A Little After the First Reset of ‘Destiny 2: The Witch Queen’- A First Impressions Retrospective

I’m writing the bulk of this on Sunday evening, February 27th. According to the Destiny 2 Heatmap (link), I have played for a little over 40 hours before the weekly reset on March 1st.

Surprisingly, only one dark orange square signifying 9+ hours during launch week.

Crossing checking with my life time stats on WastedOnDestiny (a name I don’t concur with because I am having a great time with however many hours and don’t feel like a second has been wasted), those 40 hours are a small drop in a bucket of nearly 3300 active hours played. And for maybe the third time of the franchise, I feel confident in saying this is the best state the game has ever been in.

It’s a DLC tradition and recurring joke on the This Week in Nerd News Podcast that I share these statistics.

After a surprisingly tame one hour of server hiccups, I managed to get in and initiate a series of protocols that I pinned in a word document. One of their quality-of-life changes was drastically reducing the cost to switch affinities. I decided to take full advantage of it and altering and remodding my carefully curate armor selection. And once all of my stat blocks were verified and energy optimized, I set out to tinker with the new Void 3.0. For the past year, I had amassed a staggering number of kills as a Behemoth, introduced November 2020 in Beyond Light. I had become fond of the playstyle, but a new expansion means trying out all the new toys. So with a variety of toggles switches and theorizing, I set my cursor to the Legendary campaign. And a new adventure begun as I set out to combat Savathun, the Witch Queen.

Eyes Up, Guardian

I ended up doing the majority of the 8-mission long campaign solo, while also doing a handful of the missions as a duo. It was the first time in franchise history that I actually felt the enemies and challenge were appropriate with the number of people in the fireteam. And as a result, Legendary was also the first time where I felt actively challenged, and that $#!% was hard. However, with the promise of 1520 Power Loot (20 levels above the soft cap) that would accelerate the seasonal power grind and a new exotic, my Titan, armed with their new Void 3.0 overshield quickly discovered that said overshield would not save me. My usual flash and thunder tactics would not be applicable either. Instead, we reverted to the original style of attrition, and the best word to describe the experience is “taxing.”

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The Entrance to Savathun’s Ship, Image Courtesy of Bungie’s Press Site

Missions were long. Multiple rally flags set up different Darkness Zone encounters that featured a plethora of mini bosses, bosses, and objectives. The shortest missions took around 30-40 minutes to complete on my own, and the longest ones clocked in at just over an hour. Of course, some of that time spent could be attributed to fatigue and making bad plays, but a nontrivial part of it was a constant stream of “Wait, there’s more!” There were bosses that lead to bosses that lead to post-script scenes that became bosses again. In the moment though, the mission length didn’t quite bother, because my hands were still trembling at a well-fought victory. My eyes were in awe of a different set pieces, and my ears absorbed the phenomenal orchestral score. Gameplay aside, the main narrative thread was some of the finest work from Bungie writers to date that catapulted the myth arc of the universe to a staggering degree. The tagline “Survive the Truth” was certainly apt in more ways than one.

My New Favorite Thing is Basically a Stargate SG-1 Staff

Very early on in the campaign, Guardians got acclimated with the highly marketed glaive. It was a weird hybrid weapon that features a low-speed projectile that generate energy to power a nigh impenetrable frontal shield while also allowing for a devastating three hit melee combo. This is the first weapon type introduced since Forsaken‘s Bow, and I am here for it. While it took a while to get accustomed to the new armament, it quickly became one of my main tools in the campaign and general play thanks to its versatility and ample amount of sustainability it offers. As someone whose main form of survival is throwing up as many walls as I possibly can (physical and emotional), having yet another implement to stave off the hordes is more than welcome. I have amassed over 2800 kills with the shooty, stabby, blocky stick, given it a title and a bespoke shader and have no plans to remove this from my Energy slot even after the seasonal mods that are elevating them to ridiculous levels of power vanish.

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Fun fact: In the three intervening days, my glaive is Level 50 and has 3226 kills and counting.

The Enigma essentially spoiled my on-weapon crafting as its starter perks were fairly agreeable, and the “gun” itself was so fun to use that it was easy to level up. My next few experiments with the crafting system were not quite as kind. Weapon crafting is an entirely new system to the Destiny universe and is slightly easier to do in game than explain in words, but I’m gonna try to explain in words. In order to craft a weapon, you need to have its pattern. Some patterns are tied to a quest, but the majority are found by attuning Deepsight Resonant Weapons, basically legendary drops that have a red border. However, only a curated selection of Deepsight Resonate Weapons have patterns, but you’re gonna wanna use those red-bordered guns anyways to get all of the crafting material which does put you at odds when it comes to leveling up the guns you want to use.

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Weapon Crafting at the Relic, Image Courtesy of Bungie’s Press Site

The system is far from perfect, requiring an almost myopic dedication, but as an enfranchised guardian, I have already been able to craft the new lightweight frame bow to my exacting specification. I made it to mimic the draw time time of my previous favorite bow, maxing out of the accuracy, and enhancing two of my favorite perks. Having a purely deterministic system is fantastic, and you still have plenty of opportunities to be excited by random drops as there are plenty of guns with unique perk combinations that aren’t crafting. However, given there is no centralized way to see how much material you’re carrying or how perk material overflows where as neutral element seemingly doesn’t have enough intake for the amount you’re using, sometimes I approached the Relic excited; only to discover I couldn’t quite make the changes. Still, the new armory features some great new perks and offers a lot of fun toys to experiment with while you fit out your monster killing machine.

The Other Half of the Sandbox

On the flipside of weapon sandbox, Void 3.0 marked the largest upheaval to some of the long-standing elements of the game with the new Fragment/Aspect customization. No longer the days of a fixed grid in D1 where there was often one actual configuration with very little straying and gone were the three trees of completely synergistic kits, and in its place the modular aspect/fragment system.

My initial reactions of Void 3.0 for Titan were tepid, and even after several iterations and buildcrafts, I have yet to find any configuration that completely sates my personal taste for combat. I appreciate the ranged melee, having bubble as a separate super, and the access to Bloom. Strangely okay with the bubble nerf as it means that I’m not going to be expected to run it by default in end game content, and its new blast shield functionality is practical and efficient if nothing else.

From what I’ve gathered, Warlocks basically unanimously sing the praises of the new Voidwalker, and Hunters are even split between “This is the worst thing that has ever happened to us” to “This is the best thing they could have done for me,” which speaks a lot about the community as whole and the weirdness of game balance.

So Much To Do, So Much To Do, So Much To Do…

In post-campaign of The Witch Queen, there were plenty of things to do. Exotic quests that unlock some of the coolest additions to the armory in the form of a Yeeting Worm Launcher and a Psionic Grenade Launcher that can switch elements. Seasonal challenges in the playlist, where I spent an ungodly amount of time grinding Gambit for power and incidentally becoming a Gilded Dredgen x4 before the first reset. New strikes and the addition of new battlegrounds to break up the pace, and a lot of trudging around the Throne World.

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The Lightblade strike, Image Courtesy of Bungie’s Press Site

The realm of the Witch Queen, God of Lies, predictably has a staggering number of secrets, and honestly, it’s neat conceptually; however, it’s also my least favorite part of the Destiny 2 grindstone. I enjoy the moment-to-moment combat, I enjoy actively engaging in things and honing my skills more than skulking around an area. By that same virtue, I know plenty of folks who adore the detective work and that really gets to one of the most salient parts about this release.

Destiny 2: The Witch Queen takes the existing foundation of the game and has built a veritable fortress of content right on top of it. It has retooled fundamental systems and incorporated a staggering degree of quality-of-life changes, new systems to interact with, new toys to play with, an arena that allows you to play both offense and defense on alternative days, new environments to explore, and it’s been exactly one week.

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Birthplace of the Vile strike, Image Courtesy of Bungie’s Press Site

We still have more seasonal content, more post-campaign story, and hell, the pinnacle of Destiny, the raid, hasn’t even come out yet. Who know what will happen after the first clear on March 5th. We have only begun to glimpse the surface of everything in store, and the fact remains this is the third time I can confidently say the game is staged to be in the best place it has ever been. I said it during Taken King. I said it during Forsaken. And I am happy to say that even as we near the end of the “Saga of Light and Dark” that I’m going to soldier on with this as my singular game.

Devotion Leads to Bravery. Bravery Inspires Sacrifice.

If you’re like me, you didn’t need any of this. If you’re a newcomer or returning player, I know it sounds like a lot, but if you’re willing to learn (and maybe convince someone to help you out), you’ll easily fall in love with one of the most ambitious game franchises, a shared world shooter that survived 8 years on the merit of it being real addicting. And once again, I have the stats to prove it.

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  • Mikkel Snyder is a technical writer by day and pop culture curator and critic all other times.

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