Destiny 2 Witch Queen & Seasons (Year 5) review

We’re only a few weeks from Lightfall, the next major expansion from Bungie in Destiny 2, so now is a good time to have a look back at the last 12 months and review The Witch Queen Expansion. The highs, the lows, the state of PVE and PVP, plus the seasons and events. There’s a whole lot to get through today, so strap in, get cozy, and lets have a look back at the Witch Queen expansion.

Witch Queen

The Witch Queen expansion launched in February 2022, after a fairly long delay and a whole load of expectation from the community. The Taken King was one of the most popular expansions in Destiny history, and the preceeding Destiny 2 expansion was Beyond Light, which while was a step up over Shadowkeep, still didn’t hit the heights of Forsaken back in 2018. Bungie had gone independent from Activision, they were doing things their way and expectations were high for the Witch Queen, with the build up related to Savathun lasting 3 years.

The Witch Queen expansion was great, Bungie introduced the Legendary Campaign which was a new implementation of difficulty in the game. We’d been used to Legend or Master mode Nightfalls or Raids, more Champions, but this was scaled differently, and it felt very good. The story was pretty good too, hitting all the major story beats, solving the mystery of how Savathun and selected Hive Lightbearers acquired the light… The Traveler chose them. We all thought it would be a case of Savathun stealing the Light, but our expectations were turned on their head in satusfying campaign, plus a fitting end for Savathun.

Alongside the camapaign we were introduced to our first light subclass rework in the form of Void. Over the course of the Witch Queen expansion each subclass would get the 3.0 treatment, bringing them into line with Stasis, and Bungie started with a fan favourite. This introduced the aspect and fragment model to Void, and we’re in a much better place with buildcrafting given the options we have now. Bungie are doing some major reworking to the mods and buildcrafting systems come Lightfall, but the first light rework felt like a success.

Glaives were introduced to the game, the first new weapon type since bows, and you could argue they were met with a mixed reaction. They are versatile weapons, allowing the player to stab, shoot projectiles plus block. They came out of the gate pretty hot, and we all got to craft our very own Glaive in the opening levels of the campaign, followed up with fairly underwhelming exotic glaives post-campaign. Glaives had to be drawn in later in the Witch Queen in terms of power, with Bungie preferring them to go into the game overpowered rather than underpowered.

Crafting was another major addition into Witch Queen. Destiny 2 is all about the loot chase, and we’ve had to rely on RNG since the dawn of time in this looter-shooter. Now, by collecting a certain number of red bordered versions of the weapons and levelling them up, we’d be able to extract the patterns and various crafting materials. I have come round to the crafting system, although Bungie had to reign in the number of crafting materials a few seasons into the Witch Queen given it was very convoluted. Destiny 2 is known for it’s materials and complex systems, but this was a step too far and Bungie reduced the number of materials required and buffed the drop rates of red bordered weapons season-over-season.

The Throne World was a great addition to the game. This is a swampy land infested with Lucent and Lightbearing Hive. The Throne World had components of Mars, combinations of Destiny 1 Mars with the Exotic Mission Vox Obscura and Destiny 2 Mars with the Heist Battlegrounds. We had the swamps, plus the underground caves of the Throne World plus Savathun’s Palace itself. The Hive Lightbearers were a good addition to the game, although beyond the expansion and the first season, we didn’t really see them utilised very much, which is slightly dissappointing. We also had two new Strikes including The Lightblade and Birthplace of the Vile. We saw the return of Alak-Hul, this time renamed as The Lightblade rather than The Darkblade, a returning favourite from Destiny 1.

All-in-all the Witch Queen campaign and location were solid, which leads us nicely into Season of the Risen.

Season of the Risen

Seasons that accompany major expansions are not great. Undying came with Shadowkeep, Hunt came with Beyond Light and both didn’t really hold up to regular seasons. This is understandable, given much of the effort likely goes into the major expansion. Season of the Risen appeared to buck that trend with a decent season.

In terms of a brief summary of the story, we’re working with The Cabal to study Hive Lightbearers to find out more about their plans now they have attained the Light through Savathun. The main focal point of the season from a character development point of view are Crow, Lord Saladin and Caital. Crow doesn’t like the fact we’re studying the Hive Lightbearers, but Saladin insists sometimes in war you have to do what needs to be done. The season ended with Lord Saladin leaving to join the Cabal, which later we would learn he rose through the ranks very quickly.

We had a couple of activities in the season including PsiOps Battleground and the Vox Obscura Exotic mission. PsiOps Battleground had a few variations and saw us fighting inside the minds of Hive Ligthbearers in an effort to study them. Vox Obscura was a repeatable exotic mission, set on Mars from Destiny 1, which included a fairly forgettable Dead Messenger Exotic Wave Frame Grenade Launcher. Vox Obscura was OK, probably the most exciting thing to come out of it was the lore and the teasers for the year to come. While it was better than other seasons that arrived with Expansions, it still doesn’t live up to the high standard of other seasons in the year.

Season of the Haunted

Season of the Haunted came with much build up, with Destiny writers claiming on Twitter this was going to be the best season. We saw the return of the Leviathan amd Calus, plus returning loot like Austringer, Drang, and Beloved. The story focused on the mental state of Zavala, Caital and Crow, with Eris leading the way. We had the introduction of the Duality Dungeon, which has to be one of the best Dungeons we have in the game, albeit with a few bugs. Nightmare containment was our activity, and this one got fairly repetitive over time and by the end of the season I think Destiny fans were glad to not be doing that anymore. We also saw the introduction of our second light subclass rework with Solar 3.0.

Season of Punder

Season of Plunder was all about Eramis, Drifter, Spider, Mithrax and Eido. We found out more about Mithrax’s past, plus Spider was smuggled back into the game with the help of the Drifter. We learned this season about dangerous relics of darkness, containing the remains of a powerful being called Nezarec, who was the disciple of the luna pyramid. The Eliksni had been searching for these powerful relics. Eramis broke free from her frozen stasis prison and was a constant thorn in the side of Mithrax. Eido and Mithrax have been studying the relics we’ve collected throughout the season, and this will likely continue into next season.

The final light subclass got it’s rework this season with Arc 3.0. I enjoyed playing with Arc this season, Titan’s came out very well with the Storm Grenades and I really liked Hunter’s new super. Warlocks got the short end of the stick again, although I don’t really mind given I tend to play all three classes at the same time.

We had three seasonal activities this time. Ketchcrash, Expeditions and Pirate Hideouts. Expeditions were probably my favourite, and the Pirate Hideouts were a good way to reuse old Lost Sectors. Ketchcrash got stale for me fairly quickly, even though Bungie were trying to create a Menagerie style activity. This is another place where the seasonal model is really showing its age; going to the seasonal vendor, ranking up the grid, seasonal challenges, repeating the seasonal activity.

This was an interesting season. We all started on such a high, and that dropped off quicker than most seasons. Community sentiment then soured with many turning to twitter to publically proclaim they were canceling their Lightfall preorder (a behaviour I don’t really understand, seems like a cry for attention to me).

Compared to other seasons in The Witch Queen Expansion, this felt like the weakest one so far. Given it’s the middle season that’s probaby OK. You don’t want a season like Plunder going into the next major expansion. Plunder has probably been the worst season of the Witch Queen DLC so far, the grind, the filler, all adding up to mid expansion burnout across the community.

Season of the Seraph

This was a much previewed storyline with Ana Bray and Rasputin coming back into the fold. Xiva Arath also takes a starring role, given she is trying to get hold of Rasputin’s Warsats and cause an extinsion level event on Earth. We have to restore the warmind Rasputin, given he was siphoned into an engram when the Pyramid ships turned up in Season of Arrivals the season before Beyond Light. As well as the weekly narrative beats, we also have great story with the Dungeon and Exotic mission, and while the story is a little confusing with many robot names and Warminds to remember, it’s still very gripping as we lead into the main story of Lightfall, and inevitably make our way to Neptune in the latter part of the season.

Next up we have the seasonal activity, Heist Battlegrounds, which have been given a major upgrade in difficulty this time. We have regular Heists and Legend Heists, which often feel like Nightfalls compared to Strikes in regards to the difficulty. The structure is pretty interesting as we start out with a battle in the open space, on somewhere like The Moon, or Mars, then we open up a Seraph Bunker, spelunk inside and defeat a few enemies to delve further into the Bunker and face off against a combination of Hive and Fallen. It’s refreshing to have a single seasonal activity to focus on, plus the difficulty is nice, and the loot is good too.

The Dungeon is called Spire of the Watcher, and this one is based on Mars near the Enclave. Much of the early feedback about the Dungeon was it was short, the mechanics were simple and the bosses are bullet sponges. While I agree with the latter feedback about the bosses being bullet sponges, I’ve come around to the mechanic, whereby we have to reconnect electrical cables throughout the playspaces. I also like the vertical nature of the dungeon, plus the loot is excellent too. I still don’t have my Cowboy Hat, although I do have all other armor. The Tex Mechanica loot is fantastic including the new Sidearm that can roll Desperado, and we have the Long Arm, the legendary version of DMT. The Dungeon is also farmable, meaning you can go in time and time again, if you are looking to get a full set of cowboy loot.

The Exotic mission is relatively new in-game having been released just before the holiday season. Operation: Seraph’s Shield is mainly puzzles and a few encounters, but it certainly one of the best missions Bungie have put out in a long time. Vox Obscura was another exotic mission similar to this, however this one far exceeds Vox Obscura. This one reuses some assets from Deep Stone Crypt, personally, I don’t mind this too much as this is one of the most aesthetically pleasing environments we have in Destiny, plus you have the individual moments like going out of the space station, and handing yourself into the Fallen, before running through a Ketch all guns blazing.

At the end of the Exotic mission we have the Exotic Pulse Rifle Revision Zero, which we can customise week over week with 4 catalysts, plus we have zones and secrets to uncover within the mission itself. This may not hit the heights of the Whisper Mission or Zero Hour, but this is by far the best Exotic mission we’ve seen in Beyond Light and Witch Queen-era Destiny.

Where are we leading into Lightfall?

PVE is probably in the best place it’s ever been in the game. We’re powerful, although we have to be mindful of powercreep. Bungie’s experiments with new difficulty scaling for activities is very interesting, in particluar with the Operation Seraph Sheild feels like an experiment related to the Legendary Witch Queen camapign. The story is great in Destiny at the moment, we have a large variety of raids, including the best raids from Destiny 1. The subclass reworks were much needed and well received, and we’re in a much better place now with all subclasses upto the same standard. I still have a lot of fun in PVE content; Grandmasters keep me challenged, and I’m still chasing various loot from Dungeons and Raids.

PVP is not in a good place. Bungie did some experimentation in Control with SBMM, then had to go back on that and implement ‘loose SBMM’. This seemed to work well for new or low skilled players, and made the experience much worse for the high skilled players. SBMM in control is strange, given Control is somewhere to hang out in Crucible and it’s supposed to be the casual playlist. This made it anything but casual.

Iron Banner introduced new game modes called Eruption and Fortress, which seemed to go down much better in the community compared to New Rift last season. Trials introduced a couple of new weapons, and ironically Trials seems to be the most casual playlist now.

In Season of the Seraph we’ve seen a major rework for competitive PVP, with the introduction of Competitive Division and a ranked playlist. I’ve seen a lot of negative feedback concerning new competitive, however, personally I like it. In terms of loot to chase we have Rose, a 140 hand cannon reissued from Destiny’s past. Once you complete your placement matches, seven regular matches of comp, you’ll get a static roll of Rose. Then, week over week, you can complete 3 more matches to get a random roll version of Rose, and this gun has some excellent perks. You can’t really go wrong when it comes to getting Rose.

The problem with Comp at the moment is there isn’t really an incentive to keep playing. There are no unique cosmetics for comp and you can’t show off your rank in-game. These are basic design flaws that are going to turn off players. Bungie may be laying the groundwork for further competitive reworked features in the future, like adding more loot and cosmetics, but I’ve heard plenty of feedback from top tier players that this isn’t really it. In fact many PVP players are questioning their place in the Destiny 2 ecosystem at the moment.

Seasonal model

The Seasonal model grind is starting to feel like it’s getting old. I don’t really like the repetitive seasonal features. Here are a few of them:

The Vendor in the H.E.L.M. with the upgrade grid
The 3 or 6-player matchmade activity
The Artifact
Reprised Weapons (especially the Destiny 2 weapons)

The seasonal model is starting to creak, but this is most likely because we’ve been doing this since Shadowkeep and Season of Dawn. There are many things I like about seasons; the commitment to add a dungeon or raid per season, the weekly story drop and occasional cutscene and seasonal events have got better. I don’t have the answers as to what Bungie could do to fix this one, but the current pattern of the content we’re in could do with a shake-up.

Core Playlists

The core playlists in Destiny 2 need some love, and I am talking about Vanguard Ops (or Strikes), Cruicble and Gambit. While the seasonal model is getting stale, at least it’s varied, but more often than not you have to go into the core playlists to grind out currency. The core playlists for Destiny 2 have largely stayed the same, or content has been cut due to sunsetting with Beyond Light. Strikes, Cruicble Maps, Gambit maps all have been removed, leaving the core playlists pretty repetitive.

Some improvements have been made recently with streaks, and weapons getting more perks as you level up your vendor. However, we need more content in these playlists. Battlegrounds were added to Vanguard Ops, which was a good move, but we need more Strikes. We have a wealth of Destiny 1 strikes to call upon, but even better than that would be new strikes on Europa, Savathun’s Throne World and The Dreaming City. When we get a new expansion it’d be great to get more than 2 strikes (in Beyond Light we only got one). Strikes could also be harder, and have strike modifiers. Much like we had during Guardian Games, hopefully this gets rolled out in the future. The Legendary Campaign was a great success with Witch Queen, it’d be great to see all new strikes get a legendary mode to go with it.

Cruicble on the other hand needs a lot of work. New maps, new modes, just as a starting point. Experimenting in Trials of Osiris seemed fairly successful and the transparent data from that exercise was great, hopefully we can see more of that. Apparently there’s a competitive playlist rework coming in Season 19, but we haven’t heard any details of that yet.

Gambit feels like it’s already been set to one side. We have so few maps now, so returning our old maps would be a great start, but also the return of ideas from Gambit Prime. Honestly, it feels like Bungie have tried to breath new life into gambit so many times, perhaps it’s time to cut and run with this game mode.

Let me know in the comments what you think of Witch Queen.