Destiny 2 is one of the biggest games out there, and it’s about to get even bigger with its fifth expansion, Lightfall, on Feb. 28. Lightfall is largely set in a thriving city mired by conflict, rather than a deserted battleground or the vestiges of some collapsed civilization. It’s a perfect excuse new players to jump into the fold.
But leaping into Destiny 2 can be extremely daunting; there’s a lot to learn, and a lot more to master. Still, most fans will tell you it’s worth the work, and we’re here to help make your experience easier. So in this Destiny 2 guide, we’re going to walk you through... Destiny 2. All of it. Here’s everything you need to know about seriously getting into Bungie’s flagship game, from selecting a class to crafting your first weapon to choosing which of the many expansions are worth the cost.
A note for returning players: If you’ve played Destiny 2 before but have been away for some time — especially if you haven’t played since before the days of the Shadowkeep expansion — the game might look nearly unrecognizable to you now. Since Bungie separated from Activision, the game has gone free-to-play: It now features seasons, Artifacts, armor mods, Champions, new subclasses and elements, and all sorts of other small but significant additions. We’ll go over all of that in this guide. So while you might not need all the basics herein, scan through the table of contents to brush up on anything you don’t recognize. We hope it’ll help you get back into the groove.
Before you install
If you’re thinking of getting into Destiny 2, there are some things you need to know before even installing the game. What is Destiny 2? Is this the kind of thing you’d like? Is it worth spending money on? Let’s dive into those questions before we get to everything else.
What is Destiny 2?
Destiny 2 is a first-person shooter from Bungie, the studio that made the original Halo trilogy and Halo: Reach. It’s a far-future space opera about the powers of Light and Darkness. But it’s not as rote as it sounds; Destiny likes to play with the way “good” or “evil” aligns in its world.
It’s an always-online MMO that’s mostly about collecting loot from various activities. Some activities are great for playing solo, while others require a group. It’s also a living game that sees minor updates every three months (seasons) and major updates every year (new expansions).
Unlike other MMOs, Destiny 2 does not require a subscription, but making the most of the game will cost you some money.
Is Destiny 2 free-to-play?
While it didn’t start this way, Destiny 2 is now free-to-play. However, it’s important to think of Destiny 2 as more “free-to-start” than other free-to-play games such as League of Legends or Valorant. You can purchase cosmetics in Destiny 2, but you can also purchase content. And paid content is where players spend the bulk of their time.
Still, even if you don’t spend a penny, you can dive into the game’s various playlist activities (Crucible, Strikes, and Gambit), land on and explore every planet, and even do a few raids and dungeons.
All in all, the free version is definitely a good way to jump into Destiny 2 and get a feel for it. But it’s really a demo for a much larger world.
Which Destiny 2 expansions should I pick up?
Expansions typically come with major system overhauls, loads of new weapons, new Exotic gear, a campaign, a new location, new activities, and a raid. In Destiny, you’re better off buying the latest expansion than going back and buying the “best” expansion.
Unlike other MMOs, you don’t need to catch up on old content before jumping in with your friends. So outside of some key Exotic loot or, in some cases, entire subclasses (more on both of those later), you won’t be missing much by just playing what’s new.
Does Destiny 2 have seasons?
Seasons are bursts of content that come every three months — four per year, one of which starts on the same day as the new expansion. These don’t come with a campaign or any major features the way expansions do, but they do come with new exclusive rewards, important story beats, and Exotics.
If you plan on playing Destiny 2 for more than a couple days during a given three-month window, we recommend paying the 10 bucks to get the season. It will give you a ton more to do, let you focus in on some new content, and enhance your experience by quite a bit.
Seasons typically come with the premium season pass track, instant access to a season pass Exotic, seasonal weapons and armor, and access to special seasonal activities.
What do I need to know about Destiny 2’s story?
Destiny is a zombie story. That’s actually not as much of a joke as you might think.
There’s a lot to Destiny’s story (which we’ve already broken down in an easily digestible explainer), but here’s a short recap:
Destiny 2 takes place in the far future, after humanity has been visited by a giant godlike orb called The Traveler. The Traveler granted humanity a Golden Age of technology before eventually falling silent in The Collapse.
During and after The Collapse, enemies and servants of “The Darkness” came for the dormant Traveler, causing it to unleash Ghosts (little machines) to find and resurrect human heroes. These heroes are called Guardians, and they wield the Light (and sometimes The Darkness) against the Traveler’s enemies in an effort to protect the Last City on Earth. You play as a Guardian, and are accompanied by a Ghost.
Can I play Destiny 2 solo?
Destiny 2 is a multiplayer game at its heart, and many of the game’s coolest activities all but require a group. However, there is a lot of content that can be played solo.
Much of Destiny 2 has matchmaking. The main playlist activities (Strikes, Crucible, and Gambit, which we’ll explain later) all will match you with random players. Most of the seasonal activities that come into the game every three months also have matchmaking. As does some of the larger expansion content.
The game’s harder content — Exotic missions, dungeons, higher-level Nightfalls, Trials of Osiris, and, of course, raids — all require you to come in with your own group. These are best done with friends, but there are also some incredible looking-for-group services on Discord or even through Bungie’s own app. The studio is also working toward putting a dedicated LFG feature in the game, which should launch sometime in 2023. Speaking from experience, we’ve made some great friends by finding random players to do Destiny content with.
If you want to play completely solo, there are still a few options for you. Exploration content like Patrols (repeatable side quests) or Lost Sectors (small caves on planets filled with enemies) are totally doable on your own, but the game will pull other Guardians who are on Patrol into your world. You can also complete the campaign and seasonal story missions on your own. If you’re a solo player, you can do a lot of the game without ever talking to someone, but just know that you will have to matchmake with other players to really enjoy the game. Thankfully, most activities that rely on matchmaking require almost zero coordination or communication between you and your fellow players.
Destiny 2’s game basics
There are a lot of small and large pieces to Destiny 2, and it’s important to understand each of them individually before you can dive into the big picture.
What class to pick in Destiny 2
There are three classes in Destiny 2. Choosing your class is the first decision you’ll make.
- Hunters are the most popular class in Destiny 2. Similar to a rogue in other RPGs, they’re more about mobility and agility than any other class in the game.
- Titans are the big, bulky, beefy class. They can dish out a lot of pain, but they also have abilities that help protect themselves and defend their allies.
- Warlocks are the wizardlike class in Destiny 2. And like many other wizards in many other games, Warlocks are able to blast enemies apart with various magical skills or support their allies.
Each class in Destiny 2 has four different subclasses, each of which pertains to a different element and has a different identity. Some subclasses lean more into support roles, while others are big damage dealers. And there is customization inside those subclasses that let you lean harder into some fantasies.
All that said, it’s important to understand that your class doesn’t matter as much in Destiny 2 as it does in other games. The classes are only defined by their abilities, and all classes can use the same weapons (with some very minor exceptions). Since shooting guns comprises about 50% of your experience in Destiny, you should pick the class you think looks and sounds the coolest. They’re ultimately not that different.
How to earn XP and Power in Destiny 2
Destiny 2 doesn’t feature traditional character leveling; your character is at max level from the moment you create them. However, there is still XP in the game.
If you’re brand new, you’ll need to hit certain XP thresholds by completing Bounties and Challenges to unlock certain worlds, like Europa or Savathun’s Throne World. These XP blocks aren’t massive, and really only exist to help stop you from getting overwhelmed.
Power is much more important than XP, as it’s essentially your gear score, and determines how you’ll measure up in combat in a given activity. Your character power is a combination of your average gear level and the bonus power from your Artifact.
If you’re at Power level 1500 and you’re running an activity that’s 1510, the enemies will be quite a bit tougher than if you were also 1510. That’s doubly true if you ran the same activity at 1490. Oddly, Destiny doesn’t give much of a benefit for being over-leveled for activities, so being 1520 in that same activity won’t make the enemies crumble beneath you.
After the game’s opening hours, XP will actually feed into the Power system, as gaining XP will further your season pass and Seasonal Artifact.
Making your way through the season pass mostly grants cosmetics and resources, although there are some perks that will also benefit your seasonal experience. If you play the game for a few hours a week, you’ll have no trouble finishing the season pass before the three months are up.
The Artifact is a lot more complex. At the start of each season, you’ll get a special Artifact that is relevant to the seasonal story. By leveling that Artifact up with XP, you’ll gain access to powerful seasonal mods that help you customize your gear and amplify your playstyle for the next three months.
You can also level up your Artifact to increase your seasonal bonus Power. Bonus power from your Artifact simply adds on to your average gear’s Power. So if you’re wearing a full set of 1500 armor and using all 1500 weapons, you’d be Power level 1500. But if you’ve leveled up your Artifact five times, you’d actually be 1505.
As far as collecting XP, you’ll need to complete bounties from the game’s numerous NPCs or Seasonal Challenges, which give tons of XP and unlock over the course of the season.
What weapon types are there in Destiny 2?
There are three weapon slots in Destiny 2: Kinetic/Darkness, Energy, and Power.
The Kinetic/Darkness slot houses weapons that don’t have any kind of elemental affinity. They deal a bit more damage but can’t pop elemental shields and don’t come with special perks that synergize with your abilities. Stasis is currently the only Darkness subclass in the game, but all Stasis weapons also sit in the Kinetic slot.
The Energy slot houses weapons that use the three Light-based elements: Arc, Solar, and Void. These weapons often have perks that synergize with the corresponding subclasses of the same elements, and can be used to deal bonus damage to enemy shields. Using an Energy weapon that matches the shield element of an enemy causes the shield to break nearly instantly and explode.
Weapons in the Kinetic and Energy slots can use one of two different kinds of ammo: Primary or Special. Primary ammo weapons deal less damage, but have unlimited ammo. These are your most common tools: pistols, bows, and the like. Special weapons deal more damage but have limited ammo that you’ll need to replenish by killing enemies and picking it up off the ground. Weapons like shotguns and sniper rifles use Special ammo.
You don’t have to use one Primary ammo weapon and one Special weapon. If you’d like, you can mix it up and run two Special weapons or two Primary weapons.
The Power slot is the third and final weapon slot, and houses powerful weapons of all elements. Power weapons use a much rarer Heavy ammo and are typically used against bosses.
Here are all the different weapon types in Destiny 2 and the ammo types (typically) use:
- Auto rifle
- Scout rifle
- Pulse rifle
- Hand cannon
- Submachine gun
- Single-shot grenade launcher
- Fusion rifle
- Sniper rifle
- Trace rifle
- Grenade launcher
- Rocket launcher
- Linear fusion rifle
What elements are there in Destiny 2?
There are currently four elements that weapons and abilities can take on in Destiny 2, with a fifth on the way, to be included as part of Lightfall:
Light elements (all three are free)
- Stasis (requires the Beyond Light expansion)
- Strand (coming in Lightfall)
The elements themselves have wide identities that can be narrowed by building your class in certain directions or using weapons with special perks.
Each element has its own weapon perk that only appears on weapons of that type, and it typically synergizes with a subclass that also shares that element type. For example, the Headstone perk can only appear on Stasis weapons, and it causes a block of ice to pop up from an enemy corpse if you kill it with a headshot. But if you’re also running a Stasis subclass, that ice block might give you increased resistance or ability energy depending on how you’ve specced out your class.
The only other note about elements is that some enemies have elemental shields, which we mentioned in the weapon section above. So far, enemies only use the Light elements to create shields, and there are no Stasis or Strand shields in the game.
How supers and abilities work in Destiny 2
When you choose your class and specialize into a subclass, you’ll be able to master one of the game’s various elements. You can only wield one subclass at a time, but you can freely swap in most activities.
Subclasses consist of several components. There are jumping abilities, a class ability, a grenade, and a melee attack. The latter two are the more interesting and customizable ones, as each subclass and class has multiple to choose from.
Most subclasses also have multiple Supers to choose from, allowing you to customize your class a little more. All abilities work on a cooldown system, and you can decrease those cooldowns with armor stats (which we’ll talk about in the next section).
Once you’ve selected your abilities, you’ll be able to further customize your subclass through Artifacts and Fragments. Artifacts are like major perks that can seriously change up your abilities, allowing, for example, your Titan Barricade class ability to give you and your allies an Overshield. Artifacts also come with a certain number of Fragment slots, which are minor perks that give smaller effects. Artifacts are unique to each subclass, while all classes share the same Fragments of the same element.
How armor and stats work in Destiny 2
Armor in Destiny 2 contains six different stats, each of which affect your character in a variety of ways:
- Mobility - Increases movement speed and jump height
- Resilience - Increased health and damage resistance
- Recovery - Increases healing speed
- Discipline - Decreases grenade cooldown
- Intellect - Decreases Super cooldown
- Strength - Decreases melee cooldown
Each time a piece of armor drops, it will have a combination of these stats on it, ranging from high to low. The goal is to get all of your stats as high as possible, but there are tradeoffs. You’ll only gain the benefit of increasing your stats every ten levels. So a Titan with 91 Resilience and 99 Resilience technically have the same Resilience. They’d need to bump it over that 100 mark to see any improvement.
Getting one stat to the max of 100 is relatively easy, but you can theoretically get up to three stacks that high, if you’ve got good armor and are willing to sacrifice some other stats. Stats also affect classes in different ways. Resilience decreases the cooldown for the Titan class ability, for example, while Mobility decreases the same cooldown for Hunters.
Outside of stats, armor is responsible for holding mods, which are pretty complex but can be very powerful. The basic idea is that you can upgrade your armor to hold certain types of mods, which interact with your various weapons and abilities to create powerful builds. All armor can be upgraded and changed around the same way, so once you’ve got good armor, you can change it up anytime for the mods you need.
Some armor pieces do come with specific perks that only exist on that set, but that’s mostly only used for increased reputation gains with seasonal activities or PvP’s Iron Banner mode.
What are Destiny 2 Exotics?
Exotics are the most exciting gear pieces in Destiny 2, and are completely unique. They’re also extremely powerful items, which is why you can only equip one Exotic armor piece and one Exotic weapon at a time.
Each season sees the addition of several new Exotic weapons and armor, and they can really shake the game up depending on what they do. Some armor Exotics, for example, can completely change how a subclass’ super works. And an Exotic like Gjallarhorn can augment an entire team’s worth of rockets to help them deal massive damage.
Some Exotics are more silly and weird rather than actually useful, but all of them are unique, and getting a heap of new Exotics each year is one of the best parts about being a Destiny 2 player.
Destiny 2 playlist activities
There is a lot of different content to do in Destiny 2, but many of its holidays and general gameplay revolve around what Bungie calls “playlist activities.” This typically refers to Destiny 2’s three main modes: Strikes, Crucible, and Gambit.
Strikes are like replayable missions, similar to dungeons in most MMOs. They’re only about 10 to 15 minutes long, feature a lot of enemies, and culminate in a boss. These are strictly co-op, so you’ll be running through them with other players you bring along or matchmake with.
The Crucible houses Destiny 2’s PvP modes. Here you can jump in with your weapons and abilities and test your mettle against other Guardians either casually and competitively.
Gambit is Destiny’s most unique mode. It’s a PvEvP experience, where two teams face off to see who can kill the most enemies and bank special resources the fastest. Whichever team is able to bank 100 resources and kill the boss at the end wins. However, teams can send players and AI enemies to the other side to halt progress or even kill opposing Guardians, changing things up.
You’ll end up doing a lot of these activities in Destiny 2, but Bungie has gotten good over the years with letting you pick your poison. So if you, like many Destiny players, don’t like Gambit, you’ll rarely (if ever) need to touch it.
What should I do when I first log in?
Games like Destiny 2 are super daunting, so when you first log in, you might struggle to find the fun and bounce off. But it’s a game that’s absolutely worth sticking with.
When you first log in, you’ll need to create your character and play through the tutorial experience (which Bungie completely revamped in 2020). But once the onboarding is over, you’ll get kicked into the wider game and really have to fend for yourself.
If you have a group of friends to play with, group up with them and hang out as early as possible, as this will make your experience much better. Allow them to be your tour guides.
If you’re starting on your own, or your friends also don’t know what to do: pick a campaign and complete it. This does require you to buy an expansion (as we mentioned above), but it’s easily the best way to enjoy the game at first. If you’re a free-to-play player, your options for instant gratification content are far fewer, and you’re better off picking an activity that seems interesting and running it, which is especially tough without friends to guide you.
For most Destiny players, the campaigns are things we all play through a few times and then don’t touch again. But for new players, it’s a great way to have an awesome time for a few hours while getting a hang of the rest of the game. Go in solo or with some friends and forget about all the other wild popups on your screen. You’re not missing anything, it’ll be there when you get done.
Once you’ve finished The Witch Queen campaign (or whichever one you own), then consider jumping into some seasonal story stuff.
The big idea here, no matter what you’re doing, is to pick up a quest on the quest menu, click on it to pin it, and just follow it through until the end without getting too distracted.
The great news on this front is that Bungie is adding a list of things for new players to do in 2023’s Lightfall expansion, which should hopefully help point new players to where they need to go next.
Once you’ve played the game for a few hours and are looking to dive in a little deeper, you’ll start dealing with some bigger systems, which we’ve outlined below.
Unlocking new abilities and subclasses
When you first start out Destiny 2, you’ll get handed a Subclass with minimal abilities, Aspects, and Fragments. To unlock other Light elemental subclasses, you’ll need to get kills with the opposing elements via weapons. And for the Darkness subclasses, you’ll need to own the expansion they’re associated with and complete their campaigns.
To fully expand those Light subclasses, you’ll need to buy new abilities, Aspects, and Fragments from Ikora in the Tower using Glimmer. Glimmer is essentially Destiny 2’s version of cash, and you get it from everything — especially dismantling gear you don’t want.
This process is obnoxious and not very user-friendly, so we recommend pushing through your subclasses as fast as possible, with the goal of making each element functional before unlocking all the options. Pick out the coolest-sounding melee, grenade, Aspect, and Fragments, and then move on to the next element.
Introduced in The Witch Queen expansion, weapon crafting allows you to build and customize your own weapons in Destiny 2. Not every gun in Destiny 2 is craftable. However, some weapons have “Patterns” that you can chase down. Once you have the blueprint for the weapon you want to craft, you simply go to the Relic on Mars and pick the various barrel, magazine, and weapon perks you want. As you level up your crafted weapon by using it, you’ll get more customization options and can further hone the weapon to your exact specifications.
Destiny 2 is all about collecting and perfecting your favorite stuff, rather than replacing it every season. So how do you keep your current gear up to snuff? Infusion.
In order to level up your favorite gear, you’ll need to “feed” it to other pieces of higher powered gear via Infusion. When Infusion is complete, the item you used as “food” will disappear, but the item you fed the fuel to will take the fuel’s old Power level. For example, if you fed a 1600 Power pulse rifle into a 1350 Outbreak Perfected Exotic, the 1600 Power pulse would disappear and the Outbreak Perfected would then be 1600 Power.
It’s worth noting here that you can only feed items to each other if they exist in the same inventory slots and in the same class. So you can’t feed a Heavy weapon into an Energy weapon, or Titan arms into Warlock arms.
In Destiny 2’s seasonal activities you’ll start coming across Champions — large enemies with massive health bars that are difficult to kill. There are three varieties of Champion across multiple enemy types: Overload, Barrier, and Unstoppable. To remove these special effects — albeit temporarily — you’ll need to stun the Champion with a counter.
Each season the Artifact contains Champion mods which will allow you to augment your weapons by slotting them into the arm slot of your armor. So one season might have Anti-Barrier Scout, which will allow all your scout rifles to pierce the Barrier Champion’s shield, stunning and eventually killing them.
Collecting Triumphs, Collections, and Seals
As you play through Destiny 2, you’ll unlock in-game achievements called Triumphs, and collect more and more gear. Filling out Triumphs and the Collection are two of the biggest “chases” in Destiny 2, and what keeps people playing season after season.
Every few months, Bungie bundles several related Triumphs into a Seal, which is essentially like a badge on your account indicating that you did a bunch of stuff during a holiday event, completed everything there is to do in a season, or triumphed over all the challenges in the latest raid. Even better, these Seals come with Titles that float under your Guardian’s name, telling everyone you interact with how cool you are.
Both the Triumph and Collection menu serve as de facto digital library of your time in the game. If you’re ever looking for something to do, pick some Triumphs to run, or go look for some sweet gear you’re missing.
Decking out cosmetics
Many will joke and tell you that “Dresstiny,” the fashion side of the game, is really what it’s all about. And for some people, it is. There are tons of cosmetics in the game, most of which come from the Eververse real-money store.
Bungie updates the Eververse each season and adds a variety of items around each holiday event. You can buy cool new Sparrows, Ghost Shells, skins for your Exotics, Shaders, Emotes, and all sorts of stuff. The Eververse rolls with two currencies you need to know about: Silver and Bright Dust. You can earn Bright Dust in game and use it on a variety of items, whereas Silver you can only buy with real money.
While the Eververse is the fastest way to get cosmetics — and the only way to get certain items — there are still plenty of cool and fashionable items you can earn just by playing the game. Most raids have either a ship or a Sparrow to get, as well as a Ghost Shell, and even some Exotic quests come with new skins for the weapon.
The game’s Transmogrification system, which allows you to change the look of your armor without changing its stats, is both a free and paid system. You need to complete certain bounties to unlock templates that allow you to transmog your armor each season, and you can only do so many every few months. However, you can buy some of these templates with cash as well, if you really want to unlock more looks for yourself.
Sunset gear and content
Destiny 2 is an old and giant video game, and over the years Bungie has removed some of the content from the game. This is often referred to in the community as “Sunsetting,” although you may also hear Bungie talk about the “DCV” — the Destiny Content Vault.
If something is Sunset or in the DCV, it means you can’t access it or its rewards at all. It might come back at some point, but for now, you’