Destiny 2: The Witch Queen Is Making Us The Bad Guys
Note. This article is coming deep in spoilers for the story campaign of the Destiny 2 The Witch Queen add-on, as well as for the Season of the Risen story. If you haven’t finished the campaign yet, you can complete it before reading on. If you have unanswered questions, check out our explanation of the history of the Witch Queen campaign.
Things get more complicated in the throne world. The story behind Destiny 2’s latest expansion, The Witch Queen, takes players to the realm of the hive god Savatún to discover how one of the game’s greatest villains managed to gain a power previously only available to players. What we learned there shook many of the established rules of the Destiny world – and it fundamentally changes the paradigm of the game’s story, raising serious questions about the nature of good and evil and where we, as players, fall. on this spectrum.
This is the last question the Witch Queen discreetly asks players, with a story element that’s somewhat understated but that has evolved over the past four seasons. The story of the Witch Queen takes us through the battle with Savatún, in which we finally fight the Lightbearer Hive god to stop her from performing the ritual that will bind the Wanderer in her throne world. It is believed that if Savatún is successful, she will capture the Traveler and the power of the Light for herself and no one else, depriving humanity of the power it needs to protect itself. So, we go into battle against Savathun, eventually defeating and killing her. There are caveats to this situation (namely, that it does not mean constantly dead), but the story actually ends with us killing Savathun.
Besides, we actually just killed Savathun?
The other big twist of the Witch Queen is that since Savatún gained control of the Light just like all the other Guardians, she has the same experience as all the other Guardians. Only people who have died can be resurrected as Guardians – ghosts essentially infuse corpses with Light and bring them back from the dead. But when this happens, the resurrected loses all memory of his past life.
This was huge last year’s theme with the introduction of Raven, a new character in Destiny 2. Raven is a resurrected version of Guardian Uldren Owl, a character from Destiny 1 and the Destiny 2 Forsaken story campaign. Uldren was a villain in Forsaken; he fell victim to some convoluted manipulation (which was ultimately the work of Savathun) and killed Cayde-6, a character close to players who have been part of the game for years. In Forsaken, players track down Cade’s killer and take revenge on him: We were the ones who gave Uldren the death warrant.
However, Crow is not Uldren, and this is the key difference. Although Crow and Uldren share a body, Crow didn’t remember being Uldren (at least not until Savathun started fiddling with him, but that’s redundant here), and the same goes for the other Guardians with their past lives. They are actually different people after being resurrected than they were before death, as Crowe showcased in last year’s seasonal content. He’s not the Uldren we encountered and killed; he’s someone new.
Bungie spent over a year getting The Crow to become an organization independent of Uldren, and it was a huge arc for the story. And something that history has suggested but has not yet explored is that the same is true for Savathun. Resurrected as Guardian, god of the Hive, not The Hive God is bigger. She was someone new, and in fact, the Witch Queen’s story campaign is based on the fact that Sawatoon can’t remember her past life. And while most of the story is about how Savatún orchestrated a series of manipulations for us and her resurrected self to carry out the plan, we still don’t know exactly who we actually fought and killed. It was. And indeed, if every resurrected in the Light deserves a second chance – in fact, it is the accepted dogma of the Vanguard that the Guardians should not try to find out about their past identity, and no one should blame the resurrected in a past life … -Are we not guilty of outright murder in some way?
The Witch Queen is quickly introducing a ton of nuance to Destiny 2 that is raising a lot of red flags about our role in the world and the war we’re currently in. We know from backstory and story elements that the Ghosts that help the Hive are the same little robots that follow us, healing our wounds and reviving our dead bodies when we fall off a cliff or get punched in the face by a huge alien robot. We are currently in the process of destroying these Wraiths along with their Hiveguard companions and treating them as traitors. But for the most part, we’ve invaded their surroundings in the throne world. Lore also suggests that these Wraiths serve the Hive not out of coercion or persuasion but out of moral judgment. They think the Hive deserves their compassion, which is why so many have joined Savathoon’s Lucent Brood. These Ghosts have chosen their side, of course, if you consider it as a pure war. But we never tried to talk to any of those Hive people, did we?
Then there’s Finch, a Hive Wraith defector who helps us in the throne world, who questions the Wraith’s claim that all Hive Wraiths deserve to die. Finch switched sides to help us, so he falls into that category too? We are forced to consider where the line should be drawn in terms of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Season of the Risen makes it clear that the Lucent Hive is not (all) potentially flawless. In seasonal missions, we see Hive Guardians making their way to Earth, where they ambush human Guardians and steal their Light in a grander scheme that we don’t understand yet. Of course, you might argue that this is exactly what we do with them in the throne world, but at least we are fighting to protect our territory and people.
This seemed at least more simple until we launched a seasonal story. Here we see how the Vanguard, in fact, goes ahead with torture. In a new PsiOps Battlegrounds challenge, players are sent to capture the Hive Guardians, who are then pushed into large glass tubes where our new Cabal allies can invade their minds. As explained in the new Psisorium location in HELM, each of the captured Hive fighters is in a kind of limbo, where they feel no pain but in which they are neither alive nor dead. The crow is already voicing many fears about this whole practice because it is very similar to torture. At least it looks like we’re lobotomizing this Hive.
And yes, the Hive as a race is a genocidal, conquering death cult that has killed countless people, including humans. But again, we must consider that the Traveler gave them LightLight. If we consider the LightLight to be a moral judgment about us, a confirmation of our rightness, then isn’t the same true of the Hive? Beyond the intricacies of the Destiny 2 universe, is it possible to torment another lifeform psychically or otherwise? Are we selling our souls to defeat the Hive?
Destiny 2 has forced us to reflect on these kinds of questions and activities that we’ve been participating in since at least the Forsaken campaign. However, with the “Queen of the Witches,” everything changes. Way up. This is no longer a story about LightLight versus dark, and even a couple of weeks after the release of the new expansion and its seasonal stories, it seems like the main theme of this year may be coming to terms with our own ability to do evil – and justifying it.