The Destiny franchise has been around for the past 8 years and is still kicking ass. There is a love/hate relationship with not only non-Destiny players, but from within the community as well. It’s evolved every few months into a million-dollar franchise and a huge community making memes, skits, lore content, PvP highlights, and more.
With so many changes throughout the years, there will always be discourse towards what once was. The feeling of nostalgia of an old game mechanic, the deeply hidden lore of an enormous fantasy world, or frustration towards a nerfed weapon are all examples of evident drive for many fans hoping for the perfect game.
I often find myself conflicted with being the biggest Destiny fan while keeping unbiased criticism for its shortcomings. Then I remember that no game is perfect, and Destiny never will be. However, the changes made these past 8 years are significant and have been industry-breaking.
Before we begin…
So, in comes Bungie’s latest annual expansion The Witch Queen. Every iteration of the annual DLC substantially changes core game mechanics, story, and landscape. Throughout the year after the big DLC drop, Destiny will then present players with seasonal content, provided the season pass is purchased. Every 3 months, a new story will unfold while offering new weapons, armor, skins, mounts (called Sparrows), and of course mission content such as dungeons, raids, strikes, and PvP maps. How does The Witch Queen stand out from the usual cycle? Well, it doesn’t. However, it is a game-changer for a few reasons.
Yes, Destiny 2 still has rich, deep lore that you must go and read yourself if you really want to get the big picture. So, if you like in-depth text lore such as FROMSoftwares games, or many other popular MMORPGs, this will not disappoint. However, Bungie has changed the way they tell the story of Destiny with more cinematics, more dialogue, and many more missions that progress the story throughout the year. This helps those players who don’t want to read, finally feel in the loop of what has been such a great, deep universe.
The Witch Queen formally introduces Savathun. The queen of the Hive species in Destiny 2. She is considered the God of Trickery and Deceit and has manipulated her way into the ranks of the Guardians to steal the powers they possess, and with success. Now we have Hive Guardians which can resurrect with the help of Hive ghosts who have sided with them. Find out her motivations and secrets, the hive origins, and whether the dark and light powers are opposing forces, or something much more complex.
The nitty gritty
The game starts you at a high enough power level to take on the new content. The level cap is 1550 but starts you at a generous 1350. Players have the option to start their story progress on normal settings or the new legendary story missions. Of course, this is hard mode. It adds more difficult modifiers, lowers your current power level, and beefs up enemy damage and health. For players who want a challenge, whether new or old, I recommend this mode. It was an amazing experience to finally feel like I’m not just grinding through the story since the content in the past was too easy and quick to get through.
Bungie also had a bad habit of offering difficult end game content with no loot to really obtain that differentiated from completing it on easier modes. So, if you do legendary mode, you will get a new exotic armor piece for your class as well as high power level gear to get you to 1500 and up quickly. This leaves great accessibility for newer players and eases old players’ habits of stressing over power grinding to be end-game content ready.
Since Halo, Bungie has always been the king of level design. The huge landscapes, awe-inspiring skyboxes, and astounding music create an immersive experience. They did not disappoint with the latest world to explore, Savathuns throne world. It has a creepy yet, elegant castle setting with dark swamps and winding caves to explore many secrets and find loot. Yet even though the first impression always gets me, I find myself bored of what world content means in Destiny. Exploring is great, but I still find myself doing the same public events, patrols, and lost sectors (mini loot caves with bosses). Even the extra content such as the Well Spring Attack/Defend and PsiOps Battlegrounds are repetitive rehashes of content that’s already in the game. It feels like an attempt to pad content with what we are already familiar with such as strikes, blind well, dares of eternity, and the formerly known battlegrounds.
Craft me something nice
The newest addition to Destiny’s weapon system is crafting. You can finally craft the weapon you want with the perks you want……but not quite. I’m sure they will add more to craft but now they only offer a small selection of new weapons to mold yourself.
Unfortunately, in Bungie fashion, you must collect yet another new currency to select the mods and perks you want. To do that, you would have to get lucky and obtain a drop of certain weapons with a deep sight resonance perk and attune them. All this means is that you must use the weapon and level it up once so you can extract the currency needed to craft. I say lucky because sometimes the weapon you want to craft is too damn rare to drop, making it difficult to unlock. So, this system does need a lot of work but Bungie has always been receptive to community feedback, and updates will be implemented.
The right weapon for the job
You can’t make a first-person shooter without weapons. Destiny 2 has the most unique designs of any end-game weapons and armor called exotics. Each one has a perk that no other weapon has such as the Bad JuJu which reloads its magazine after every kill. The No Time To Explain, which summons a mini turret that follows you when you hit enough headshots. There’s even a chainsaw sword that rips through enemy shields.
The Witch Queen expansion adds a new weapon class called glaives. They have legendary and exotic versions. Think of them as long blade staffs with a shotgun attached to them. They provide an excellent mix of melee and mid-range combat.
Then there’s an exotic grenade launcher that while questing for it, also progresses the story. Let’s just say this launcher literally uses live ammo for enormous splash damage. The quests for these new exotics are fun and still progress an ever-engrossing story. The new armor exotics are just as useful and fun. I ended up building a void warlock that practically has infinite grenades, and thanks to the exotic legs Secant Filaments, I can also hit harder while healing at the same time.
The builds can be intricate and fun. The downside? Bungie has a habit of nerfing and buffing things every single patch so sometimes I feel, what’s the point when my build may be obsolete in a month? The same can be said for legendary and exotic weapons/armor. Sure, it keeps things fresh and fair, but why at the cost of the hard work that I put into a character, its mods, armor, and perks? Then I am forced to change my gameplay style completely because the community or Bungie might feel that infinite grenade builds is too “OP” or a weapon I’m using melts a boss too fast.
The final shape
There are a lot more weapons, armor, and content that I haven’t been mentioned here to avoid spoilers but there is plenty to do after each weekly reset. Newcomers should know that there is a lot to do in not just Witch Queen but previous content as well. It might be overwhelming, but starting players at power level 1350 was a smart move.
For the veteran players, there’s a lot of the same thing but the story is its biggest hook. If you want something brand new and different, this DLC is not for you. New missions and quests unlock as every week progresses and even when you think the story ends, Bungie throws a curveball. This works well to keep your attention since the grind is obsolete for the most part, unless you strive to engage the Grandmaster difficulty modes. For those who think you are obligated to put in a massive amount of time, you don’t have to. Destiny 2 has become more accessible than ever before. As divisive as that is for some, it means more players and more love for the franchise.
I spent a month on this expansion to get as much out of it for this review and found myself loving the story progression but bored of the same content Bungie rehashes often. I play for the story mostly and it does not disappoint. The Witch Queen is perfect for new players. I accept that they may get bored and move on once the end-game content is completed, and that’s ok. My only hope is they come back each season for more story. For the veteran players out there, I say expect the same things as before with a few new features that need some work but can still be a fun experience with other players. Especially the raid, which will be its own separate review coming soon.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of Destiny 2: The Witch Queen for PlayStation 5 provided by Bungie.