Destiny 2: New and Returning Player Guide
Mar 3, 2023 - Bungie
Welcome to the world of Destiny 2. Or, maybe “welcome back” fits you a little more accurately? Whether you’re checking out this ongoing space adventure for the first time or returning after a period time spent away, this Destiny 2 guide offers tips and tricks for both players. From how to build with recent changes to simpler questions like “How do I even start?”, this Destiny 2 new and returning player guide is your go-to source that links to other resources that will help you during your journey as a Guardian.
This guide will be updated at the start of each new Season.
What is Destiny 2?
Destiny 2 is an online multiplayer first-person shooter game that is available on PC, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One.
Destiny 2 takes place in a fictional universe where you will assume the role of a Guardian, a protector of Earth's last city. The game offers both single-player and cooperative gameplay modes, a variety of activities to enjoy, and an ongoing story that further immerses players from all over the world and teaches them what it means to earn the title of Guardian.
The Story of Destiny 2, So Far:
The story of Destiny is of exciting and turbulent origins. It all began when humanity discovered a mysterious paracausal entity, known today simply as the Traveler. This chance encounter catapulted Earth’s population into a Golden Age, a time when humanity experienced prosperity and technological advancements beyond previous imaginings. However, nothing comes for free; shortly after being gifted the Light from the Traveler, humanity discovered a looming threat that threatens the universe’s very existence. They discovered the Voice in the Darkness.
The Traveler has long been believed to be an ally of mankind, helping keep the enemies of humanity at bay. Through its mysterious power, the Traveler spawned ghosts, sentient machines that are the secret very reason they were able to join the fight.
Whether you are a new or a returning player, there are a few key story points that you may have missed. For an all-encompassing overview of the Light and Darkness Saga, check out the below video explore what awaits when you answer the call of Destiny.
With many twists yet to come, the fate of Guardians and all of humanity is still unwritten. To catch up with the latest narrative story beats, you can check out this Lightfall interactive experience for a deeper dive into what’s to come in the penultimate chapter of Destiny 2’s first saga.
Free-to-Play vs. Expansions, What Can You Play?
Destiny 2’s base experience is a free-to-play game designed to offer a powerful taste of what it’s like to be a space-magic-wielding, gun-toting, humanity-saving Guardian. Here’s a brief run-down on the two experiences that are available.
Here’s what you can play when looking to hop into Destiny 2 for free:
- Playlist activities
- Crucible, Gambit, and Vanguard Ops
- Iron Banner
- More information on these activities can be found further along in this guide.
- Crucible, Gambit, and Vanguard Ops
- Seasonal events
- Festival of the Lost (Fall holidays), Dawning (Winter holidays), and more.
- Dares of Eternity
- Prophecy dungeon
- More on dungeons further along in this guide.
- King’s Fall
- Take the fight to Oryx himself in this classic player-favorite raid, now available in Destiny 2.
- Vault of Glass
- Travel to Venus and infiltrate the Vex in this reprisal of the raid that started it all for Destiny fans.
- King’s Fall
- Patrols and Public Events
- Destination activities
If you’re looking to maximize your time in this universe with the most amount of narrative impact, expansions are your best bet. Some expansions, like Beyond Light, brought gifts like Stasis, one of the subclasses that you can access to harness incredible elemental powers. Other expansions, like The Witch Queen, offer not only a new level of challenge with a legendary campaign difficulty option but a thrilling narrative that casts Destiny lore in a new light.
What’s not available for free Destiny 2 players?
- More raids and dungeons.
- Trials of Osiris
- Requires the most recent expansion.
- Expansion storylines
- This includes seasonal story missions.
- Seasonal activities
- Current: Season of of the Deep.
- Exclusive Exotic weapons and armor pieces alongside a variety of other cosmetic items
- This includes the Season Pass rewards.
As for the expansions themselves, here is the order of release for each expansion that has launched since the release of Destiny 2.
Every Destiny 2 Expansion:
- Curse of Osiris
- Beyond Light
- The Witch Queen
- The Final Shape (February 27, 2024)
- *Curse of Osiris, Warmind, and Forsaken are no longer active expansions in Destiny 2, learn more about vaulting and hat’s changed right here.
Each expansion contains its own story that explores more of the Destiny universe and the wildly eclectic individual characters that bring the stories to life and give Guardians their purpose.
Where Should I Start When Playing Destiny 2?
The journey begins with an introductory mini-campaign that lasts about two hours on the Cosmodrome with the New Light mission called A Guardian Rises. This mission is designed to be a tutorial on the basics of Destiny 2 with aspects of the game like basic combat, ability usage, and weapon types, as well as give you a chance to meet the sprawling cast of NPCs that are all around the universe and are there to aid in your fight against the enemies of humanity.
With so many things to do and so many locations to visit, it can take time to get your bearings. Don’t worry, that’s natural. As you progress your character’s growth through the story of Destiny, navigating the world and getting familiar with all the different characters that help shape the story will become more sophisticated and intuitive. But first, you'll need to get the basics down.
Once you’ve finished the New Light campaign and after you’ve received your very first ship, you’ll then head to Destiny 2’s primary social space, the Tower. Here you’ll find quest markers for important characters to help you continue.
Other explorable destinations found in the Destination Map:
- New Lightfall Destination: Neomuna on Neptune
- This is another social space that has evolved through the Seasons where players can grab bounties, access their vaults, interact with certain NPCs, and scoop up anything missed from the in-game Postmaster.
- Savanthûn’s Throne World
- European Dead Zone, Earth
- The Dreaming City
A few key things to know before we dive into learning more about the different characters you’ll be interacting with:
- Various mini objectives that you can grab from a variety of NPC vendors that will be tailored to the vendor themselves and the current season.
- Great for leveling!
- In-game currency that you can use to upgrade gear. Not to be confused with Bright Dust, which can be used to unlock special cosmetics in the Eververse store. To get to the Eververse store, you can either use the Store tab on the Destination Map or head to Tess on the Tower.
- The Vanguard terminology is something you’ll run into both with characters and with in-game activities. This is a faction of high-ranking Guardians who are considered elite representations of their classes. Notable Vanguard includes:
- Ikora: Warlock Vanguard
- Zavala: Titan Vanguard
- Cayde-6: Former Hunter Vanguard (deceased)
- Fragments and Aspects:
- Components that you can apply to your Guardian’s subclass abilities to offer certain combat perks and help you craft your perfect build.
- Armor Synthesis:
- The materials needed to utilize the in-game transmografication.
- Transmografication allows you to apply new looks to your armor pieces once a pattern is unlocked.
- Learn more here.
Now onto an important question: who’s who?
Who's Who? Key Destiny 2 Characters That You Need to Know About
While you’re adventuring out into the wild as a Guardian, there are quite a few key characters that will be vital to your mission. Some you'll see every time you head to the Tower to pick up bounties, gather earned loot, or tweak your look with Armor Synthesis, among other activities. Others, you’ll encounter as Destination vendors; characters that are set in a specific location that players can grab bounties from and kickstart location-specific quests.
You’ll note certain activities attached to some of the names below. Don’t worry, we’ll explain what those activities are further down in this guide. Here are just some of the characters that you’ll want to get closer to as a Guardian:
- Lord Shaxx – Crucible
- Saint-14 – Trials of Osiris
- Lord Saladin – Iron Banner
- Banshee-44 – Weapons
- The Drifter – Gambit
- Commander Zavala – Vanguard Ops
- Ikora Rey – Warlock Vanguard
- Subclass Fragments and Aspects vendor
- Master Rahool – Engram decryption and materials vendor
- ADA-1 – Armor Synthesis
- Suraya Hawthorne, found at the Tower – Clan vendor
- Kadi 55-30 – Your friendly Postmaster
Other Characters, Other Destinations:
- Nimbus, found on Neomuna.
- Petra Venj, found on The Dreaming City.
- Devrim Kay, found on EDZ.
- Exo Stranger, found on Europa.
- Tess Everis, found on the Tower.
- Xûr, found in a mysterious new location every week.
Destiny 2 Activities Explained
Whether you’re a PvP or a PvE player (or both!), there is a ton to do when embarking on your new journey. Completing activities will be helpful when leveling up your character, but they will also play a critical role in story completion both for expansions and seasonal content.
Vanguard Ops: Zavala
- Includes standard strikes that are story-led activities, Nightfall strikes, and Grandmaster strikes.
- More on this topic further along in the guide.
- Crucible: Lord Shaxx, Saint-14, and Lord Saladin
- Crucible events, Trials of Osiris, and Iron Banner, respectively.
- More on this topic further along in the guide.
- Gambit: The Drifter
- Raids are high-level endgame six-player activities that heavily rely on teamwork.
- Dungeons are a more challenging three-player experience where Guardians will face powerful foes for even better gear.
- An objective-based PvE, PvP hybrid game mode that has its own unique reward track.
- Nightfall strikes
- Specific strikes on a rotator that offer different levels of difficulty: Hero, Legend, Master, and Grandmaster.
- Seasonal events
- Social special events like Guardian Games, Festival of the Lost, Solstice that happens annually and offer unique gameplay and/or rewards.
- For example, Festival of the Lost for Fall holidays and Dawning to celebrate Winter festivities.
- Story progression activities that are specific to Season launches.
- Dares of Eternity
- A talk show spoof that features a mysterious figure named Xûr and his dry-humored cosmic space horse (no, really).
- Patrols are open-world activities that you can complete for rewards and XP while exploring destinations.
- Public Events
- Public Events are open-world activities that allows for all players in a nearby area to participate in world events to earn a reward chest and bonus XP.
- Crucible: Lord Shaxx
- Offers multiple modes to play through, including objective-based goals such as Rift and Control.
- Iron Banner: Lord Saladin
- Iron Banner is a week-long PvP event that happens several times during a season. It offers uniquely themed rewards that reflect the history of the Iron Lords.
- Trials of Osiris: Saint-14
- A competitive three-player PvP weekend activity that challenges you to embark on win streaks for as long as they can.
Destiny 2 Classes Explained
There are three classes available for you to choose from when crafting your ideal Guardian; to level up more quickly and to explore the radically different abilities each class brings to a fight, we suggest running more than one character if you have the time, one character of each subclass. Here’s what you need to know about Destiny 2 subclasses when choosing the one that’s right for you:
Destiny 2 Classes:
- Agile, known for their mobility and stealth, and perfect for those that favor rogue classes.
- Strategists and, if wanted, excellent healers; ideal for those who favor magic classes.
- If you like to punch, Titans are for you. This class is perfect for those that favor tank classes like warriors and barbarians. They also have powerful shielding capabilities for protecting the entire fireteam.
Subclasses: What's Your Destiny 2 Playstyle?
Subclasses are where your character masters a combat style unique to their class. Rooted heavily in the elements, here’s a quick breakdown of the available options:
- Scorch your enemies and heal your allies.
- Become lightning itself and unleash your fury.
- Unleash pure destruction and protect your fireteam.
- Freeze your foes and change the battlefield.
- Weave the fabric of the cosmos to create new mobility options and suspend your enemies.
These subclass skill trees will vary depending on the class chosen, but each has their role when in combat. For example, Warlocks are often heavily relied upon in higher-level content like raids for their Well of Radiance—a healing ability in the Solar subclass—whereas Titans are favored for their high-damage Thundercrash Super ability within the Arc subclass. Hunters are also useful Fireteam members, particularly because of their invisibility as well as abilities across all subclasses that aid in making sure they can get to anywhere on the battlefield as quickly and safely as possible. There is unmistakable power in each subclass, the choice is up to you on what styles fit you the best.
You can also build up your subclass by unlocking more Aspects and Fragments, which you can do through Ikora for Arc, Solar, and Void. Stasis’ power grows with Aspects and Fragments from the Exo Stranger on Europa.
What is a Power Level? How Leveling Works in Destiny 2
Just like many games, leveling up your character and upgrading your gear is important. It gets you combat-ready and shows off that hard-earned progress. Your Power level number shows the current level of your character and is calculated as the average of your armor and weapon gear's Power. Pay attention to more difficult content; if you’re way below the recommended Power level for a particular instance, brace for a much more challenging fight.
When leveling up, your Seasonal Artifact will also be crucial since this will help increase your Power level from your base level (pre-Artifact); this progress will also unlock valuable mods to help make your loadout even more potent.
If you've got the time, running all three Guardian classes when completing Pinnacle and Powerful bounties is the most efficient way to level up your Power. To find out what you need to do, depending on the activity, hover over the area where you’ll see a distinct quest symbol is marked on your Destination map with a description on where to go next and what the objective is.
Seasonal Power Cap
It's important to remember that Pinnacles and Powerfuls will only increase your Power if you aren’t already at the Seasonal cap. Before diving into the different types of rewards for leveling up your character, let’s look at the different leveling milestones that you should be aware of:
- Base gear level – 1600
- With Lightfall, all players will start at the base “Power floor” of 1600.
- Legendary gear cap – 1750
- Also referred to as “soft cap.”
- This is the level where Rare (Blue) gear will no longer offer Power increases.
- Rare gear will no longer drop after surpassing this level.
- Powerful gear cap – 1800
- At this Power level, standard Legendary gear drops will no longer offer Power increases.
- To further increase Power, you’ll want to heavily invest your time in activities that offer Pinnacle rewards.
- Learn more about the different reward drops, including how to get Pinnacles, further down in this guide.
- Pinnacle gear cap – 1810
- Also referred to as “hard cap.”
Once you’ve hit that Pinnacle cap, you’re going to want to brave the more difficult content like Grandmaster Nightfalls (GMs), raids, and dungeons.
What’s the Difference Between Legendary, Powerful, and Pinnacle Gear in Destiny 2?
Good sources for farming Legendary gear:
- Color: Purple
- Clan bounties
- Join a clan! There is an XP boost, and you'll ensure you always have a fireteam for those matchmaking activities versus going with randoms you don't know.
- Nightfall playlists
- Lost Sectors, Strikes, Public Events, Crucible
For Powerful gear:
- Exotic quest rewards
- Trials of Osiris, which is a higher difficulty PvP experience tailored towards more dedicated players that enjoy this style of play.
- Completing eight bounties from vendors that offer Powerful rewards.
- Prime engrams (Visit Master Rahool in the Tower to decrypt them)
- Exotic engrams
- Crucible, Gambit, and Nightfalls
TIP: Focus on the eight bounties from vendors first; it’s the quickest and easiest way to earn Powerful drops if you're limited on time.
For Pinnacle gear:
Obtainable once you've reached the Powerful gear cap:
- Weekly playlists
- Crucible, strikes, Gambit
- Clan XP
- Exotic quest completion (ex. Avalon from Season of Defiance)
- Trials of Osiris (earning seven successive wins)
- Nightfall (earning 200,000 points or more)
- Iron Banner
- Seasonal Activity reward
- Newest raid runs in addition to the raid in rotation
- Newest dungeon in addition to the dungeon in rotation
Different Types of Destiny 2 Weapons and Armor:
Even the best Guardians need top-grade gear in order to get the job done and there’s a few different ways to get the weapons and armor you want. But first, you need to know about the different types of gear to make sure you’re on the right rewards path for you at your speed.
The background color of a weapon is a great starting point for understanding its value:
- White (Common)
- Green (Uncommon)
- Blue (Rare)
- Both Common and Rare gear can be used as leveling fodder and can be destroyed for materials. Don’t worry about investing in this loot type.
- Purple (Legendary)
- Gold (Exotic)
- Note: It is only possible to equip one Exotic weapon and one Exotic gear piece at a time.
- Class Item – Each Guardian class has a class-specific item:
- Titans, Mark
- Warlocks, Bond
- Hunters, Cloak
Destiny 2 Weapons: A Primer
There are three weapon slots, grouping weapons by damage type.
- Kinetic slot
- Kinetic Damage
- Stasis Damage
- Strand Damage
- Energy slot
- Void Damage
- Solar Damage
- Arc Damage
- Power slot
- Void Damage
- Solar Damage
- Arc Damage
- Stasis Damage
- Strand Damage
Weapons are also differentiated by ammunition type.
- Primary ammo
- Hand Cannon
- Auto Rifle
- Scout Rifle
- Pulse Rifle
- Submachine Gun
- Special ammo
- Fusion Rifle
- Sniper Rifle
- Single-shot Grenade Launcher (AKA Breech Grenade Launchers)
- Trace Rifle
- Heavy ammo
- Rocket Launcher
- Linear Fusion Rifle
Primary and Special ammo weapons can appear in the Kinetic or Energy slot, Heavy ammo weapons can only appear in the Power slot.
- Note that some Exotic weapons use a non-standard damage type, for example, a specific Exotic Hand Cannon might use Special ammo.
Special weapons require green ammo bricks that can be found in the wild and at Rally flags at the start of certain instances. Anything in your Power slot requires purple ammo. Both ammo types go by their respective names of Special and Heavy and both can be made easier to find by equipping the right mods. We’ll get into that in a bit. Primary ammo is unlimited, you just need to make sure you’re not reloading when being totally swarmed by enemies. It happens, we're not here to judge...
Destiny 2 Weapon Crafting Explained
You also don’t have to wait until you find your perfect weapon roll (a weapon with a specific set of perks desired by you), you can also craft them!
To get started, head to the Enclave on Mars. There, you'll find everything you need to start crafting once you’ve unlocked a desired weapon pattern by either leveling up a weapon marked by a red border or dismantling one that allows for pattern extraction. Here’s the basic rundown:
- Not every weapon is craftable by design to keep the thrill of “finding that beloved roll.”
- Non-crafted weapons have been designed to go toe-to-toe with crafted weapons.
- Enhancing a weapon that has dropped for you while playing Destiny 2 allows you to level it up, use mementos, and gain access to both enhanced perks and enhanced intrinsic properties, but only the enhanced versions of the perks and Masterwork that are already on the version of the weapon you are enhancing.
- Enhancing allows you to take a randomly rolled weapon and enhance the perk already present.
- Once the pattern for a certain weapon is unlocked, head to the Enclave and choose Shape or Re-Shape to start crafting that perfect weapon of your dreams.
What You Need to Know About Stats in Destiny 2
When building your perfect Guardian, there are a few stats you’ll want to pay attention to; certain stats are more valuable depending on your class. Mix and match, find your style, and go ham. And don’t worry, if it takes a little bit to find the style that’s right for you, that’s OK – play around, and have fun!
- Ideal for Hunters
- Focuses on mobility and improving overall movement.
- Ideal for Titans
- Offers increased damage reduction.
- Ideal for Warlocks
- Health regenerates faster.
- Discipline - Grenade cooldown reduction.
- Intellect - Super cooldown reduction.
- Strength - Melee cooldown reduction.
Now that we know the base formula for buildcrafting, let’s talk about actual buildcrafting.
What is Buildcrafting and What's the Best Way to Build in Destiny 2?
Buildcrafting is the art of creating a build that makes sense for your playstyle that makes you even more powerful with some strategic planning. The art of buildcrafting has progressed a lot since Destiny 1 and this is something we are going to continue to evolve season over season, but here’s what you need to know about the here and now. First, let’s talk about mods and how they are important with the newly implemented Loadouts feature.
Mods and How They Work
Mods are a vital component to buildcrafting. For example, some instances will contain a specific type of enemy called Champions and to efficiently defeat them, Guardians will need to specify their damage output. This is done through mod components that can be slotted onto armor pieces for some additional perks.
- How to get mods:
- Guardian Rank progression.
- Seasonal Artifact progression.
- A critical change to note here is that with Lightfall, you don’t have to slot these Artifact mods (now called perks) into an armor mod slot. This allows for more tailored customization and automatically applies the desired perk effect to the appropriate weapons.
- For example, if you unlock the Anti-Barrier Pusle Rifle mod, it will apply to all Pulse Rifles automatically.
- Previously unlocked mods will be in your Collections.
- With the changes made to prepare for Lightfall, not all pre-Lightfall builds will be doable.
- A new way to stun Champions:
- Overload now stuns with Arc Jolt, Void Suppression, and Stasis Slow effects
- Barrier now stuns with builds that favor certain buffs like Solar Radiant
- Unstoppable now stuns with Arc Blind, Solar Ignition, and Stasis Shatter
Remember earlier, when we were talking about how Champion enemies require specialized damage outputs to defeat? With Lightfall, we're giving players even more options to take on tough opponents. For example, you can now stun Champion opponents using subclass abilities.
You will be able to pick up to 12 perks to unlock from the Seasonal Artifact at any given time, so you will need to be strategic about how you want to play. If you play around with a specific build and it does not work out, you can always reset your Artifact Mod to make whatever changes you see fit to give you the power you need to face off against the enemies of humanity.
Elemental Wells have been a way for players to get back ability energy faster as part of building into a specific playstyle with combat-style mods. However, this has evolved and been replaced by a few exciting buffs that are associated with Fragments. The effect is still largely the same, only broader to create Orbs of Power, which are tiny orbs of light that are generated when running through various activities. They help you with healing, with replenishing ability energy, and more.
- What replaced Elemental Wells?
- Void Breaches, Void
- Stasis Shards, Stasis
- Strand Tangles, Strand
- If you liked Warmind Cells, you should especially check this out.
- Firesprite, Solar
- Iconic Traces, Arc
This is a recent feature that debuted with Lightfall that allows you to easily switch between sets when building for certain activities. For example, an armor and weapon build for PvP will typically look vastly different than that of a PvE build. This system allows players to swap between carefully crafted builds with the touch of a button.
You can save up to 10 loadouts per character (not per account) to customize to your heart’s content.
To learn more about buildcrafting, including more of how stunning Champions works, feel free to check out our full breakdown and philosophies behind crucial changes here.
What are Guardian Ranks and How Does It Work?
Guardian Ranks is a new system that is a fundamental part of a Guardian’s identity, showcasing your knowledge and understanding of how to play. Your rank will give your fellow Destiny 2 players a quick and easy way to understand your experience and skill level in the game.
It starts by exposing players to the mechanics required to build an effective Guardian.
- Each season, the system challenges you to experience the new seasonal mechanics and new aspirational content, earning you ranks as you overcome these challenges.
- Finally, to reach the elite ranks, this system will ask you to be a valuable member of the Destiny community by earning commendations from fellow Guardians. For those that truly aim to be a light in the Darkness, reaching an elite rank is a Legendary honor worn only by the strongest leaders in our community.
Don't Forget These Tools Before Heading Out
We’ve got a ton of new features that are ready to be enjoyed like loadouts and the newly rolled out Guardian Ranks system (with more on even more features on the way to be announced at a later time), but we also don’t want you to forget about tools out of the game, as well. Enter our Companion App on mobile for iOS and Android users. Here, you can check out Seasonal, Title, and Story progress. You can search for fireteam members for practically any activity you'd like to play. You can check out your gear for quick thinking regarding your current loadout, even when you’re away from the game. You can even pick up bounties when outside of social spaces. It’s a great tool that has everything you need to know, including things like our weekly Destiny 2 news update blog post that drops on Thursdays called This Week at Bungie and special developer insight posts that dive even deeper into this evolving world.
And that’s it! That’s all the basics you need to know when diving into Destiny 2, whether for the very first time or for the first time in a while. We’re happy you’re here and can’t wait to see what your Guardian does in the future.
Per audacia ad astra, Guardians!
Other helpful resources:
Here are a few other links that are good to hold onto: