I’ve by no means, since Future launched again in 2014, been in a position to categorically advocate it to anybody. Reward at all times got here with caveats. The cool components had been at all times buried beneath an incomprehensible grind. With The Witch Queen I can lastly say, with out reservation, that Future 2 has a fantastic shooter marketing campaign that’s value everybody’s consideration.
For anybody who’s been intently following Future 2: The Witch Queen’s launch, this received’t come as a shock. I’m not the one one saying its marketing campaign is terrific. I’m simply right here so as to add my voice to the rising refrain. The eight mission affair takes you thru Hive god Savathûn’s Throne World, a floating fortress stuffed with deep mysteries and darkish secrets and techniques, and delivers on all the pieces it guarantees. Enjoying Halo: Infinite final 12 months made me surprise what a non-live service model of Future can be like. Witch Queen seems like a nod to a potential reply.
Southern gothic swamps give strategy to French gothic courtyards. One second you’re navigating an underground cavern to search out an historical tomb. The following your scaling a tower in the hunt for a botched experiment. There’s platforming, puzzle fixing, correct storytelling, and many capturing. Future has at all times had every of those components in isolation, however they’ve by no means been as robust, balanced, or blended collectively so naturally earlier than.
When it first got here out, Future was synonymous with capturing right into a cave for hours whereas wanting up taste textual content on-line. Witch Queen reveals simply how far its advanced from that formulation. For the primary time ever, the story is almost nearly as good because the fight. No spoilers right here, however suffice it to say longtime gamers are handled to reveals on a degree by no means seen earlier than within the collection, whereas newcomers lastly have a combating likelihood to parse Future’s milieu of correct nouns due to a story arc grounded in multi-dimensional characters.
The artwork route, at all times unimaginable, is best than it’s ever been, and is lastly in service of various missions which hardly ever repeat environments, encounters, or mechanics. As only one instance, Witch Queen’s half-way level briefly takes gamers again to Europa, the house of 2020’s Past Mild enlargement. As an alternative of diving again into previous areas with new aims, you enterprise contained in the alien pyramid that’s been hovering within the skybox taunting gamers for over a 12 months with its inaccessibility. What in previous expansions would have felt like hallways interspersed with bigger arenas is now a labyrinth with passages that snake round, make use of verticality, and infrequently double again on themselves.
The mission culminates in three huge fights. The primary is small and introduces you to a jamming system you have to disable to take down the boss’ shields. The second takes place in a much bigger area with extra enemies and extra sign jammers. The ultimate encounter ups the ante once more by eradicating massive sections of the bottom in order that the second you’re pinned down and beginning to panic you’ll certainly flip, leap, and accidently fall to your loss of life. It’s meant as a type of break from Savathûn’s home of horrors, however even with out a an particularly notable boss it ended up being considered one of my lowkey favourite missions in the entire marketing campaign.
Fight is nearly extra fascinating. As somebody who has fired hundreds of thousands of vitality beams into a whole bunch of hundreds of area creatures, I don’t want Future to reinvent its capturing each couple years, however two huge additions have freshened issues up. The primary is Void 3.0, an overhaul of 1 department of powers that makes them extra customizable but additionally extra thrilling. Just like the Stasis powers earlier than it, Void skills now really feel extra like precise magic and fewer like grenades and punches disguised as tremendous powers. The second are the Lucent Hive, a brand new kind of enemy that may use the participant’s powers towards them, and which might self-revive if you happen to knock them out however don’t end them. They’re much extra thrilling to battle towards than the Overload, Barrier, and Unstoppable Champions—regular enemies however with injury cheats—that Future has just lately change into overly reliant on.
None of this may be potential with out considered one of Witch Queen’s core enhancements: the addition of a Legendary issue mode. It doesn’t sound like a lot, and it won’t have been if applied in another way, however it takes content material that’s in any other case meant to be burned by means of within the bigger pursuit of loot and degree ups and calibrates it to be tense, considerate and enjoyable. Legendary ditches Future’s conventional instruments for ratcheting up issue like forcing you to play matching video games with enemy shields or making you goal observe for snipers. As an alternative the mode performs with how enemies come at you, what sorts, and suggestions the size of harm output ever so barely of their favor. The result’s which you can nonetheless play it solo, however provided that you keep centered, stay affected person, and play good.
Even higher is if you happen to squad up. The mode scales primarily based on the variety of gamers, however retains issues from getting out of hand by solely permitting one revive per checkpoint and requiring you to resurrect fallen comrades in roughly 30 seconds or begin over. There’s bonus loot for enjoying this fashion, however the actual motive to do it’s as a result of it’s extra enjoyable, a calculation I’m unsure the common Future participant has ever had the chance to make earlier than. The missions even have save factors now, and might be replayed, normal options in each different recreation however a revelation on this one.
Followers have lengthy bemoaned the truth that the collection’ finest content material is hidden in raids, successfully gating it from most individuals. A technique Bungie has tried to deal with that’s by sneaking increasingly more raid-lite components into extra normal content material. That’s actually the case with Witch Queen, which seems like probably the most raid-y enlargement but, even supposing the precise one doesn’t drop till March 5. However I’m glad Bungie didn’t go overboard. Watching aliens heads pop off whenever you shoot them with ever extra byzantine arsenals is, and at all times will probably be, the first pleasure of Future. Raids, even at their finest, typically supplant that with esoteric injury puzzles requiring very particular options. Witch Queen’s marketing campaign doesn’t. It’s hardcore, however it’s not abstruse.
I don’t imply to present the impression that Witch Queen is ideal. I’ve centered on the marketing campaign right here as a result of its too early to evaluate the remainder of the enlargement. Is it higher than 2015’s Taken King or 2018’s Forsaken? Undecided. I’m not even positive that’s a significant comparability at this level, given how completely different Future, and what it meant to exist with and inside the sport, was again then. I’ll say that to the diploma Witch Queen’s marketing campaign has flaws, most of them should do with the best way the remainder of the enlargement, and its RNG-heavy grind, is continually supplying you with homework. As a very long time participant it’s what I’ve signed up for, and infrequently take pleasure in, however it does successfully prohibit how gamers can have interaction with the marketing campaign who aren’t prepared to enlist long-term.
Fortuitously, they’ll nonetheless see the very best of what Witch Queen has to supply with out signing their life away and it’s wonderful.