Destiny 2: The Witch Queen is still six months away but it’s already sounding like one of the game’s most ambitious updates yet. Over the last two weeks Bungie has shed more light on the next annual expansion and the vast changes it will bring with it, from weapon crafting to overhauled subclasses. When it launches next February, players could end up encountering a very different version of the game.
While Bungie revealed quite a bit about Witch Queen in its big Destiny 2 showcase last week, it’s also been spilling more details in a series of interviews and blog posts published since. Players are always hungry for more content—more story, more missions, more loot—but the studio is also promising to fundamentally change up Destiny’s underlying gameplay in new ways.
Bungie has been staffing up. Previous Destiny director Luke Smith is now overseeing the continued growth of the entire franchise. Big plans are afoot and its an especially exciting time for the sprawling loot shooter. Here’s a rundown of everything we already knew as well as what’s been elaborated on more recently.
The witch queen Savathûn is a Hive god, and Hive gods have Throne Worlds, pocket universes they create to hide their power in. Next year’s expansion will take place in Savathûn’s True Detective-inspired Throne World, complete with creepy forests, eerie swamps, gothic cathedrals, and one of those giant mysterious black pyramid aliens. A new legendary campaign mode will let players explore this location on a harder difficulty that scales to the size of their Fireteam and grants better rewards.
The enemies in Savathûn’s Throne World? Hive Guardians, a new enemy type that can wield light subclass abilities that mirror those of players’ Guardians. These Hive Guardians will toss familiar tracking grenades and even be able to cast supers. They’ll also have Ghosts that revive them after a short time if not destroyed quickly.
“We want it to feel like you’re fighting you,” game director Joe Blackburn told Polygon. “We want it to feel like you’re fighting something that you understand. The playing field has been leveled in a bunch of interesting ways.”
Destiny 2 hasn’t had a new alien race since 2018’s Forsaken expansion introduced the Scorch. There have been new enemy types and variations on existing ones since, but nothing that has drastically altered combat encounters as much as Hive Guardians seem like they will.
Bungie is also aiming to make the campaign feel more substantial, on par with things like the Halo, Titanfall, and modern Doom games. “In our last couple of releases, the campaign had some great moments, but it often felt like right when it got started, it was over. So that’s one of the things that, pacing wise, we knew we wanted to fix,” Blackburn told PC Gamer. While it’s unclear if that means Witch Queen’s campaign will be longer than those of past expansions, it sounds like the missions will have more gameplay wrinkles and exploration, not unlike recent Expunge and Shattered Realm ones.
Bungie has slowly been pushing Destiny 2 toward more customizability over the years. Season of Opulence’s Menagerie let players grind for specific loot drops. Season of the Hunt gave players more control over what perks their loot would drop with. Witch Queen will take things even further with actual weapon crafting.
We still don’t have many specifics, but in Witch Queen’s original reveal Bungie said it would be “combat-based,” and Blackburn told Polygon it would be a “new system, from the ground up.”
He elaborated a little in an interview with PC Gamer, likening weapon crafting to looking at a recipe of possible perks before you start baking. “And we want you to feel like you went on a journey to get there,” Blackburn said. “Because by the time you’re able to make the exact god roll, you will have the ability to make all the versions of that gun that you want. So it’s really about a long pursuit with a weapon.”
It sounds like this new system will also cut down on the clutter in players’ vaults by not forcing them to manage suboptimal duplicates of gear until they finally get the RNG-based perk god roll they were hunting for.
The Glaive, a new secondary weapon type that will be introduced at the same time, will be exclusive to the new crafting system, and also sounds like it will complement the ways Hive Guardians change combat. The way Blackburn described it to Polygon, a player might pop the Glaive’s shield power to get in close and kill a Ghost, while still being able to stab enemies even when it’s out of ammo. The Destiny game director also implied players would be able to customize the Glaive by choosing specific perks like Swashbuckler for it during the crafting process.
Since Destiny 2 launched, players have largely been playing with the same toolbox when it comes to their light subclass abilities. New supers expanded their arsenal in Forsaken. Beyond Light added a new “Dark” subclass called Stasis, which was an instant favorite in part because it was so overpowered.
In Witch Queen, the existing Solar, Arc, and Void subclasses will also be getting the Stasis treatment. Namely, the existing trees will be transformed into a Fragment/Aspect system that offers players more freedom to mix and match abilities and augment them to create more unique loadouts. For example, Void Warlocks will get a Pocket Singularity melee projectile that will push enemies out of cover, and a Child of the Old Gods Aspect they can equip to summon a sentient black hole that consumes targets and gives their health to you. It all sounds amazing.
While some abilities, like supers, will carry over to this new system, others won’t, or will be reworked beyond recognition. “Some of our melees in some of these [existing] trees, and some of our passives were not as exciting,” Blackburn told Polygon. “Some of those it’s like ‘yeah, that’s OK [to lose],’ we knew that was a weak point in the tree anyway.”
The good news is that unlike when Stasis was added to Beyond Light, there won’t be an arduous, grindy questline to earn the new Fragment/Aspect versions of old abilities. Light subclasses will also be reworked throughout the year, beginning with Void, followed by Arc and Solar in subsequent seasons.
And while a new darkness subclass sadly isn’t in the cards for Witch Queen, Bungie has confirmed it is working on the next one. Maybe it will be ready in time for Light Fall, the expansion currently planned for 2023.
Raids and dungeons (shorter, three-person versions of raids) are the crown jewels of any new update. The Prophecy Dungeon was added over a year ago in Season of Arrivals and remains one of the most fun and rewarding things in the game. As Polygon’s Ryan Gilliam pointed out last week, perhaps the biggest news to recently come out of Bungie is that Destiny 2 is now set to get a new raid or dungeon every three months or so.
This begins with a new dungeon coming in December as part of the Bungie 30th Anniversary pack. Two more are on the way during Year 5 which officially starts when Witch Queen goes live, along with a new raid based around the conflict with Savathûn. Bungie is also reworking an older raid that will come back during that period, similar to how Vault of Glass, the series’ very first raid, returned earlier this year with some new twists.
This new cadence will arrive alongside a more streamlined end-game activity rotation, Polygon recently reported. The goal will be to have the latest dungeon and raid, alongside one older version of those activities, reward the highest-power gear. It’s unclear if that means older raids and their gear will be officially rotated out of the game, as happened last year with Beyond Light, or simply relegated to the background but still available for diehards to continue running. One of the things currently keeping the Prophecy dungeon feel so fresh is the return of old Trials of the Nine gear which can only be farmed there.
What old Destiny raid will return during Witch Queen is also still under wraps, though Blackburn told PC Gamer it would be “a banger,” leading to speculation that it will either be King’s Fall or Wrath of the Machine. Polygon also hinted that special versions of raid gear including glowy armor could also potentially return from the first Destiny.
When it was originally revealed last summer, Bungie pitched The Witch Queen as the second act in a Destiny trilogy about the light and darkness kicking off with Beyond Light. Last week it announced it would be extending that saga with a fourth and final installment aiming for 2024 called The Final Shape. Why the change? Long story short: Bungie realized it couldn’t squeeze the story it wanted to tell into just one more expansion.
“It’s super important for us that this saga doesn’t feel like it just concluded in a single expansion,” Blackburn told PC Gamer. “You know, nice quick quick campaign and then on to the next thing. And so we’ve done a lot more work narratively than I think we ever have in plotting the roadmap and making sure we know how many things we need to get in place.”
The Final Shape will officially conclude the 10-year plan for Destiny from back when it launched, but of course the game will continue after that. Whether it will continue as part of Destiny 2 or in a sequel remains to be seen.