Since the release of Destiny in 2014 by Bungie Studios, this popular Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) series has been redefining the genre of cosmic sci-fi adventure games. With its fast gameplay, larger-than-life scenery and constantly expanding lore, this game has been drawing in a large audience of loot-shooter fans up until the past release of its sequel, Destiny 2, in 2017. The game’s history is full of ups and downs, but its newest DLC, The Witch Queen, is its highest point yet. This expansion brings back the things that fans had been missing from the earliest days of the game’s launch: dynamic mechanics and a compelling story.
Destiny 2 tells the story of a post-apocalyptic Earth and universe torn between the opposing forces of Light and Darkness. Though a pretty standard concept in the sci-fi realm, Destiny puts a spin on this trope with the concept of Guardians, which are akin to the Jedi in “Star Wars” with one key difference: Guardians can use the Light to come back from the dead. Each player in the massive world of “Destiny” plays one of these magical, immortal warriors, given outstanding abilities by their Ghost companions and the omnipresent being of Light known as the Traveler. As players move through the game, mowing down waves of aliens and collecting the newest weapons, they defend Earth’s last civilizations from the forces of Darkness.
Destiny 2 distinguishes itself from other video games with its continuous narrative, a common element used in MMOs, meaning that the story is constantly updated as the timeline of the game goes on. Bungie periodically releases expansions to the story known as DLCs, or downloadable content, which introduce new campaigns for players to enjoy. It’s very similar to the way television shows release new episodes. With each additional DLC, new events occur within the game’s story, meaning that new players in 2022 are not experiencing the same game that players in 2017 were.
The Witch Queen was released in February of 2022 and with it, the landscape of the game has fundamentally changed. This campaign follows the return of Savathûn, the titular Witch Queen, who is using the Light against the Guardians. The story of “Destiny” has never experimented with an idea like this before. Though not all Guardians are heroes, the story thus far has always been about the battle between Light and Dark, and very rarely does the story place main characters on both sides of the field. Players must now watch recently slain enemies rise from the dead right in front of them, using a resurrection mechanic that has kept Guardians alive for the entirety of the game’s runtime.
This new narrative element has ended a rather unremarkable year in Destiny’s story. To many, the game’s last interesting DLC was the Forsaken expansion, released in 2019. At the time of its release, this DLC changed everything. The entire weapon system was reworked, and the story campaign was engaging and fresh — even killing off one of the game’s most beloved characters. Since then, most of the new DLCs have fallen flat. Beyond Light, an expansion released in 2020, introduced an enjoyable new mechanic to the game’s combat, but the story was still rather unremarkable.
The Witch Queen sought to challenge all that. This campaign offers a new moral dilemma for players, best articulated by Bungie when they wrote, “As the Knight you’ve struck down rises from the dead for the second time, a feeling of betrayal washes over you and you can’t help but wonder: When the Light offers no shelter – no solace – where will you turn?”
Not all changes to the video game have been welcomed with open arms. In recent years, Bungie has introduced the concept of the Destiny Content Vault. The DCV serves as a base for all the removed content from the game, usually incorporating old DLCs that are no longer relevant to the game’s current landscape. This includes story missions, exclusive items and even some characters that the game holds near and dear. Bungie explains that old content is vaulted to “make room for new experiences for players.” They believe that the game will quickly become cluttered if five years of content is always available to everyone. As a result, old content is periodically removed to make the story less overwhelming for new and experienced players alike.
Though necessary, the concept of the DCV is controversial among players. The base game is free-to-play, but Destiny 2’s DLCs are locked behind a paywall — meaning that players are spending upwards of $39.99 on a single expansion. With the DCV, they might not have access to content they paid for once it’s removed from the game. On February 22, with the release of The Witch Queen, Forsaken (one of the game’s most beloved DLCs) was officially vaulted. Along with it, all inclusion of Cayde-6, an iconic character originating from the series’s first game, was removed from the game.
Though it makes sense to remove a dead character from the ongoing story, new players now have no way of meeting this character or learning what happened to him. Long-time players are feeling this divide within the player-base, often feeling like they have drastically different experiences from new players to the point where they can’t relate to each other anymore. The DCV might only serve to break apart the foundations of an otherwise strong community.