Destiny 2: The Witch Queen review: Bungie finally perfects the formula
Bungie’s Destiny sci-fi shooter series has always been great, but it hasn’t always been easy to love.
Games have been through a lot of turbulence, with a difficult launch in 2014, a rocky sequel in 2017, and design glitches everywhere. There were also periods of prosperity, but they were all aimed at correcting past mistakes and not at creating something better in the future. So Destiny has always been a series about would-be and loyal players constantly hoping for something really great around every corner.
Nearly eight years later, two full games and six expansions. Destiny 2 finally realizes this potential.
Witch queen begins with a new and intriguing mystery. Longtime villain – Savatune, sister of Oryx, the villain from the original FateDarling Taken king expansion – somehow acquired the Light, the power that gives Guardians their power. Hive, the enemies I’ve been fighting for almost a decade, have suddenly gained the same magical cosmic powers as me, including the most video game of all abilities: the ability to respawn. The only way to overwhelm them is to throw their bodies onto the battlefield, crushing their spiked Ghosts – the living machines that supply the Guardians with Light – in my hand. Killing these evil Guardians and their Hive Ghosts is a fundamental game mechanic in witch queen, but it also comes with a moral quandary. Since the beginning of Destiny, the Light has only blessed mankind with Ghosts. There were some Rotten Egg Guardians in lore, but we’ve never seen enemies use the Light against us in the game. Bungie is clearly using the classic thread here, asking, “What makes good guys good and bad guys bad?”
But as banal and nonsensical as Destiny’s history has been in the past, I’ve taken a deep dive into the story that Bungie is telling with the witch queen. With this story, Bungie bridged a huge gap. After years of working to create ambient lore and make up for the first game’s poor storytelling, it seems like the studio can finally tell a compelling story. For example, the Guardians are finally asking questions of mysterious beings like the Wanderer in the game (and not on the Grimoire card), and we have great characters on both sides of the debate.
This story is just a part of Bungie’s great work – the first link in the chain that connects the entire expansion. The central mystery – how the Hive got the Light – centers around the new Throneworld location, allowing players to delve into the mind of the most interesting villain in the history of the series. The secrets players find in the world yield new currency, which in turn leads to new weapons, which then play a role in the new weapon crafting system. I’m constantly using new weapons so I can add them to my crafting repertoire or level up weapons I’ve already crafted to improve them even more. The new evidence board found in the game on Mars is one of those classic detective boards with rope tying loose ends together — it becomes its own metaphor for what the extension does so well. Additions, from a new type of glaive to an overhaul of Void 3.0 abilities and the weapon crafting system, are not there to solve past problems. Instead, they help breathe new life into the activities that I have been doing since 2017. This is Destiny stripped of baggage, and every detail fits together perfectly.
Every other major Destiny success is Taken king for the original Fate as well as Forsaken for Destiny 2 — was born out of a disaster. After the original Fate launched as a hodgepodge of boring campaign missions and bad equipment systems, Taken, the king showed the players the potential of the series. Bungie fixed the transmission system and built the Dreadnought, a sinister place riddled with secrets. After Bungie made brand new mistakes with Destiny 2 (e.g., PvP oriented changes that limit PvE player options), Forsaken came to get the series back on track with a new weapon system and a great campaign. Yes, both expansions were major leaps forward for the franchise, but primarily because they fixed the game at a crucial, pivotal moment.
witch queen, on the other hand, follows one of Destiny’s quietest years. (2021 was the first year without significant expansion since the original Fatelaunch.) In subsequent seasons Beyond the Light and continued witch queen, everyone told exciting stories, offered amazing rewards, and even gave players a few surprises. All of this is to say that Destiny doesn’t need to be skimped in 2022, which is why Bungie has focused on quality and quantity rather than bandages and salves. Witch Queen is the first major expansion that looks less like a reaction and more like a preemptive step forward. It’s not Bungie reinventing the wheel – it’s watching it evolve from spokes and wood to metal and rubber. It still adds a new campaign, a new location, and new weapons, but all of its offerings hit series highs, with the campaign being particularly outstanding. It’s like Blizzard dropped World of Warcraft. The expansion is so good it blew it easily Lich King – which is considered by many to be the “golden age” Blimey – out of the water. Witch queen blows the quality bar set Taken king, as well as Forsakenand, left me even more excited about what’s to come to Lightfall as well as final form extensions.
As a longtime Destiny player, I had an emotional experience with the witch queen. I feel something like pride. Like watching a toddler take his first steps, I have seen Destiny succeed and stumble over the years. But which queen it’s like watching a toddler run for the first time on their own. Destiny 2 will almost certainly lose its footing again, but my timid hope has turned into overconfidence, and I know that Bungie will pick itself up again, dust itself off, and keep moving forward.
Eight years after those first awkward beginnings, the series is not about hope for the future. The Fate I always wanted is here.
Destiny 2: Witch Queen was released on February 22 Google Stage, PlayStation 4, prefix 5, Window PC, Xbox Ones well, as Xbox Series X. The game has been tested on PC using the Steam download code provided by Bungie. Vox Media has partnerships. This does not affect editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions on products purchased through affiliate links. You can find Read more about Polygon’s ethical policy here.