Feature Article

Bungie Is Improving Its Destiny 2 Story Campaigns In The Witch Queen's Spooky Throne World

Venturing into Savathun's throne world will be like entering her mind, and thanks to a lengthy, improved story campaign, you'll have a good reason to spend time there.

Some of the best environments that have ever existed in the Destiny world appeared in the Dreadnaught--the massive warship, dungeon, and personal hellscape of Oryx, the Taken King. Exploring the Dreadnaught was the peak of the original Destiny, as it was both a horrifying place to find yourself trapped in, and a delightfully dense landscape full of mysteries to uncover. In the upcoming Destiny 2 expansion The Witch Queen, players are again delving into the domain of a deadly Hive god. With Savathun's throne world, developer Bungie looks to be pushing even harder on creating a twisted locale filled with frightening threats and deadly secrets.

We recently got a chance to see about an hour of The Witch Queen in action during a hands-off preview, in which Bungie took us through the new destination, demonstrated some elements of the expansion's new story campaign, and showed how new mechanics such as weapon crafting will work. What's most interesting about Savathun's throne world in particular, however, is how much it might reveal about the expansion's antagonist.

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Now Playing: Destiny 2: The Witch Queen Hands-Off Preview

Like most Destiny 2 locations, Savathun's throne world consists of areas you'll run through as part of the story campaign, as well as public areas you can explore at your leisure. The place looks to be comparable in size to the Dreaming City or the Dreadnaught. It'll consist of three public areas linked together, each with larger structures you can enter, and depths to explore.

The screenshots and videos of the throne world that Bungie has already revealed consist of Hive structures and dungeons, swampy areas, and a white, city-like landscape. Destiny 2 creative director Joe Blackburn said during the presentation that the throne world is a reflection of Savathun's mind, and thus these locations manifest elements of her personality. The desolate swamps and dark halls of the Hive dungeons represent Savathun's past, her years as a Hive god, and the species' dedication to death and conquest. They're being supplanted by her more recent desire for the Light, which is represented by the city and its cathedral.

From what we saw, that seems like it'll make different areas of the throne world feel distinct from each other and may even represent different objectives as you explore. In the city area, you'll find the Lucent Brood, Savathun's Light-infused Hive enemies. These have different characteristics than the usual Hive, even if they're not the Light-bearing Hive Guardians we've seen in trailers. For instance, break the shield of a Lucent Hive enemy and, rather than exploding, that shield will transform into a moth made of Light and quickly try to find another enemy to cling to. If you venture too close, the moth will instead attack you, rushing forward before exploding like a bomb.

Meanwhile, the swampier parts of the throne world are populated by enemies that might have been left behind by Savathun's adoption of the Light. The darker portions of the throne world contain enemies like the Scorn--those who served Savathun before, but who aren't as convinced about her change in ideology.

The city in Savathun's throne world represents her recent change toward the Light. The darker areas are indicative of her past.
The city in Savathun's throne world represents her recent change toward the Light. The darker areas are indicative of her past.

It all establishes a throne world that might be at war with itself, which suggests some things about Savathun's mind. Lore entries that have trickled out since Beyond Light have indicated that Savathun is grappling with conflicting emotions--especially about people such as Crow. It sounds like we'll be seeing the conflict within her reflected in the physical space of the throne world.

Bungie also showed off a new mechanic that drives your explorations of the throne world: Deep Sight. Much like the use of Queensfoil Tincture in the Dreaming City, Deep Sight allows Guardians to see things that are hidden in the throne world whenever they interact with strange nodes or bubbles hanging in the world. In one instance, interacting with a Deep Sight node created platforms to allow the player to advance through an area; in another, the player ventured in a maze filled with Hive statues, with Deep Sight causing some of the statues to move to reveal the correct path through the labyrinth. It sounds a lot like what we've seen in the Dreadnaught and the Ascendant Plane, but since a big theme of The Witch Queen is doing "psychic detective work," as Bungie describes it, the Deep Sight mechanic might be about more than just revealing invisible things.

"The definitive Destiny campaign"

Back in September, Blackburn and Destiny 2 general manager Justin Truman described The Witch Queen as containing "the definitive Destiny 2 campaign," and we got a sense of what that means in action during the preview presentation. As in past expansions, starting up The Witch Queen will throw you into a story campaign that consists of multiple quests, each unlocking as you complete the last.

These quests are going to see major changes from past expansions, however. Blackburn wouldn't put much of an exact length on the campaign in terms of hours, although he called this the "meatiest campaign in a long time" in Destiny 2 and said it would clock in as longer than Beyond Light. The additional length comes from Bungie's efforts to make the story missions bigger and more involved than in the past. In fact, story missions are borrowing more from endgame content like raids and dungeons. So while they'll be longer, they'll also dish out more rewards and challenge you more than past story missions, making them well worth replaying. The idea is also that spending time with the story campaign will teach players what to expect in other kinds of Destiny 2 content.

Expect "major encounters" to include Hive Guardians, who will attack you with the Supers and abilities you're used to using against them.

The composition of story missions has also changed, which is part of why you'll be earning more rewards for completing them. A mission will include the usual "run from point A to point B" structure we've seen in the past, but with more wrinkles along the way. At intervals, you'll run into what Bungie calls "major encounters." These are moments like a boss fight in a dungeon or raid, and you'll know you're in for a challenge when you see them. The arena you're fighting in will be obvious, you'll be able to drop a rally banner before entering it to refill your ammo and ability energy, and you'll get a reward chest for completing the fight. Blackburn said story missions tend to have two or three major encounters (although that count isn't uniform across all of them), so you'll be earning lots of gear as you fight through the story.

As Bungie has previously mentioned, the story campaign also has a tougher Legendary difficulty level that offers even more gear. When you finish major encounters on Legendary, you'll get two rewards chest instead of one, and they'll tend to drop more Legendary (purple) gear, rather than weaker Rare (blue) rewards.

The Legendary campaign will be available right from the start of The Witch Queen, Bungie said. You won't need to grind for Power levels in order to access it. The story campaign also comes with the ability to select your mission and its difficulty whenever you want, so you'll be able to swap between normal and Legendary versions, or replay missions out of order. It sounds a lot like the campaigns Bungie has built in its Halo games, with Destiny 2 keeping track of the difficulty on which you've beaten every campaign mission, and the ability to bounce around between them and either turn up or downgrade the difficulty on a mission-by-mission basis.

Savathun's throne world contains three public areas, and looks to be similar in size to the Dreaming City.
Savathun's throne world contains three public areas, and looks to be similar in size to the Dreaming City.

According to Blackburn, a "skilled" Destiny 2 player should also be able to "solo" their way through the Legendary difficulty campaign. Like other activities, though, you can tackle The Witch Queen's campaign with a fireteam of up to three players, with the missions dynamically scaling their difficulty based on how large your team is, even if people drop in or drop out mid-mission. Blackburn also said there are "some pretty big rewards" for finishing all the campaign missions on Legendary difficulty.

With The Witch Queen, it sounds like Bungie is re-establishing story campaigns not only as a big part of the Destiny 2 experience, but one that can be worth revisiting over time for greater challenge and better rewards. That alone should give players plenty of reason to spend time in Savathun's throne world, and it seems there will be a fair few mysteries and secrets to uncover as we try to determine how Savathun has gained the power that was previously restricted to Destiny 2 players.


Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw has worked as a journalist for newspapers and websites for more than a decade and has covered video games, technology, and entertainment for nearly that long. A freelancer before he joined the GameSpot team as an editor out of Los Angeles, his work appeared at Playboy, IGN, Kotaku, Complex, Polygon, TheWrap, Digital Trends, The Escapist, GameFront, and The Huffington Post. Outside the realm of games, he's the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler's Guide to Time Travel and The Space Hero's Guide to Glory. If he's not writing about video games, he's probably doing a deep dive into game lore.

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