Destiny 2: The Witch Queen review — The best Destiny has felt to date

Destiny 2 continues its trend of improving with every expansion with The Witch Queen, but it does come at a cost.

Destiny 2 The Witch Queen Savathun
(Image: © Bungie, Inc.)

By now, you must have heard of Destiny 2. It has been a fixture of the gaming landscape since 2017. You might have even lost a gaming friend or two to it. I am one of those friends. With 3,000-plus hours in the game, it was a foregone conclusion that I'd book several weeks off work and wear in my favorite chair.

Throughout the past five years, Bungie, Destiny 2's developer and publisher since 2019, has continued to iterate on its game-changing formula. Each expansion has offered something new or improved long-standing fixtures. With Beyond Light in 2020, Bungie set a precedent with what to expect in the expansions and has blown all those expectations out of the water with its latest, The Witch Queen.

Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a copy of the game purchased by Windows Central.

The Witch Queen: What you'll like

Destiny 2 The Witch Queen Mars

Source: Bungie, Inc. (Image credit: Source: Bungie, Inc.)

Simply put, Bungie's ambition. Not only does The Witch Queen show what Bungie can develop truly working on their own, but it can deliver stellar content in the most unfathomable of circumstances.

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CategoryDestiny 2: The Witch Queen
TitleDestiny 2: The Witch Queen
Xbox versionXbox Series X
Game size105GB
Play time70+ hours
Xbox Game PassNo
Launch priceFrom $40

The Witch Queen starts, unlike any other expansion, flaunting its newly developed Legendary Campaign difficulty, which is perfectly paced and thoroughly challenging, alongside a Normal difficulty. And that's not the only trick it has up its sleeve. The Witch Queen brings together years of lore and long-forgotten aspects of the backdrop of Destiny 2 that players might never have noticed. It intricately weaves a story of betrayal and deceit as the rug is slowly pulled from beneath everyone in the universe. By presenting one of its most ominous and mysterious foes in the light of day and hinting that we aren't as special as we once thought, thanks to the Hive wielding the power of the Light, you'll be hard-pressed to forget the peaks of The Witch Queen years later. And that's just the start. It's incredibly enjoyable.

Just when you think the end is in sight, a whole series of Exotic Quests and additional missions fall in your lap through the Investigations Board and across the Throne World. Tasked with reporting on the Lucent Brood, Savathûn's Light wielding enforcers, and eventually luring them to their demise, you'll find countless hours to explore new areas and try out new activities, like the Wellspring.

Destiny 2 The Witch Queen The Arrival

Source: Bungie, Inc. (Image credit: Source: Bungie, Inc.)

Savathûn's Throne World is the greatest hits of Destiny's past, present, and hopefully its future.

Everything is sent to test you and push you as you escalate in Power Level, and there is nothing more exhilarating as your first Master difficulty Wellspring event. A total of six Guardians must survive a tirade of Scorn as they either attack your base or you seek out to destroy them. The moment-to-moment action flows beautifully as you coordinate as a team to push back the enemy forces while juggling the delivery of a payload or protecting a designated location before finishing the fight with one of several named bosses. And, for all your hard work, you might just find the Pattern to make a new weapon.

That's right, weapon crafting is now in Destiny 2. With the release of The Witch Queen, the ability to craft 29 new weapons was added and with it the promise that you no longer need to continuously run activities until the weapon you are looking for finally drops. Now, you can find a Pattern, which is Destiny 2's way of saying blueprint, in the world and head back to the Enclave to make. And it all starts with a Glaive.

Glaives are Bungie's new weapon type. They are a hybrid of melee and mid-range projectile-based weapons that allow you to change how you play on the fly. As your introduction to weapon crafting they will also be the first weapon you start to level with and even form a bond. Although your first Glaive, Enigma, is far from the most exciting. The real sauce comes after you craft your own Exotic Glaive. The Exotic Glaives act as an extension of one of your subclasses, whether you are a Titan, Hunter, or Warlock. Which is great because nobody is switching off their Void subclass after its overhaul.

Following the introduction of Stasis and how players were able to tailor their subclasses more towards their playstyle and take advantage of stat-boosting elements of the Stasis Subclass, Bungie has sought to retrofit the same design to the Light-based Subclasses. The first of which is named Void 3.0. The changes to Void subclasses are phenomenal. There are a variety of ways to play that allow you to suppress targets to prevent them from using abilities, have a near-permanent state of invisibility, and even turn Titans into walking tanks that grant full teams overshields.

Destiny 2 The Witch Queen The Arrival

Source: Bungie, Inc. (Image credit: Source: Bungie, Inc.)

And no matter what you do, it all takes part in a world that feels like the culmination of years' worth of testing and refining. Compared to last year's Beyond Light, which could be mundane and limited thanks to its persistent snowy landscape, Savathûn's Throne World is the greatest hits of Destiny's past, present, and hopefully its future. There are secrets and mysteries that players are still unraveling with the ominous white tears in reality that are strewn throughout the land to the quaint and subdued moths you can find perched upon hard-to-reach areas. It's all new and exciting, but provides the same comforting warmth of a long-forgotten friend.

Even amidst the chaos of the Vow of the Disciple, the fight against Savathûn, and clearing up the Throne World, there is one undeniable constant. How great guns feel. There's no denying Destiny 2's catalog is anything but bloated. Yet, every single one of the weapons you can pick up feels unique, sounds fantastic, and offers its own unique spin on the archetype. You couldn't do without them, and you'd scream bloody murder if they tried to take a single one of them. The fact that this expansion alone added nearly another 50 weapons to tinker with is astounding.

The Witch Queen: What you won't like

Destiny 2 The Witch Queen The Ritual

Source: Bungie, Inc. (Image credit: Source: Bungie, Inc.)

Unfortunately, The Witch Queen isn't all sunshine and rainbows. With the arrival of Savathûn's Throne World, we said goodbye to Destiny 2's top contender for "Best Campaign Expansion," Forsaken, and with it the Tangled Shore. For players like myself, the impact could be considered fairly minor, but I did pay for that expansion and the fallout of what happened is integral for the story. Thankfully, Forsaken presented a whole load of story beats that I will never forget, but I can't help thinking of the new players, those who are picking up Destiny 2 thanks to its current popularity, and wondering what the heck is going on. It's just baffling that Bungie removed one of the most emotional campaign scenes in Destiny 2.

The same goes for one particular section of the campaign. Not every moment can shine, but how Bungie managed to fumble their bread and butter is astounding. For years, Bungie has been the king of escape sequences. The adrenaline surge of escaping your foe and steamrolling over minor enemies like a cartoon, all at a blistering pace and accompanied by a rallying soundtrack is Bungie's thing. Yet, in The Witch Queen, it's probably the lowest point in the campaign. The only feelings it inspires being that of nostalgia as I loudly hummed a variety of poorly recited Halo tracks over the top of the rather dull backdrop.

And the mundanity doesn't stop with a poor choice of soundtrack. Weapon crafting is probably the biggest culprit in that department. While the core of weapon crafting is exactly what the community has been demanding, the implementation completely misses the mark.

Low-level resources come in abundance, more than you can carry, and the rarer materials are so rare that their acquisition feels like a myth rather than a reality. This results in both hoarding of rather inconsequential materials while lusting after the near impossible to find. Coupling this with the rather expensive price tag of actually leveling up the weapons you want, what should have been the joyous and rewarding experience Bungie had marketed falls flat on its face and an unprecedented amount of hesitancy when it comes to diving into the new feature.

Destiny 2 The Witch Queen Crafting

Source: Bungie, Inc. (Image credit: Source: Bungie, Inc.)

On top of the resource and grind-based issues of weapon crafting, there is also a distinct issue with the weapons available to craft in The Witch Queen. Nobody is faulting Bungie for pushing five different Glaives, especially when three are class-specific and they are the new toy everyone wants to play with, but the available options skip over several existing archetypes in favor of offering multiple iterations of the same type of weapon. There are no Hand Cannons, Trace Rifles, Swords, or Linear Fusion Rifles. Trace Rifles, I can forgive as there are a finite few available, but Hand Cannons are integral to the identity of Destiny 2 and Swords have been ludicrously fun to use since they were first released.

Due to the shallow pool of craftable weapons, most players have continued to hoard their most precious items. Hoarding is something Destiny 2 has become synonymous with, even after Bungie killed off your favorite weapons with sunsetting. For me, Vault management transitioned from a weekly task to a daily task in The Witch Queen. It's exhausting, time consuming, and incredibly boring. There is a chance that it gets easier as the year passes and more weapons are available to craft, but until I get more Vault space or replaceable equivalent weapons through weapon crafting, each piece of loot is followed by a pang of Vault management dread.

Destiny 2 The Witch Queen Mars Large

Source: Bungie, Inc. (Image credit: Source: Bungie, Inc.)

The Vault isn't the only long-standing issue in Destiny 2. Gambit has also been a large point of contention for quite some time now. Although, unlike the Vault, Bungie did try to remedy the problem. Starting with the release of The Witch Queen, Bungie reduced the number of times invaders can disrupt your game while gathering motes, increased the frequency of heavy ammo in the arena, and made substantial changes to how enemies spawn during Primaeval phases.

The thing is, it made the entire playlist even more disastrous. With increased heavy ammo, invaders, although less frequent, regularly wiped entire teams with their suped-up tracking launchers. This, in turn, also led to prolonged damage phases and Primaeval rushes that could snowball horribly off the back of a single invasion. It's really Not Fun and created a whole new monster from the bones of another, kinda like the type you'd expect to get sick of after dying a million times against in Dark Souls.

Even then, this isn't the most painful aspect of The Witch Queen. Nothing brings more sorrow than having a raid be a letdown, and boy oh boy, is the Vow of the Disciple a letdown. The areas are great, small corridors chock full of enemies are fun, and there's even a relay race of sorts that captures chaos in a bottle.

But Bungie soured the experience with 20-plus glyphs that require specific naming conventions that are almost impossibly complicated or devoid of any natural identification process. Some are steeped in the lore of Destiny 2 and others have too similar reference points. Thematically, yes they work. Functionally … I never want to hear anyone trying to decipher them in real-time again. There are just too many and the frequency of communicating them is incredibly overwhelming at times.

The Witch Queen: Should you play it?

Destiny 2 Witch Queen Gear Large

Source: Bungie, Inc. (Image credit: Source: Bungie, Inc.)

As always, Bungie continues to refine and improve upon Destiny 2, one of the best Xbox shooters. The Witch Queen is no different. In fact it's the best the game has ever felt. Guns have more of an identity, Void 3.0 is an unparalleled update to a subclass, Savathûn's Throne World has so much to offer, and just about every mission had me on the edge of my seat.

However, Bungie has promised the Final Shape, figuratively and metaphorically. The Witch Queen is not the final shape. It's rough around the edges, and Bungie is already looking to address some of the issues identified in this review; they've said as much in their weekly newsletter. I love the direction and can't wait to get where Destiny 2 is going, I just wish they weren't taking what feels like the scenic route.

Ryan Esler