It’s time to get paid. Bungie has teased the possibility of Destiny’s most cunning villain for years. That tease has intensified in recent months. Savathûn, the Hive queen, has entered all of the major storylines, integrating herself into the events that shape the plot. The Witch Queen’s trap has finally been set, as she co-opts humanity’s most valuable resource – the Light that empowers the Guardians – and uses it to create deathless warriors of her own.
Bungie is betting big on a long-awaited narrative twist in The Witch Queen, and utilizing that storytelling moment to drive forward fresh twists on the long-established gameplay model, including a drastic shift toward user playstyle customization. We chatted with the project’s creative director on the eve of the expansion’s release to get the inside scoop on what longstanding Guardians, lapsed Guardians returning to the fold, and even newcomers can expect to discover in the coming months.
“The enemy, Savathûn, is front and center,” says creative director James Tsai. “He’s the most cunning Hive foe we’ve ever had.” “And it wouldn’t be a Savathûn story without some deception.” She is the goddess of deception.” Because Savathûn has now disclosed her true identity and stepped into the light, the focus on treachery, hidden meanings, and secrets continue. And it sounds like matching wits with such a cunning foe is a big part of The Witch Queen experience. Tsai continues, “We’ve been talking about this as a mystery.” “This time around, the player fantasy is to be a psychic detective. You’re about to go on a journey to an unknown location, a spooky, delightfully hideous, twisted Wonderland. What exactly is the riddle here? What can you rely on?”
In the playspace of The Witch Queen, Tsai describes, those dynamics of gorgeous grotesquerie are on full show. Savathûn’s Throne World is a large new location for players to explore, full of secrets and fighting possibilities spread over numerous districts in The Witch Queen. The Throne World is an old Hive Realm that is being reconstructed and blessed by the Light that Savathûn has stolen. It is a reflection of Savathûn’s intellect. “Because she has the Light, she has this gorgeous, well-kept castle.” Courtyards with amazing sculptures. It’s not your average Hive location. Then there’s the swampier, bayou-like section, which she hasn’t yet rebuilt with the Light. There’s also a segment dedicated to the underground.” In the Throne World, there’s also a new six-person matchmade action called Wellspring, which is designed to portray the illusion of attacking the seemingly impregnable fortress. The marshes, heat, and humidity offer something new and different in The Witch Queen from what we’ve seen from the franchise before.
Bungie has great intentions to make the new campaign memorable across that new landscape. Tsai explains, “We call it the definitive Destiny campaign.” “It’s about infusing the campaign with some of the tremendous grandeur of some of our endgame aspirational feel.” Flying through these incredible environmental setpieces. Memorable encounters that necessitate a great deal of thought and comprehension. Players will be able to solve riddles in the campaign. In this release, there’s a genuine renewed focus on the marketing.”
The campaign’s resurgence means new avenues to participate in The Witch Queen. Aside from the standard campaign, players can face a legendary version of the game in The Witch Queen. This translates to more adversaries with larger health pools, higher combat modifiers, and changes to Darkness zones that prevent players from trivializing battles. Players may expect equivalent benefits in the form of gear packages that can assist your Guardian to get raid-ready, upgrade modules, and even exotic drops in The Witch Queen.
The legendary campaign also takes a fresh look at fireteam size, tailoring content, and foes to the number of Guardians in your party. “Our goal is to make sure there isn’t a wrong way to play,” Tsai explains. “You want to play it alone; you’re going to do it.” Do you want to play with your buddies? You’ll have the same challenging experience as well as the same sense of accomplishment.”
Whether playing on traditional or legendary difficulties, players may expect one major challenge to stay constant: the Lucent Brood’s deadly danger in The Witch Queen. While players will still confront the same Hive adversaries they’ve been fighting for years, Savathûn’s armies will be joined by new Light-enabled varieties. The Lucent Brood, like the player character Guardians, have superpowers and can rise from the dead after defeat. Tsai says, “It truly does impact the sandbox experience against them.” “It’s not just facing a new set of Hive in new jammies; you have to think about their skills.”
Players can expect to face freshly strengthened Knights with Void shields in the manner of a Titan in The Witch Queen. Electrical attacks are launched by Arc-powered Wizards. Solar-powered Acolytes wield burning knife fans. These high-threat enemies are inactive for a few seconds after they die until their Ghosts bring them back to life and full health, ready to fight again. Your only alternative is to close the distance between you and the enemy Ghost, then use your Finisher to grab and crush them, putting an end to the menace.
Meanwhile, moths that infuse them with Light will empower more regular Hive enemies. “So, you might fight a Light-charged Acolyte, and after you beat that Acolyte, the moth flies out and tries to infuse its power into another nearby combatant, or it comes after you and tries to detonate,” Tsai adds. When you consider the consequences, battles against the Lucent Brood are designed to be high-intensity engagements that necessitate close combat to terminate the fight definitively.
Guardians have a few new techniques under their sleeves to improve your chances of survival. The glaive comes in exotic and legendary varieties, and it may be used as a melee and ranged weapon with a lot of damage potential. “It’s the game’s first new weapon archetype since bows, and it’s our sole first-person melee weapon,” Tsai says. Unlike swords, which have sweeping arcs, the glaive is specifically designed for single-foe combat. Multiple button pushes can be used to string together aggressive jabs to create a smooth combo. A glaive may also fire an energy blast at a short or medium range, and it comes with a defensive shield that grows stronger as you fight enemies in The Witch Queen.
Glaives are only one of the many weapons that the new weapon-making system allows you to create and customize. This sophisticated new system satisfies a long-held yearning among Destiny players: the ability to create their personalized arsenals, altering weaponry to match a unique playstyle. Weapon crafting begins with a pattern that can be utilized to generate a weapon’s first form. When you use that weapon in combat, you obtain levels that allow you to fine-tune its capabilities, ranging from intrinsic features like increased range and handling to magazine attributes and other more consequential alterations. You’ll eventually be able to change its key qualities and perks, such as Rampage and Killing Wind. You’re also collecting crafting materials from various locations in the game area, as well as disassembling other weapons. You can also unlock cosmetic upgrades to your weapons with optional consumable souvenirs.
All of these weapon modifications are possible thanks to the Relic, which can be used to create and then modify your weapon of death in The Witch Queen. It’s a new center for investment in the game and personalization of your experience, and it’s presented as such — a specific location you visit with a variety of options for customizing a weapon. “We wanted this to seem like a personal, spiritual, and emotionally intimate time for you, and we wanted to give it some value in the cosmos,” Tsai explains.
Through the revision of the Void subclasses, The Witch Queen will see a deeper push toward play customization. This is the first of several reorganizations of Light-based subclasses scheduled for the year, with Arc and Solar to follow in subsequent seasons. Look no further than the latest release of the Darkness-based Stasis abilities, which feature features and pieces that allow players to modify their approach to gameplay. Players should not expect fully new power arrays when using the Void classes. Instead, it’s all about combining and altering existing power trees to create the character you want. “We believe that being able to optimize the manner that you play is a major quality of life benefit for those Light categories,” Tsai explains.