interest in Europa and focused on other activities. That’s not the case here. Not since Forsaken and the Taken King has a Destiny campaign earned this much interest.

The Witch Queen in her Throne World in the latest Destiny 2 expansion.

The story mainly focuses on the Witch Queen herself, Savathûn, and her plan to steal light and use it for her own machinations. Throughout Destiny and Destiny 2, Savathûn had a hand in various calamities that players have faced. Finally, guardians will now have a chance to take her on and hopefully stop her plans. I apologize if that’s an obtuse synopsis, but I don’t want to spoil a story filled with moments that made me audibly scream in surprise, mostly for its implications.

Savathûn is known as the Hive God of trickery, kind of like Marvel’s Loki with better headgear. About halfway through the campaign, she pulls off her most impressive trick, though it’s less impactful in the moment and more of a slow burn. It’s kind of like a book you read as a teenager that didn’t really invoke anything out of you, but years later you remember it fondly and it stands stronger in the blur of memory. Call it The Great Gatsby of Destiny beats.

Not since Forsaken and the Taken King has a Destiny campaign earned this much interest.

Besides the grand worldbuilding in the campaign, it also has smaller moments that really stand out to me, mainly when religion comes up. Destiny as a whole has been out for almost a decade and I find it funny that we don’t often talk about how one of its pillars is faith and religion. Savathûn, Ikora, and even Zavala all struggle with their faith, devotion, the meaning of sacrifice, and how choice plays into those themes. Granted, these moments are quick and fleeting, but they give these characters more humanity.

While it isn’t always gripping in the moment, the story wraps up well and is satisfying when looking at the bigger picture, even if getting there didn’t always feel important.

So, you have chosen violence

The other side of this coin is the bullet-to-bullet gameplay of the campaign. Folks who play Destiny 2 mainly for the shooting will not be disappointed as The Witch Queen might contain one of the best first-person shooter campaigns I have ever played.

It is clear that Bungie took its time to create a campaign that allows Destiny 2 to finally feel like a Destiny game. In 2017, I remember playing the base Red War campaign and seeing the extra effort put into it compared to Destiny‘s flat story. However, the best compliment I could give it was that Bungie tried to make a Halo campaign inside of Destiny. Most of the campaigns since have felt undirected or filled with busy work to justify playing the game every day.

The Witch Queen might contain one of the best first-person shooter campaigns I have ever played.

The Witch Queen campaign feels directed and focused on the strengths that Bungie is known for. It’s filled with high-octane peaks of visceral action complemented by calm valleys of puzzles and platforming. The pacing is incredibly well done and makes the extra-long missions go by quicker than one would imagine.

The introduction of the Lucent Brood is a welcome addition to the rogue’s gallery of Destiny. Since The Covenant in Halo, Bungie has had a keen eye for creating modular enemies with their own quirks and behaviors. I was screaming like Theoden on Pelennor Fields to my fireteam, begging them to barrel through enemy fire in order to crush the Ghost of the Lucent Brood before they got a chance to resurrect back to full health.

There were plenty of exhilarating moments like that in the campaign, especially in the new Legendary mode. This option ramps the difficulty up to 11, but never it feels cheap. Many boss fights were nail-bitingly close and my fireteam and I would often scream in success once we emerged victorious. I’m looking at you, Brutiks.

A Guardian uses Void against a Cabal.

I mostly played with my one Titan friends and we were consistently challenged, but never felt like we couldn’t finish it. Checkpoints allow players to fully leave the activity — even log off — and then join back in once they are ready to play again. This gave us the freedom to move through the campaign at our own pace, after we had planned out our next strategy.

The most brilliant part of the Legendary mode is, of course, the loot. When completing the campaign on Legendary, players are rewarded with an excess of armor, weapons, and upgrade modules. I don’t often play games on the hardest difficulty. Most games only give players a pat on the back and maybe an achievement for their efforts. However, Destiny 2 gives me something valuable as a reward: A shortcut to circumvent some of the grinding that the game is known for.

The green swamp and the golden gun

Aside from the story, there’s plenty to do in this expansion. Savathûn’s Throne World is the new play area for players to explore, filled with patrols, puzzles, and world events. The biome itself is incredibly interesting and refreshing to play in. Sure, Europa and the Moon are fun in their own way, but the bland, barren landscapes of these areas become mind-numbingly boring after a while. The Throne World is dense and varied. The contrast between the verdant swamps and the pristine architecture of the marble buildings is striking, but still feels remarkably cohesive.

Guardians go on the offensive inside the Witch Queen's Throne World.

Alongside the new area, The Witch Queen brings in a much-needed overhaul to the Void subclass. This subclass now follows suit with Stasis in terms of customization. The tweaks do allow for player expression, but it still doesn’t escape the issue with all of Destiny 2’s subclasses. In reality, there are still only one or two “viable” builds inside each one. Sure, a combination of any Aspect and Fragment can be fun and usable, but when it is time to get serious, you know what you’re equipping.

The new weapon-crafting system is another time sink that players can invest in while they are hopping around the solar system grinding bounties or doing strikes. Early on, the expansion introduces the Relic, a massive forge that allows guardians to create and customize weapons, especially the newest weapon type: The glaive. The Relic requires new currencies that can only be unlocked by using specific weapons. Those weapons can also give platers a blueprint that they can use to craft and customize.

The contrast between the verdant swamps and the pristine architecture of the marble buildings is striking, but still feels remarkably cohesive.

Personally, I enjoy the grind of Destiny 2, and weapon crafting is just another item to add to my checklist. The annoying part is that it doesn’t always mesh well with other activities. For instance, if I got a couple of gun bounties from my best friend, Banshee-44, that required me to use a hand cannon and a sniper, I cannot complete my weapon mission for my newly acquired pulse rifle. If I’m in a heroic strike, I can’t justify bringing my rocket launcher when I need to bring weapons with Overload or Unstoppable. These new weapon quests make it harder to simply do whatever you want.

Guardians, beware!

Despite a few grumblings I have with some of the systems in the expansion, I had a hell of a time. There were plenty of moments when I felt like this expansion was truly the best Destiny 2 has to offer. The campaign felt unique and inspiring, and the new area is a joy to explore. I just wish I could bring along some new friends with me.

Guardians fight against the Lucent Brood in Destiny 2: The Witch Queen.

The Witch Queen expansion doesn’t really consider anyone who is new to the series. The plot alone has been built up for years, and does the expansion a bad job at explaining what is actually going on. When a friend asked me who exactly Savathûn is, I shuddered. To understand Savathûn, I have to explain the Hive, Oryx, the Taken, Fundament, Krill, and the Worm Gods. These things are not easily accessed in the game alone and require a lot of searching just to find.

The systems in the game are also not exactly easy to grasp either. Fortunately, with my group of friends, I started many explanations with, “It’s like in World of Warcraft but…” Unfortunately, not everyone will have that background knowledge like my group does.

The Witch Queen expansion doesn’t really consider anyone who is new to the series.

The most egregious part of all of this lies in the Stasis subclass. I was telling my brother how Stasis is my favorite subclass to play. When he asked how he could unlock it, I had to look him in the eyes and tell him that he needed to buy a completely separate expansion and play it to completion. That’s the additional cost to The Witch Queen. It deters new players as there’s so much additional weight to the game than what is specifically advertised. It’s an absolute shame, as I want to share this experience with as many people as I can.

Our take

The Witch Queen expansion for Destiny 2 is the epitome of what Destiny can be. The campaign is an absolute thrill ride and the Legendary mode offers a challenge that used to be exclusive to raids. The Throne World is enjoyable to explore, and players can spend countless hours finding new puzzles and secrets there. This expansion condenses Destiny 2 into a sweet liquor that fans will enjoy. However, the game might be too complicated for new players.

Is there a better alternative?

Lost Ark and even Fortnite provide a games-as-a-service component that is free to play and is easy to start. However, if you are looking for a loot-based shooter, Destiny 2 is still the king.

How long will it last?

The campaign itself will probably take you eight hours to beat. However, it took me closer to 12 as the final boss on Legendary is incredibly difficult (I am not a proud man, I will admit to that).

Should I buy it?

Yes. This is a perfect expansion for Destiny players who have fallen off, as well as veterans of the series. If you are a completely new player, I would highly recommend playing with friends who already play to help you sift through its complicated systems.

Destiny 2: The Witch Queen was reviewed on Xbox Series S.

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