Destiny has spent a lot of its time fixing and adjusting itself to be the classic its always wanted to be. Beyond Light felt like it had finally finished that, cementing a foundation for the franchise to move forward. The Witch Queen builds upon those foundations to be an expansion that truly pushes the franchise forward, achieving all of Destiny’s narrative, character, gameplay and looting goals, and showing what Destiny is finally capable of being. This is the best Destiny expansion — yes, even better than Forsaken and The Taken King — and there’s no looking back.
The Witch Queen campaign is a standout in the Destiny franchise. The story is intriguing, unravelling how Savathûn stole the light and showing the origins of the Hive. There are a few surprising twists throughout the story, and if you’ve been paying attention to Destiny’s deeper lore, these twists are gargantuan and completely change the foundations of the Hive.
A god of deception, whether she’s furthering the plot (or allowing you to do it for her), or playing a condescending game of ‘Two Lies, Two Truths’, Savathûn herself is a perfect, fully realised villain, with hidden motivations and emotion. It feels like in another timeline she would be an ally, but right now she’s too focused on her own plan and issues to really care about ours, beyond manipulating us for her own ends. Debra Wilson does an incredible job bringing the Witch Queen to life – it’s always a joy to hear her voice. Savathûn feels fully realised.
The campaign missions are very meaty, taking a decent chunk of time to complete, and without any grinding — which was a big issue with the campaign in Beyond Light. The final boss is an absolute blast, feeling like a mirror to Oryx’s Dark fight way back in The Taken King. And the Legendary difficulty for the campaign offers a solid challenge for Destiny veterans (unless you’re a coward like me and go invisible 80% of the time).
The Lucent Hive are strong additions and help to keep the campaign feeling dynamic. These are powered-up Hive with Light abilities like actual players — even able to be resurrected by their own Ghost companions after you kill them. Multiple times I’d be too distracted to kill the Ghost before a resurrection and I’d have to kill the mini-boss all over again, or I’d die trying to crush the Ghost because I hadn’t cleared the area of other enemies. It’s an interesting strategic experience, particularly when the Lucent Hive pop their supers unexpectantly.
The only criticism of the campaign and strikes is that most of the main bosses aren’t quite as creative as in expansions like The Taken King. Simultaneously fighting the Cabal brothers, or the Darkblade lumbering through a pitch-black arena are absolute classic strike encounters. Whereas The Witch Queen has the Lightblade, certainly not a boring boss fight, but as it takes place in a brightly lit room, it’s beautiful but nowhere near as atmospheric as its darker brother. And most of The Witch Queens campaign bosses felt the same — all consistently good, but I’d seen a little better throughout the franchise. Of course, exceptions being the final campaign boss, and the raid boss that I’ll talk about later (and he’s truly incredible).
The Witch Queen finally brings weapon crafting into the Destiny franchise. The process of crafting a gun is a long one as first you’ll need to get multiple ‘deepsight’ versions of the same gun (which can take a long time), and use them all enough (through killing enemies or completing activities) to extract their ‘resonance’. Then you’ll be able to create a custom version of the gun, which you’ll then have to use to level up and unlock new perks. But to add the perks to your gun, you’ll need materials you’ve extracted from deepsight guns (which can be a lot).
Needless to say, it’s a long process, and something most players would only do for weapons that they really like, unless you’re a hardcore player and need ALL the options. It’s not a replacement for randomly rolled weapons, but a supplement to the gun economy. Crafting isn’t necessarily a shortcut to a godroll, but a way of guaranteeing that you’ll eventually get the roll you want.
The most surprising aspect of this expansion was how much I loved the environments. Most of the expansion takes place within Savathûn’s throne world, a dimension that she crafted herself and one that reflects her personality, from the dark swamps to the lucent city. From the trailers, I thought the swamp would be the most interesting, but it was actually the city and its interiors I found to be more compelling. The green and blue-white walls of the city, spotted with blood red plants or huge purple eldritch eyes are frightfully beautiful. Plus, there’s a growing Darkness city around a Pyramid ship, showing us what Darkness technology is like when it’s activated — it’s unlike anything else in the Destiny franchise, especially when we dive into the raid.
The ‘Vow of the Disciple’ raid is the most intriguing part of the expansion, having players dive into a Pyramid ship to defeat a Darkness disciple. Much of the encounters focus on team communication through remembering symbols (similar to say the Riven boss in the Forsaken expansion). It’s a good way to force team communication, but an element that Bungie seems to rely on too much and I can see being tedious in the long run. However, there is one absolute standout in the Vow raid, and that is the final boss.
Rulhk is probably the best boss in the entire franchise — standing tall and slender, blasting huge pulsing beams of Darkness energy and not afraid to smash his foot into your face. Other raid bosses are immobilised so your team can stand together to attack during a damage phase. But Rulhk is on the move, chasing you down to kick you all to death and only pausing to blast everyone with more Darkness beams. It is by far the most dynamic raid boss in Destiny, feeling akin to other MMO raid bosses. Rulhk also gives us a tantalising glimpse at what we can hopefully expect when the full Darkness invasion arrives.
The Witch Queen is the best expansion ever in the Destiny franchise. An incredible campaign that even at its lowest points is still great; with a plot and mission design that are equally intriguing and enjoyable, and Savathûn as a villain that you love and hate for all the right reasons. This expansion shows Destiny is at the stage where it no longer needs to ‘fix’ itself, but rather can focus on creating great new experiences now, and still set up anticipation for the future. I’m loving what Destiny is now, and can’t wait to see what happens next — even if that’s the Darkness coming to destroy us.