Destiny 2: The Witch Queen is just around the corner and last week, TechRadar Gaming was given a glimpse of it in action. Here's everything that was shown off and discussed in the whirlwind, hour-long presentation.
When Destiny first launched in 2014, it was narratively muddled. Concepts of the Light and Darkness, the core tenets of the universe, were vague and undistinguished. The Light was 'good', made it so you could respawn, and had something to do with that big ball in the sky. The Darkness was just… bad. Some of the enemies were part of the Darkness, but others weren't. It wasn't even clear if the Darkness was a concept or an entity. The initial campaign for Destiny was, all in all, pretty confusing.
In the eight years since, while it has taken a while, all of that has been hashed out. Destiny had great lore, it was just hidden under the surface. Lots of action happened in the campaigns, and underneath, fascinating, eldritch stories were told in the Grimoire cards and lore books.
However, since Shadowkeep, that lore's been coming into the light. Characters previously talked about at length, yet confined to the most in-the-know and dedicated readers have started jumping into the forefront. More importantly, though, this impending war of the Light and Darkness, a promise eight years in the making is moving tantalizingly into focus.
Savathun is a perfect example of the above. Since the Guardians vanquished Oryx in the King’s Fall raid, she's been the most threatening entity in the universe outside of the faceless ‘Pyramid ships’. Now it’s her time to step into the light - literally.
Savathun has now somehow severed her link between the Darkness, and supposedly, the needs of her worm. [Look, this is a dense lore thing, but basically, she no longer needs to feed the Darkness as part of a cosmic bargain made millennia ago.] More worryingly though, to replace that power, she has somehow figured out a way to wield the Light, something once exclusive to Guardians - if you discount Destiny 2’s Ghaul who wielded it for all of five minutes.
And now The Witch Queen is just on the horizon. After seven years in the shadows, Savathun is taking center stage. No more lies, tricks, or hushed murmers in the lore pages. She’s here and she’s taken the one thing that makes Guardians what they are.
Savathun's Throne World
Savathun’s Throneworld is the newest location in The Witch Queen. Like last year’s Europa, this feels much bigger and more intricate than locations of old. If there ever was a Destiny 3 in development, it feels like this would have been pulled right from it.
The most striking thing you’ll notice is the enormous castle-like structures raising to the heavens - though it doesn’t look like somewhere that would have a heaven. It’s certainly of the Light, but it’s threatening. Beautiful, yet twisted. Bright, but sickly. It looks like there'll be many halls to wander and get lost in as Guardians explore their labyrinthian designs. Savathun has taken the Light and clearly used it to make something beautiful and strange, yet undeniably violent. Just what you’d expect from a Hive wielding such power.
However, for all her almighty power which has been plaguing our Guardians for well over a year now, not everything seems to be quite under Savathun’s grip. Not even in her own Throne World. At the center of Savathun’s power, lays the aforementioned southern gothic monuments to the Witch Queen’s new form. This Throne World is a complete manifestation of Savathun herself, but there's something else going on here too.
On the outskirts, just past the walls of her fortress, things have gotten… less refined. Remnants of Savathun’s past are being pushed away from her new form, but they still linger, like so many skeletons stuffed into a closet. Past the walls, Guardians will find themselves in the swamps, which are littered with more classically Hive trappings. Even the Darkness infused Scorn stalk the marshes, all hinting that, despite this new use of the Light, underneath it all, the Darkness still lingers.
There is even a Pyramid ship on the furthest reaches, a monument to a past Savathun is trying to run from. The question is - is this an ugly manifestation of Savathun’s fears, a construct of her own making, be that willing or not. Or, is it perhaps a real invader from the Darkness coming back to reclaim Savathun? Does that difference even matter?
It leaves the question, is Savathun pushing away her past, or is her past encroaching on her present? There is the distinct vibe that as Guardians, we find ourselves in the middle of what could be a bigger turmoil, as has so often been the case.
Savathun wouldn’t be much without an army to enact her will, and Destiny wouldn’t be much without enemies to shoot at. With that, enter the Savathun’s Lucent Brood. From everything we’ve seen, at least when it comes to the foot soldiers, there isn’t too much that is going to surprise you if you are accustomed to fighting the Hive.
However, they have a couple of tricks up their sleeve. One such trick is a shielding moth that will bounce from one enemy to another. It will provide shields for the Hive it has flown into and when you kill that Hive, it will then bounce out and try to find another to protect. When it’s searching you can shoot it out the sky.
However, the biggest differentiator in the Lucent Brood’s arsenal is its own Hive Guardians. These are very powerful enemy types that have Light abilities. You’ll recognize some of your own attacks coming back at you, and you’ll certainly notice it when they pop their own Super. That’s right, the Hive now has access to the Light in tangible ways that affect combat. It’s quite terrifying to see a souped-up Acolyte use a Hunter’s Blades or a Wizard pop Arc “twinkle fingers”. When they do this, you may want to make yourself scarce until the Super is over, much like you would in Crucible.
Oh, and you probably want to make sure to run in and crush their Hive Ghost, because… yeah, they can revive just like you.
Stick them with the pointy end
The Witch Queen will also bring with it a new weapon type, the Glaive. These are the first secondary Melee weapons to be introduced to the game, however, they are also so much more than that.
They function closer to a Caster Sword like Sola’s Scar or Temptation’s Hook as they have ranged functionality as well. These blades can fire projectiles that do require a little bit of pre-aim, or you can run in and start whacking away at your enemies too. It’s a hybrid weapon making it extra versatile.
Will it be the kind of thing that will help you in a difficult Grand Master Nightfall? That seems hard to say. Getting in close is usually a death sentence, though it’s possible it could have some utility-based advantages. However, it looks like a ton of fun to use, and will likely be a great starting weapon for many as it looks like it can do a little bit of everything.
We know there are three class-specific Glaives coming too. The Titan Glaive is the Edge of Action which lets you place protective bubbles for you and your teammates to jump into. The Warlock version is the Edge of Intent which will allow the player to place healing turrets, which sure is nice and Warlock-y. Lastly, Hunters will get the Edge of Concurrence which, because it is to do with Hunters, will provide nothing for their team and instead be all flash, as their Glaive creates tracking Chain Lightning. (Sorry, Hunters. Too mean?)
Crafting the Future
While new weapon types and locations are going to be the marquee additions to Destiny 2: The Witch Queen, crafting is likely going to be the change that has the longest impact. Hopefully, years from now, this system will continue to change, evolve, and be added to, letting players focus on what weapons they actually want.
While the specifics of how crafting works is still somewhat hard to get a firm grasp on, it is becoming clearer. Last week’s This Week at Bungie shed quite a lot of light on the process, most of which was covered in the preview session.
The process seems to be you craft a weapon and through using it unlock the ability to ‘reshape it’. You can unlock different perks to then reshape the weapon. To get parks, you need different resources that you obtain through red-bordered weapons that have ‘Deepsight Mods’. This will allow you to help find the weapon you want, be it for raids and dungeons, or perhaps even for Trials and Crucible.
“For each weapon you craft, you’ll want to both level up that weapon and extract materials from other weapon drops in order to create the ultimate perk combination you’re seeking,” Senior Design Lead Rodney Thomas told us.
“We hope that players will feel like they can make progress toward their ultimate god-roll crafted weapon just by playing the game naturally, knowing that every takedown with a weapon brings them one step closer to their perfect roll.”
This seemed to be the theme when Bungie developers talked about weapons in The Witch Queen. That using new weapons will be the way to ultimately get those ‘god rolls’ you are after. It seems that Bungie wants you to go on a journey with them, level them up, actually use them to get to that final destination of the perfect roll.
That’s long been an issue in Destiny 2. The process of getting a god roll is often to just try and get it to drop. Dismantling hundreds of the same weapon until you get one that is just right. The problem is, that doesn’t involve shooting a single bullet. In fact, once you get a god roll, how often have you placed the weapon into your vault, never used?
The Witch Queen seems to be trying to buck that trend and give you a reason to invest in these weapons. Grow with them, unlock them, reach that final, perfect form. It’s a really smart way to get players to consider using new weapons and put down old favorites.
Oh, and as a parting sidenote, there are also enhanced perks coming too. It’s hard to say exactly how much of a bump these will be over their normal counterparts. If Adept Weapons are anything to go by though, there is no bump too small for players to invest tens of hours into chasing.
Filling the Void
Last year, with the introduction of Stasis, subclasses changed. Ever since Destiny 2 launched, you chose your elemental affinity and then one of three sub-sub-classes to go with. It was fairly rudimentary, but it did the job.
However, Stasis was built from a different cloth. The customization went much further than anything previously. Players could choose which grenade they wanted, and add strong aspects and fragments that could further enhance your class so it would do exactly what you want, how you wanted it to.
It was a subclass that made all the previous classes antiquated. Bungie is fixing that throughout the year. With each season, one of the old subclasses will get a focus, updating them to a similar system that Statis has. In the first season of the Witch Queen cycle, Season of the Risen, Void will be first up.
Not too much was shared however, we were told that abilities and supers would be able to be mixed and matched fairly freely. For example, Devour and the tracking Nova Bomb that moves slowly and burst into smaller projectiles can go together. Previously, Devour, the ability to heal entirely on a kill, was very powerful but had a weaker super than the other Nova Bomb class.
Now it seems you can have the best of both worlds. All classes will have access to all grenades too. If there are any drawbacks or not to this mixing and matching, that's not entirely clear. The glimpse given was very brief, but this has the potential to be massive. Build customization is really about to be in player hands, and by the end of the year, the entire sub-class system should be rebuilt putting player choice at the center.
The question is, just how quickly is this going to break the Crucible? Two days?
We don't know what we don't know
There is a running joke in the Destiny 2 community that every release is ‘make or break’. Destiny has had moments where that has felt true, but still, the game stands, never broken. In fact, it doesn’t feel like that for The Witch Queen at all. Instead, it feels like something different. Destiny has never felt so immediate. This is the biggest, most built-up expansion in the history of the franchise. This is a big bad with over half a decade of growing story.
Thus far, everything we’ve seen is highly encouraging. Savathun’s Throne World is haunting, the glaive looks neat, crafting will be a lasting change for Destiny’s future. And we didn’t even get to the rocket launcher that shoots Hive worms.
However, all of this knowledge comes with the truth that previous Destiny expansions are often forged in the things we don’t know about them prior to release. With Witch Queen’s detective focus and a big bad who is the keeper of secrets, it feels like there’s a lot of room for just that kind of unseen content to elevate the expansion. As of right now though, what we’ve seen is highly encouraging.
Destiny 2 is no longer in a holding pattern, promising a coming war or endless lore. The subtext is becoming frightening text. Savathun is the biggest testament to it. This is not a make-or-break moment for Destiny, however, it is the execution of its longest promise.
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Patrick Dane is TechRadar Gaming's Guides Editor. With nearly a decade in the games press, he's been a consistent voice in the industry. He's written for a plethora of major publications and travelled the world doing it. He also has a deep passion for games as a service and their potential to tell evolving stories. To wit, he has over 2000 hours in Destiny 2, over 1000 in Overwatch and is now deeply into Valorant.