Destiny 2’s narrative has become a major focus in the past year-and-a-half. There has always been a plot-relevant reason we fought the forces of Darkness in each expansion and season. But around the middle of the Beyond Light, characters and how they play into the plot have become the forefront of a season’s unfolding. Now, with Lightfall around the corner, it’s a great time to look back on the story that’s been building up to the Witness’s arrival to Sol. Here’s every story in Destiny 2: The Witch Queen ranked from worst to best.
For the ranking criteria, I’m taking a look at all of the aspects of the story, and how well the game executes them. This includes things like theme, characters, and plot strength. I will try to be as objective as possible when analyzing the stories, as well as give reasons as to why I placed them where I did.
Spoilers for all Seasonal and Expansion Content for Destiny 2: The Witch Queen!
Season of Plunder
Season of Plunder has, without a doubt, the weakest story of any season in Destiny 2: The Witch Queen. This season sees us team up with Mithrax to take on Eramis’ House of Salvation in a race to acquire the relics of Nezarec. These relics contain the powerful, darkness-infused body parts of the long-since dead disciple of the Witness. As the name implies, this season saw pirate-themed combat, swashbuckling between ships in Ketchcrash, and raiding hideouts along the Tangled Shore.
Alongside the main treasure-hunting plot, we also find ourselves as a mediator for Mithrax, his daughter Eido, the Spider, and Eramis. Mithrax is uneasy about the methods at hand, as he wants to neither relive his past as a notoriously brutal pirate, nor have his daughter discover the truth of this past.
To conflict this, Eido wants to learn everything there is to learn — harmful or otherwise — due to her role as the House of Light’s scribe and her childish naivety. Spider needs to drop his pride and greed in order to survive within the Last City. Finally, Eramis is trying to understand what’s best for her people’s survival. All the while, Saint-14 worries deeply for Osiris, as the old Warlock still lies in a coma.
I do have some positive feedback for this season of Destiny 2. Firstly, the interactions between Spider and Mithrax was great at hinting at the latter’s past. Before this season, Spider held a great amount of power, and his charisma reflected his influence. Not only being displaced, but also being put right into enemy territory, has wavered this confidence.
There’s one interaction where Mithrax threatens Spider for his greed, to which Spider reacts with fear. This contrast in Spider’s character because of Mithrax was great to show just how fearsome Mithrax was in his heyday. Aside from this, Eido was a likeable character in both her design and writing. The aforementioned young ambition to learn everything is easy to understand and relate.
Unfortunately, this season suffers from some of the most glaring plot holes and contrivances out of any other season. The conditions for Osiris to wake from his coma are completely nonsensical. The only narrative throughline in this event is that the teacup used to hold the brew that woke Osiris was special to him and Saint. Other than that, we have no reason to believe that a Darkness-imbued tea is able to end a half-year-long coma caused by the possession of a Darkness-empowered being in Savathûn.
It’s actually just silly that we gave it to him in the first place. As far as we knew, we could have been drowning a fire with gasoline.
Furthermore, we just kind of let Eramis go. I understand why Mithrax didn’t kill her in their fight — she saved Eido from the Hive forces, and didn’t want to show his brutality in front of Eido. The problem is that our Guardian just stands their while they fight, and then does nothing when she escapes.
Why did Mithrax —and by extension, our Guardian — not keep Eramis pinned until we could secure her? Her escape causes Rasputin to sacrifice himself at the end of Season of the Seraph. This means that Mithrax and our Guardian are now partially responsible for Rasputin’s sacrifice at the end of Season of the Seraph, since Eramis’ actions that season backed us into that corner.
The Witch Queen
Don’t think Destiny 2’s mainline expansion is out of this season-story analysis. The Witch Queen sees us take on Savathûn, who has done the unthinkable: utilize the Light of the Traveler for herself and her Lucent Brood. Mars has mysteriously reappeared with rifts in time scattered upon its surface, and Savathûn’s ship containing her Throne World has appeared. We team up with Ikora and her Hidden to uncover how Savathûn acquired the Light. The events unfolding make everyone question the nature of Light, Darkness, the Traveler, and its motivations.
The best thing this campaign does for Destiny 2 is thoughtfully expand and challenge what we thought we knew about the universe. The story uses preestablished rules and mechanics of the world to give us new ideas and information. This includes the entity that controls the Darkness, as well as the fact that Light and Darkness are neutral tools, whose malice or grace is only determined by their wielders.
This aligns well with the events of Beyond Light, wherein we successfully utilize the Darkness to wield Stasis and remain uncorrupted. Such narrative parallels are great: Just as we can wield the Darkness, so too can other creatures wield the Light.
Sadly, the latter half of the campaign does leave some holes in the established worldbuilding. The reason for this is the lack of flesh on the mechanics for how Ghosts choose their Guardians. Other than our Ghost saying Savathûn’s Ghost, Immaru, was a “big jerk,” there’s no real motivation explained for why Immaru would want to turn his back on all of humanity.
He, among many Ghosts, had been searching for centuries to find the right Guardian. Whether Ghosts can or can’t resurrect any dead being they please raises more questions for either answer. If they can choose any Guardian, why do they struggle to find one for centuries? If they can’t, what link do they have with a person that could have died long since before they were created?
Also, the way we beat Savathûn is very contrived. We show her that the Witness deceived her into avoiding the Traveler and choosing the Deep to survive on Fundament. Upon showing her this, she gets angry and fights us head-on. But isn’t she the Hive god of trickery, and had been for millennia? It’s unlikely that this would cause her to get so angry that she’d act irrationally.
Even if it did anger her, a god of trickery would probably know not to show such emotion or act out of aggression. If the excuse is that she’s still trying to get back into her groove after losing her memories in her resurrection, then it’s awfully unlucky for us that she decided to stay her course upon her awakening. It’s also unlucky that the Traveler’s exit from Savathûn’s Throne World took Immaru with it.
The reason that The Witch Queen ranks just above Season of Plunder is due to its greater stakes and execution of its story by using Destiny’s established worldbuilding rules. Unfortunately, the more unexplained rules, along with several contrivances, punch holes in the narrative that lead to a conclusion more frustrating than satisfying.
Season of the Seraph
Season of the Seraph is the current season of Destiny 2, wrapping up its story just last week. This season follows the events of Ana Bray’s attempts to restore the Warmind Rasputin to his original power. To do this, she must consult the help of Osiris, Elsie, Mara Sov and, much to her dismay, Clovis. All the while, the Hive god of war Xivu Arath, Eramis, and the Witness all attempt to wrest control of the Warsat weapons network away from humanity.
The plot of this season is what shines. We’re using the most advanced AI possible to combat a literal god of war. On top of that, we have some contention with Clovis Bray when Rasputin reveals to us that he planned to upload his consciousness to Rasputin and become a mechanical god of war himself. It’s a twist that’s in line with what we know about Clovis’ character and motivations.
With Clovis’ scheme comes conflict between him and his granddaughters, Ana and Elsie. This conflict breaks Ana especially hard. She starts to chase Rasputin’s potential, becoming more and more like her grandfather with each passing weekly story beat. Finally, her devastation to having to destroy Rasputin in the end is palpable — centuries of work, and a lifelong friend, gone in an instant.
There are some grievances with this story though. The idea of Ana mirroring her grandfather more than she’d care to admit is interesting. Unfortunately, it’s dropped quickly in favor of progressing the plot. Exploring it more would have not only added more emotional weight to Rasputin’s sacrifice, but also further emphasized the season’s theme of power, and what one does with it. Also, Eramis should have never been there to gain control of the Warsats, but that’s more of a fault of Season of Plunder, as well as Beyond Light (why haven’t we killed Eramis?!).
While just above Witch Queen on this list, the gap between this season and Witch Queen is far, far greater than that between Witch Queen and Season of Plunder. On the other hand, the difference in quality between this season and the next two is very small — to the point that good arguments can be made for any of these being ranked higher than another.
Season of the Haunted
While the character development in this season of Destiny 2 is nothing short of fantastic, it’s hard to ignore the issues with Season of the Haunted’s worldbuilding and pacing. In this season, the disgraced Cabal Emperor Calus docks his flagship, the world-eating Leviathan, right next to the Moon.
We learn that Calus is siphoning the Nightmare energy in order to become a disciple of the Witness. The side effects of such an action cause the Nightmares from the Shadowkeep expansion to stir once more. We team up with Eris to help sever the Nightmares that haunt Crow, Zavala, and Empress Caiatl — Nightmares of their past torment.
This season sees some of the best character development out of any story beat in Destiny 2. Characters are brought into their most vulnerable states. The conversations they have show that their entire worldview changes because of these events. Probably the best example is Zavala confronting the Nightmare of his centuries-late wife, Safiyah. The Nightmare of Safiyah berates Zavala about their adopted son, Hakim. She shames him for letting him die in a Fallen raid. That event caused their marriage to fail and Zavala to mourn for centuries.
Zavala not only learns not to fruitlessly grieve and beg for forgiveness, but also consider his faith. He ponders the idea that mortal minds aren’t built for immortality, and he reconsiders his faith in the Traveler. This continues his development from Witch Queen. There’s much more to discuss as well, and that’s just for Zavala. Caiatl, Crow, Ghaul, Calus, and Eris all get some fantastic character moments throughout the season as well. This season is rich with character.
The main catalysts for this season’s character moments, the Nightmares and Memories, are interesting. However, their rules and worldbuilding are incomplete. The Nightmares are manifestations of one’s trauma and regrets, but the Memories into which they can transform — what are they, exactly? They look like they’re imbued with Light, but the Light is associated with forgetting the past, not reconciling with it. If the memories are their own beings, what sources of information do they have that the Vanguard could use? If not, then it undermines the significance of these characters’ arcs.
Regardless of those unanswered questions, the power in the story being told is very palpable. It’s a prime example of the height of Destiny’s storytelling potential.
Season of the Risen
Season of the Risen contains the best narrative in all of the seasons of Destiny 2: The Witch Queen. This season is a consequence of the events that took place on Mars just after Savathûn’s return. Empress Caiatl returns to confront the Vanguard for the deaths of her men. In response, Zavala proposes an alliance to take on the Lucent Brood. Caiatl offers her Psions to conduct psychic analyses on captured Hive in order to understand their next course of action.
The vanguard conducts the operation in the H.E.L.M., overseen by Lord Saladin and Crow. The season plays heavily into morality and mercy, and the consequences of trying to always be the “good guy.” Crow sees himself within the Hive we capture — The Traveler blessed them with the Light despite their being monsters. He pushes back heavily against this operation, being very vocal about it to Saladin. Saladin gives a story of his past, wherein he showed mercy to the wrong person. This cost the lives of an entire village.
This story provides an excellent conversation starter on the nature of mercy. Crow is very surface-level and immediately empathetic when it comes to showing mercy. He’d rather not see individuals, even the Hive, robbed of their free will, as he had been as Uldren. Meanwhile, Saladin is not opposed to performing brutal acts in order to save innocents. He doesn’t like what we’re doing to the hive, but he understands that it will save lives, as shown in a stylized cutscene uploaded by The Phoenix on YouTube:
This culminates in the finale, when Crow accidentally kills Caiatl’s Psion representative when trying to shut down the operation. Before conflict can arise due to Caiatl demanding Crow’s life, Saladin steps in to offer his life instead. Caiatl, pleased with Saladin’s sacrifice and bravery, does not attack either Guardian. Instead, she makes him a member of her war council for the rest of his life.
This finale finishes so strongly because there are massive, continuous consequences for this story. Saladin, who is now Valus Forge, will always be part of the Cabal now. This also solidifies the previously tedious truce between the Vanguard and the Cabal. Crow must also live with his choices, and learn to act with foresight and wisdom.
This season’s plot is also fairly airtight for Destiny 2’s wild world. None of the new worldbuilding mechanics necessarily conflict with any others. The Mindscape seems self-contained, but it also seems like a powerful tool that could become relevant again in the future.
Destiny 2’s narrative during its seasons has improved tremendously with The Witch Queen expansion. Characters are being thoroughly fleshed out, aspects of the world are being explored, and the plot is moving forward. While the storytelling has stumbled here and there, Destiny 2’s writing has never been stronger. Many themes, characters, and plot points are ripe for discussion and exploration, and it’s all been leading up to Lightfall. I can’t wait to see what new stories are ahead.