Destiny 2: The Witch Queen Review – The One That’ll Pull You Back In

Destiny 2: The Witch Queen Review

After parting ways with Halo and Microsoft in 2007, Bungie began work on a new adventure: Destiny. 15 years later Destiny’s second iteration is still going strong, and in fact, it has never been better. For a former Destiny lover, Destiny 2: The Witch Queen is the expansion that has truly drawn me back in. Bungie has impactfully deepened Destiny’s already unfathomably complex lore. They’ve added scads of new content and ideas, and deliciously set the stage for what’s to come. Oh, and it’s still the best playing shooter on the market.

That statement is nowhere near hyperbolic either. Destiny 2 is quite simply the best feeling FPS I’ve ever played. Character movement is sharp and precise. Moving around is actually fun, fueled by jumping that’s well enough designed to make FPS jumping puzzles a good thing. Guns and shooting – mildly important in an FPS – are both outstanding. Ripping off headshots with a hand cannon is among the greatest feelings in all of gaming. All three classes are uniquely fun to play as, and a deft balance has been struck to benefit fireteams that field a diverse group of guardians while not often punishing groups that all demand to be Hunters.

You get what I’m saying. Destiny 2 is superbly well crafted mechanically. But that’s Destiny 2’s core experience, and you’re here to find out how the Witch Queen expansion is. Friends, it’s perhaps Bungie’s best work yet.


*Some spoilers for previous Destiny 2 expansions like Beyond Light in the next paragraph*

Engaging Ambiguity

Destiny 2’s overarching themes are far reaching, but none is more obvious than a very traditional struggle of good vs. evil. Guardians are the keepers of The Traveler’s light. They seek to keep it out of the hands of those that would twist that power for nefarious purposes. Beyond Light saw that understanding directly challenged, as Guardians were forced to embrace the power of the Darkness on icy Europa.

In The Witch Queen, things get even wilder. We enter Savathun’s Throne World to once again save the galaxy from the clutches of evil. Here, The Hive have somehow acquired Ghosts of their own, which you’ll crush during battle feeling equal amounts of satisfaction and confliction. Honestly, I’m not sure exactly who the good and bad guys are as of this writing. That’s a pretty cool feeling, in a world that has endlessly held up Guardians and The Traveler as infallible bastions of morality and virtue.


How The Tail Is Told

At least part of that confusion has to do with how Destiny stories are told. Early on in The Witch Queen Ikora casually says “now that Mars is back”, and my brain slammed on the brakes. What do you mean, Mars is back? How? What the heck happened there? Later, patrol messages are delivered by Immaru. Who? Yeah, I played the whole campaign (repeatedly, this is Destiny after all) and still had to Google to figure out who that is. It’s not new that plenty of key information is either skimmed over or buried in lore documents. Still, I think the opportunity exists to make some of those points more prominent in the game.

Because when they set out to communicate something, they do a bang up job. Take Lord Saladin’s tales of the Wolves’ early days. Written and gorgeously accompanied by ink drawing visuals, they’re some of the most striking content in the whole expansion.

As you might guess, fighting the Lucent Hive makes up a big portion of the Witch Queen campaign. Exploring Savathun’s Throne World is fantastic. Though not structured differently than previously introduced zones like Europa or the Dreaming City, the Throne World is a big step up on the art direction side of things. The stunning quality of the vistas and bespoke areas in the campaign bely the age of the game, with highly detailed models and structures that don’t feel out of place on current gen hardware.


Moody Atmosphere

There’s oodles of atmosphere too. Bungie has dabbled in spooky environments before, but The Witch Queen features some of the creepiest segments yet. Again, they aren’t all that structurally different from what’s come before, but thankfully the choice was made to pull some of the mechanics and more interesting gameplay pieces from serious end game missions and into the realm of mere mortals. Standing out most so far is the opportunity to experience part of the Vow of the Disciple raid as a regular old mission. There’s a hefty dose of lore and story most players might otherwise never see.

Mechanically, one of the biggest new things is weapon crafting. Instead of endlessly grinding to get your favorite gun with the perk roll you’re after, you can just craft it instead. Crafting itself is relatively well designed, giving options for multiple playstyles with each weapon including the brand new Glaives. The grind to get there, though… It’s a beauty. Once you get a few lucky drops and unlock the ability to craft each gun, the real work begins. You see, weapons have levels, and you need to blow away about a zillion bad guys to unlock the really good perks.

Normally I’m not on board with that sort of thing, and it’s ultimately why I originally fell off the Destiny bandwagon. The difference here is that the number of things to do while leveling up a weapon is both broad and fun.


A Strong New Season

The Season 16 content is strong with the new and unexpectedly story driven Psi-Ops Battleground mode, and the Wellspring activity is both fun and likely to evolve as the seasons progress. There’s also the overhauled Void ability structure, which has been quite entertaining to play around with. We’ve had the opportunity to align abilities with equipment and play styles before, but the number of awesome combinations makes using other subclasses way less fun. I’d bet we’ll see updated Arc and Solar trees over the next couple of seasons.

If you’re not familiar with Destiny, it all probably sounds pretty overwhelming. That’s because it is. Destiny 2 has a dumptruck full of mechanics, concepts, and items, and it will take you a long time to figure everything out. What’s important is that getting to the light level cap, or doing the raid, or maxing out faction rep isn’t necessary to have a good time. The game still plays phenomenally, and the balance the new activities strike make The Witch Queen an ideal place to give Destiny 2 another shot. It worked for me, and well, if you knew exactly how much I’d grown to despise helium coils and faction rep, you’d be shocked I came back at all. But come back I did, and I won’t be putting Destiny 2 down for a very, very long time.

*Review code provided by the publisher*

The Good

  • Plays phenomenally well
  • Gorgeous art direction
  • Great balance of activities

The Bad

  • Some obtuse storytelling
  • The grind still exists