Savathûn revealed – Planting the seeds of the Witch Queen’s deception

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Savathûn revealed – Planting the seeds of the Witch Queen’s deception

The Destiny narrative team dives deep into the game’s most ambitious storyline yet.

The threads of Destiny’s narrative are far-reaching, touching practically every aspect of the game. Over the past year or so, Destiny players have experienced a narrative unfold around one of the game’s most beloved characters: Osiris. From the death of his loyal Ghost, Sagira, to his increasingly suspect behavior, questions have followed the famed Warlock and former Vanguard commander for months.  

At the start of Season of the Lost, the truth was revealed. In case you didn’t already know — SPOILER ALERT — Osiris wasn’t Osiris. In fact, Osiris hadn’t been himself for quite a while. Savathûn, the Sister of Shapes, the Witch Queen herself, revealed to Guardians that she had traded places with Osiris months prior, and had been sowing discontent in the Vanguard ever since, creating rampant speculation and spawning wild theories among Destiny lore hounds throughout the community along the way. 

And that’s exactly the way the Bungie Narrative team planned it.  

Over the past year the Narrative team has dug deep, planting the seeds of Savathûn’s deception throughout the game in unexpected ways. Today we’re looking back at some of these pivotal moments and talking with the team about what it was like to bring this story to life. 

The First Glimpse 

The Savathûn/Osiris narrative was the result of countless discussions within the Destiny Narrative team and something that was planned long before it unfolded in the game. The team had an overarching goal of raising the narrative stakes in the game without resorting to killing characters. They also knew they wanted to embed Savathûn into the Last City; as a born trickster, having her impersonate someone and walk amongst the people felt right in line with her character. Furthermore, the Last City was chosen because Savathûn knew it was the last place her sister and rival, Xivu Arath, would look for her.  

“From there it became a conversation in the writers’ room about who the best candidate was for her to impersonate,” said Bungie’s Senior Narrative Lead Julia Nardin. “We landed on Osiris because of his relationship with Ikora, his former apprentice, which gave Savathûn the most direct access to the Vanguard.” 

The first moment where the Witch Queen took over for Osiris came during Season of the Hunt. Early on, players found a series of audio messages from Mara Sov and Osiris in Zavala’s office. The line where Osiris declared that his Ghost, Sagira, had died in an attack – that was not Osiris at all, but rather Savathûn taking the Warlock’s place for the very first time, beckoning players to the Moon. For extra credit, Savathûn orchestrated the player’s first meeting with Crow, creating the situation where players witnessed him “rescue” Osiris from one of Xivu Arath’s minions.

What followed was a carefully calculated campaign of Savathûn manipulating people and spreading distrust and doubt within the Vanguard. Nardin said one of her favorite examples of this was how quickly Savathûn-as-Osiris tanked the initial meeting between Caiatl and Zavala at the start of Season of the Chosen. As soon as Caiatl proposed the alliance between the Cabal and the Vanguard, Savathûn stepped out of the shadows and began questioning Caiatl’s trustworthiness. 

As Nardin explained, “Savathûn couldn’t afford an official alliance between humanity and Caiatl’s Cabal, so she sabotaged it. But she did so in a way that prevented Caiatl from launching a full-scale assault on her hiding place, and when it came time to de-escalate the conflict she helped to create, she made sure that her solution kept all the players on her chess board.” 

Family Ties 

After assuming the identity of Osiris and driving distrust at every turn, it was inevitable that Savathûn’s ego would get the best of her and that her façade would ever-so-slightly slip. A good example of that was evident during the showdown against the High Celebrant in Season of the Hunt, where Savathûn-as-Osiris, in a prideful outburst, briefly belied her real attitude towards her sister Xivu Arath, claiming she “has no ambition.”  

“This line came from a discussion in the Narrative Writer’s Room where someone suggested, ‘What if Savathûn is really annoyed that Xivu Arath has no imagination and is basically just copying her?’” said Bungie Senior Narrative Designer Nikko Stevens. “It showed a little flash of who was behind the Osiris mask and was one more clue that there was more happening underneath the surface.” 

It just goes to show that even when control of the universe is at stake, there’s still room for sibling squabbles. 

A Step Too Far 

By Season of the Splicer, Savathûn’s schemes moved into even more dangerous and divisive territory. As Osiris, Savathûn leveraged people’s fears and distrust of the Eliksni refugees living among them, and weaponized it against the Vanguard through Lakshmi. When Saladin came knocking to make amends and help strategize, Savathûn implied that the people believed he was behind the earlier assassination attempt on Zavala’s life and turned him away. Every move she made continued to distance Zavala and Ikora from their existing allies. Perhaps worst of all, she used Osiris’s relationship with Saint-14 to try to get him to help overthrow the Vanguard.   

Yet all this subterfuge was beginning to take a toll on the Witch Queen. “Even though all this deception feeds her worm, this parasite that gives her power, it still wasn’t enough,” Nardin said. “Savathûn made so many mistakes during Season of the Splicer because she was in a great deal of pain. She was desperate, and when Savathûn gets desperate she gets sloppy.”  

For example, at one point, flustered and weary from months of shapeshifting, Savathûn stammers through a contradiction during a conversation with Mithrax, claiming the Black Armory has things under control. Sharp dialogue enhanced by a great performance from Osiris voice actor Oded Fehr really brings Savathûn’s momentary struggle to life.  

“We worked closely with Oded on the Savathûn-Osiris storyline twist,” said Stevens. “In fact, when we told him of the swap, he was delighted and immediately adjusted his performance for Season of the Lost to sound more like ‘Savathûn-as-Osiris.’” 

Savathûn Revealed 

Throughout multiple Seasons, the team worked to bring the Savathûn-as-Osiris plot to life in different ways. Still the team knew that “the big reveal” would need to make an impact. They also knew that many players would have seen information on The Witch Queen after the Destiny Showcase in August, so the decision was made to put Savathûn’s admission front and center immediately in Season of the Lost.  

“At the time we were working on Season of the Lost, we didn’t yet have a character model for Savathûn, so we had to get creative with her onscreen transformation and how she’d maintain a physical presence in the world leading up to Witch Queen,” Nardin said. “So much of game development is finding solutions to these sorts of challenges, especially when we’re walking multiple creative paths at the same time.” 

The Savathûn reveal was the payoff for all the breadcrumbs and subtle nods that were threaded throughout the last three Seasons and a grand setup for the action yet to come. Guardians now know the truth and, while Savathûn’s deceptions have been revealed, the fallout is something that Guardians will be contending with in The Witch Queen expansion, in Season of [REDACTED], and beyond. 

Interested to know what happens next? Don’t miss The Witch Queen when it’s released on February 22, 2022! 

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12 Comments

  • I’d like to think this will be good. But Bungie just keep screwing with us over and over. Content vault was one thing. But then the promise of bringing stuff back that they lied about and this coming out will be removing Forsaken. Taking people’s paid content away but not bringing anything back, just replacing it with more paid content… Nah. All they do is to ruin the experience and crap on fans. It’s like they actually want D2 to fail. The game doesn’t even have it’s main campaign any more and makes no sense at all to newcomers. Bungie deserve failure now for their years of poof behaviour.

    • You’ll spend the next season searching for Savathun over and over again through public events and strikes. Then you’ll suddenly find out that another force is pulling her strings. Watch out, it’ll be mentioned off hand at the end of the raid by your ghost. Who some how is made privy to a conversation between the guardian leadership. Then suddenly the Cabal attack and reset the game again.

  • Nah this is some HEAT. I love interweaved storylines like this. Being able to look back and see the breadcrumbs is soooo dope. I can’t effing wait for WQ. I NEED to know what happens next!

  • I’m somewhat hyped about the dlc. However I feel it’s gonna be the same of fomo and unnecessary grind for very little reward.

    Been playing since D1 alpha.

  • The narrative team knocked it out of the PARK over the last year. It’s been so great seeing major plot points play out in the game and feeling like our actions are driving some of the narrative. We’ve always known there is this fantastic world built around the game, and now we get to see and play it out. A+++

  • Haven’t played since Forksaken and even that was after a long hiatus. Cool to hear story is starting to span longer. Maybe if there is a solid PS5 version I will check it out again sooner than later. I did look at it months ago but it was hard to tell what DLC I didn’t have. Can’t remember if it was passes that confused me and wasn’t about to start researching to figure it out. My recommendation for the game is to allow ease of return for churned players by making it very clear in game what DLC you own, what you don’t, and what packs contain the DLC you do/don’t have. I had the same issue when looking back at ESO so not like this is a Destiny specific issue or anything.

  • Eris Morn IS the Witch Queen…….

  • Huge Destiny fan, been playing since vanilla version. I’m genuinely excited about Witch Queen and the current season is pretty righteous. Mara showing back up, Crow getting all his memories back, Savathûn being close enough to us we could spit on her, but she played the deception card hard this time, taking the form of Osiris…yep the story development team did good. Bungie has been acting kinda WOKE and virtue signaling a little bit more lately which I haven’t appreciated, but my faith in them isn’t gone yet, maybe WQ will be the installment we need…time will tell.

  • Sooo I don’t know what to expect from this dlc. The prices keep going up and up and we’ve been losing content left and right. With the new consoles out now and the capability of graphics, storage etc, it’s time to step it up. To me, D1 will always be the best and y’all have yet to be able to top it. I wanna feel like I used to when I popped the disk in back in the day…. It’s time to recreate Destiny. It’s time for volume 3.

  • Considering how largely bland and detached Destiny’s storytelling is (at least where the campaigns are concerned), I find it hard to believe anyone could actually get that excited at the incoming endgame for that alone especially when the journey towards that point has been largely lackluster. People say its actually gotten better in that area during the new expansion seasons, but having not played the game since vanilla D2 I can’t really say for certain.

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