Destiny 2’s latest expansion is here. The Witch Queen begins the final trilogy for the Light and Dark saga. Bungie has delivered gracefully on many promises. However, some issues still persist throughout the larger game.
Developer & Publisher // Bungie, Sony
Platforms // PlayStation 4|5, PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
MSRP & Release Date //$49.99, Feb 22, 2022
Reviewed On // PlayStation 5
The Witch Queen Story
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The Witch Queen centers on the machinations of the Savathûn, the Hive god of lies and mischief. Her schemes have plagued Guardians for years. This expansion is a culmination of chasing her shadow and thwarting her schemes.
Years of build-up have brought with it overwhelming anticipation. This anticipation comes with the expectation of granting players the pay-off they seek within the story. Needless to say, Bungie accomplished this in spades.
The story starts with a simple hook. Savathûn has the Light, the space magic that gives you your powers. One of humanity’s greatest enemies has the power of the Traveler. The Witch Queen takes players on a journey of mystery. Chiefly, why Savathûn has the Light and how to stop her. The narrative leaves you on edge and has a few twists. Similar to Savathûn, players are left guessing what is true by the end. The character of Savathûn is unlike anyone players have interacted with previously. She steals the show, and it would not be possible without the enrapturing performance of Debra Wilson.
Debra Wilson is truly iconic in this role as Savathûn. Her delivery is unparalleled to the point where certain lines sent shivers down my spine. Debra’s voice is both mesmerizing and disturbing. She is a perfect match for the character of the Witch Queen.
Feeling the Stakes
This campaign felt like a game of the Hive god’s design. Except, I was playing checkers while Savathûn played 4D chess. New Lights (new players) may be worried about missing out. There are many lore and story beats that come together in this expansion. However, The Witch Queen story on its own has a strong foundation. Meanwhile, the in-game narrative fills in the gaps players may miss.
Lastly, Bungie’s latest expansion introduced a legendary mode for the campaign. This mode grants players a more challenging experience that scales with party size. Additionally, players are rewarded equipment at soft cap level upon completing the challenge.
This was a great addition, and one I personally enjoyed completing. I felt like I was greatly rewarded for my time while truly feeling the stakes of the story. Beforehand, players would breeze past the story more often than not. Missions or bosses that should narratively challenge guardians would be a cakewalk halfway through. The Witch Queen’s legendary campaign rectifies this. This campaign is a culmination of great storytelling with challenging yet rewarding gameplay.
The Witch Queen debuted a new destination, Savathûn’s Throne World, and a new hub world, The Enclave. Savathûn’s Throne World is the real central attraction. This place exists in a pocket dimension born from the Hive god of lies. Its topography mixes themes of Light and Dark. Savathûn’s palace has a look reflecting the new Lucent Brood (Hive touched with the light). Meanwhile, the bogs and outskirts of the Throne World reek of dark energy. Scorn enemies are plentiful here. The muted and darker colors contrast with the bright and piercing palette found in the central area. This place is unsettling as it is beautiful. This feeling of walking through a psychological thriller stayed with me long after I finished the campaign.
The musical score of both the destination and campaign is phenomenal. Bungie has always incorporated stellar soundtracks for their titles. The Witch Queen is no exception. The mixture of vocals and haunting tones will give even the bravest Guardians a shudder. This is a game that demands to be played with headphones. I beg you to oblige.
New World Order
Exploring the areas of the Throne World is fun. The terrain shifts and changes while keeping an eerie yet alluring vibe. The destination vendor adds to the enjoyment as well. Fynch is a new companion players will meet early on. He is quirky and lovable. His dialogue brings both comedic relief and further insight into the Lucent Hive.
I found the Throne World to be an improvement compared to Beyond Light. The dynamic weather effects of Europa are interesting in theory. However, the execution falls short of the mark. A blinding windstorm inconveniencing my vision and sparrow does not bring much joy. The topography of Europa looked too similar especially when stacked against the clashing zones of Savathûn’s Throne World.
Gameplay Additions and Woes
It would not be a new expansion without a new matchmade activity. This one is called Wellspring and is held within Savathûn’s Throne World. Two variations exist of this six-player activity. Wellspring attack is an ongoing chase after the boss. On the other hand, the defense takes a slower approach. These two alternate each day.
Additionally, higher level options for the mode can be unlocked. These are obtained by increasing your reputation with Fynch. Both versions of Wellspring have their pros and cons. I enjoyed the style of attack more. This facilitated an ongoing hunt for the boss through varying levels of terrain. However, the middle section comes to a crawl having to match pace and escort a payload. Defend retains a more static playstyle.
It begins with defending an area and ends with a crystal puzzle. Players must clear out rooms then destroy the crystals before starting the boss. Subsequently, the boss is health gated by forcing you to repeat the crystal puzzle. I find this variation tiring overall and have fallen asleep on the controller a few times.
The higher difficulties also allow for high stat armor to drop. Enemy density is great enough to present a challenge for players. You are often forced to maneuver the battlefield rather than camp in one area. Meanwhile, the loot grind is improved since launch. Previously, the drop rates for ascendant alloy and deepsight weapons were extremely low and the buff in these is much appreciated.
Weapon Crafting in Witch Queen
The previously mentioned new hub location, the Enclave is where Guardians interact with Ikora’s Hidden operation. Additionally, the Enclave houses weapon crafting. The new Darkness artifact grants players new ways to earn god rolls for their weapons.
Weapon crafting is the premiere addition for Destiny 2: The Witch Queen. This system allows players to craft their perfect weapon. Chiefly, players can pick between different perks as they level up a weapon. Higher levels grant access to enhanced perks. These are improved versions compared to the base form.
Weapon crafting also comes with a new weapon type to craft, the glaive. It helps introduce Guardians to weapon crafting. Glaives are a mix of melee and ranged weapons. It provides a fun new playstyle while also being viable in higher-end content. However, weapon crafting in general needs a few improvements.
The materials necessary for weapon crafting are not easily obtained. You must acquire them from deepsight weapons. These are weapons that drop with a red border around them. Then, the weapon’s progress bar must be completed. This occurs by killing enemies with the gun and completing activities with it equipped. Once done, you can harvest one set of materials from the weapon.
A Convoluted Process
If this sounds tedious, it gets worse. Weapon crafting materials you have acquired are slightly hidden. You cannot simply open a menu to view them. They can be seen either from the weapon crafting station or a deepsight weapon. Additionally, the materials you acquire are capped. Once again, you have to be self-aware of the cap for certain materials. Bungie is planning to downsize this process. However, these are the seven primary materials to worry about currently:
- Resonant Alloy
- Ruinous Element
- Adroit Element
- Energetic Element
- Mutable Element
- Drowned Element
- Ascendant Alloy
In a similar fashion to Ascendant Shards, Ascendant Alloy is the high-end material for weapon crafting. This is key to crafting enhanced perks (also for Osteo Striga’s weapon catalyst). Guardians will have to spend extra time to grind for Ascendant Alloys.
They are not as plentiful as other materials. Thankfully, the drop rate for these has also been improved. Alternatively, players can buy one a week from Master Rahool in the tower. The price is four hundred legendary shards. Banshee-44 also awards one at rank 16 reputation. Time gate aside, these alternate methods will not earn you Ascendant Alloy quicker. Four hundred legendary shards is a steep price, especially for new players in the game. Reputation through Banshee-44 is earned when dismantling legendary weapons. This will also take some time. I have played almost daily since the expansion launched (dismantling plenty along the way) and have yet to reach rank 16 with Banshee.
Low Starting Options
The weapon crafting system also is not comprehensive. Currently, players can only craft Season of the Risen and The Witch Queen weapons. There are plans to expand the selection to include the world pool. Yet, this will take time.
Players hoping to craft their favorite gun in their vault may be disappointed. Weapon crafting has the potential to be a phenomenal addition to Destiny 2. However, its current state leaves much to be desired. Like other aspects of the game, the enhanced perks/rewards are not worth the grind.
Those Left Behind
Destiny 2: The Witch Queen brings numerous changes and additions. Meanwhile, other experiences in the game remain stale or neglected. This expansion adds two new strikes. The Lightblade and Birthplace of the Vile give the Vanguard playlist a breath of fresh air. These strikes have gorgeous scenery and memorable bosses. Additionally, each strike expands upon the expansion’s rich narrative. Despite this, players will become fatigued given time.
The gameplay loop of ritual playlists (Vanguard, Crucible, and Gambit) are tiresome. They have been in need of a refresh for quite some time. Crucible and Gambit are in dire need of attention. Gambit especially. Beyond Light should have improved Gambit with the new, condensed form. Yet this change resulted in a stripped-down version that is barely chugging along. It has quickly become the wrong end of jokes. Sadly, this game mode is rarely spoken well of by many in the Destiny Community.
Lack of Variety
Crucible has a hardcore PVP audience at least. Bungie has stated their intention to revitalize the mode. Yet, the timeline for this is unclear and moving slowly. I am even more perplexed by the lack of content. A new Crucible map seemed to be an honest expectation with The Witch Queen. This was not the case. Instead, Bungie returned two old maps. Some maps are better than none I suppose. However, Beyond Light also failed to add a new map. This makes one question Bungie’s validity of “renewed focus for PVP.”
Lastly, Grandmaster Nightfalls also need a relook. This high-end mode for PVE relies too heavily on artificial difficulty. Specifically, its implementation of champions. I loathe having to cater my loadout specifically to one or two weapon mods. It is even more aggravating when the champions ignore the mods through game bugs.
This annoyance is evermore apparent after The Witch Queen campaign. The legendary campaign was a breath of fresh air when it came to challenging content. The new Hive Guardians are a more respectable enemy compared to the reskinned, challenge-gate of champions. Champions have been a thorn in the community’s side ever since their first debut. Yet, Bungie doubles down on them every time. Need to make an activity harder? Bungie is one step ahead adding champions at every turn.
New Lights of Witch Queen
Previously, I stated Destiny 2: The Witch Queen has an incredible story even for new players. I firmly believe that. However, the missed history for new characters is still sad. People who play for the first time are devoid of many stories from the game. The base campaign(The Red War) for Destiny 2 is one of these stories. It is unavailable after being vaulted along with Curse of Osiris, Warmind, and Forsaken.
Many decisive moments for the Guardian happened in these expansions. It is crazy to think New Lights(new players) who join will have no idea who Cayde-6 is. Additionally, the onboarding process is minimal. New Lights awaken in the Cosmodrome with little fanfare. They are led through a tutorial. Then dropped into the tower with barely a cohesive direction
The context of what to do next is unclear of course. This process needs to be streamlined. Meanwhile, a summary of past great events should be present. Bungie has heavily leaned into ink-style cinematic cutscenes recently. A series of them showcasing past achievements for the narrative would go a long way with new players.
The Witch Queen’s Rise
Destiny 2: The Witch Queen is an amazing addition. The Vow of the Disciple raid further strengthened Bungie’s strong launch. This expansion’s story stretches further beyond imagination. Its narrative continues after beating the campaign. Then, more secrets are revealed after beating the raid.
The momentum is building to a climax. Chiefly, a conclusion to the Light and Dark saga. Savathûn herself has been a key player for years in Destiny’s story. Bungie delivered us another great villain. One that surpasses Oryx in my opinion.
Despite my critiques, this expansion is one I would recommend to all Guardians. Whether new or returning, The Witch Queen is a solid experience. The story will take Guardians down many twists and turns, especially the final act. Here, Bungie managed to create sympathy for a long-standing antagonist of the series. Thus, that may be the greatest trick of them all.