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Wednesday, April 10, 2024

A Beginner's Guide to Destiny 2

Destiny 2 is a lot. The-free-to-play-but-expensive-when-you-inevitably-get-addicted-to-it game has been out for nearly five years. In that time, it’s been a shifting, changing thing, with constant new additions and backstory and updates. The newest expansion, Witch Queen, is out on February 22.

Destiny’s long history makes it a tricky game to dive right into. You might have some questions, like “How do I level up?” or “What do you actually do?” or “Dear God, what is even happening?!” This is by no means a comprehensive guide to this absurd, convoluted game, but it should help you New Lights out there get your bearings.

A word of warning: If you let it, Destiny will suck you into its sinisterly satisfying gameplay loop and never let you go. It is a glutton for your attention, a devourer of downtime. I volunteered to write this guide because the only way to be rid of the curse is to pass it on to someone else. Here’s how to get started in Destiny 2.

What's the Story?

The first thing to know about Destiny’s story is that you’re already behind. The lore is so dense it’s nearly impenetrable for newcomers. And Bungie, Destiny’s developer, recently made the controversial decision to “vault” game content, aka remove whole storylines and locations from the game. That means Destiny 2’s main campaign is not available in the game anymore. Dialogue and cutscenes will reference events you’ve never seen, characters you’ve never met, and decisions you haven’t made. 

Also, keep in mind that Bungie will be vaulting stuff in the future, so theoretically even the newest expansion will fade away in time. If that’s a dealbreaker, no sweat. Go check out Horizon Forbidden West instead. (It’s incredible.) But if Destiny’s gameplay clicks for you and/or you have fun playing with your friends, there’s no need to get too worked up about the story. As my colleague and storied Destiny veteran Jess Grey put it, “Being lost is a part of the whole vibe.”

The gist of the story so far is this: It’s thousands of years into the future of the solar system. You’re a gun-toting space wizard caught in a standoff between good and evil. It’s a war between two gods, literally called Light and Darkness. The Light takes the form of a giant metal sphere that characters in-game call the Traveler. The Darkness resides in a bunch of massive pyramids that are slowly encroaching on the universe with clearly malevolent intent.

You play as a guardian, ostensibly an agent of the Light, who’s imbued with crazy space magic. There’s a little metal ball that hovers around you at all times, called a Ghost. It’s a fragment of the Traveler that resurrects you every time you die. (That’s going to happen a lot.)

If you want to go deeper into the narrative, this delightful tweet thread is a succinct yet comprehensive summary of the narrative so far. If you have a few hundred hours to spare, the game’s got a few different wikis that are Rosetta Stones of Destiny minutia. From here on, we’ll focus on gameplay.

Mechanics

The very first thing you’ll do is choose a character. Race and gender options are mostly cosmetic, aside from some dance emotes here and there. The more important decision is character class. You’ve got three options:

Titan: The tank, whose abilities mostly involve smashing everything at point-blank range.Hunter: The rogue, who excels at sneaky stealthy subterfuge and stabbings.Warlock: The wizard, a caster who smites from the sky and heals herself and allies.Most PopularBusinessThe End of Airbnb in New York

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After you play a bit, you’ll get access to three different subclasses: Solar (fire damage), Arc (electric/lightning damage), and Void (purple space explosions). A fourth, icy-themed subclass, Stasis, only becomes available after you complete the main story of the paid Beyond Light campaign. (More on that in a bit.) To access your subclass settings, go into the menu at the top left of your character menu. From there, you’ll be able to further customize each subclass by selecting different skill trees.

Combat

You’ll be shooting stuff with guns, of course, but you’ll also have access to a set of rechargeable abilities. These are melee, grenade, a defensive class ability, and your Super (a flashy, high-damage attack that annihilates everything nearby). How these operate varies depending on your class and subclass. To tweak the settings, go into your subclass menu and let your eyes boggle at all the options.

A special note about jumping: There’s really nothing more frustrating in the game than face planting into the side of a wall because you mistimed a jump. There are many, many platforming sections in Destiny. Each class jumps a little differently, so you may want to experiment with these settings to find the one that works best for you.

Doin’ Stuff

You can do many of Destiny 2’s activities solo, but you’re better off in a group, called a fireteam. To team up with your buds, go into the director menu, then the Roster tab. If you want to play with people on different platforms, you’ll need a Bungie account. Playing with friends is best, but many missions will automatically team you up with a full squad.

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To travel between locations, go into the Director menu and toggle over to the Destinations tab. There, you’ll see a map with a bunch of different planets and locations on it. Your primary hub is a noncombat zone called The Tower. It’s a place to buy stuff from vendors and pick up quests.

The core gameplay of Destiny 2 varies depending on what you’re into. There are player vs. player battles, and co-op player vs. everything else missions where you and your allies battle NPCs.

Crucible: This PVP mode is about as straightforward as Destiny gets. It’s team deathmatch, where the goal is to eliminate other players and capture territory. If you’re here to shoot other players in the face, this is where you’ll go.

In regular Crucible modes, guardians’ power levels are balanced so that everyone has a mostly even playing field. Iron Banner, a variation of Crucible that becomes available once a month, does away with that power balancing, so only the strongest survive. If you’re brand new to the game, you’ll probably feel very underpowered.

Gambit: A mix of PVE and PVP modes. You’ll battle alien NPCs with your squad while a competing fireteam does the same. At certain points, guardians from rival teams can invade the other side’s game and wreak havoc on the competition.

Vanguard Strikes: These are repeatable, one-off missions you undertake with a fireteam of three guardians. The missions are cribbed from story campaigns, so the storyline and dialog may feel a little disjointed if you aren’t already in the know. Nightfall strikes offer better rewards upon completion, but they’re more difficult and may require specific weapon types to defeat enemies.

Story Missions: If you want to play through the main storylines, you’ll need to pay for expansions. The campaign expansions available ahead of Witch Queen are Forsaken, Shadowkeep, and Beyond Light. If you care about the story, you’ll want to play them in that order. Just know that while Forsaken is widely considered to be one of the best expansions, it will be vaulted on February 22 when Witch Queen launches. You can likely finish the campaign in under 10 hours, but if you won’t be able to get through that before the 22nd, don’t bother.

A new feature that’s coming with Witch Queen is a mission selector that lets you replay your favorite campaign missions. You can even ramp them up to a legendary difficulty level.

Even if you don’t care about story, you might still want to play through the Beyond Light campaign at some point. It sets up a lot of what’s to come in Witch Queen, and completing the campaign is the only way to unlock the Stasis subclass.

The Grind

Season Pass: This is a limited-time battle pass that lets you unlock reward tiers as you level up. These can earn you anything from crafting resources to premium weapons and armor. It usually lasts a few weeks. Access to the season pass requires Silver, Destiny's premium currency, which will cost real-world dollars to acquire. (There are certain items you’ll unlock in the season pass for free, but they’re table scraps.)

Bounties: These are daily or weekly challenges that reward you with some combination of experience, currency, and resources. Pick them up from vendors in the Tower, or in free roam areas for tasks specific to that zone. A bounty that gives you experience will have an “XP+” in the rewards section. The more plus signs, the more experience you’ll get. Some bounties also give you Bright Dust, a currency type that lets you buy weekly cosmetic items you’d otherwise have to fork over real money for. (More on that in the Currency section below.)

The Gear

Finally, we get to that sweet, sweet loot.

Rarity

Any gear that you find will fall into a quality class: rare (blue), legendary (purple), or exotic (yellow). Exotics are usually the best, weapons and armor that boost your abilities in interesting and varied ways. The downside is that you can only equip one piece of exotic armor and one exotic weapon at a time, forcing you to choose which powerups work best with your character and play style.

The main course of Destiny gear is legendary class items (indicated by their purple background). These spawn with random attributes that you can peruse by hovering over the item and tapping the Details button. If you don’t like the attributes on a particular roll, you can safely discard the weapon. Chances are you’ll find it again with different attributes.

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Honestly, you can basically ignore blue item drops. They’re underpowered compared to the more and more powerful items that have been added to the game over the years. Bungie even recently reworked the game so that they drop less often. Once you really get into the swing of things, purple legendary gear will drop so often you’ll never need to worry about blue again.

Guns

You’ve got three guns at a time: kinetic, energy, and power. Some guns use special or heavy ammo, which you gather by killing enemies. Guns with a primary ammo type have infinite ammo but tend to be a little weaker than special and heavy weapons.

Armor

You wear five pieces of armor at one time, each with its own stats. Armor pieces have energy types (Solar, Arc, Void, or Stasis) that dictate what kind of modifications you can make to them. That’s a little above our pay grade here, so if you want to go deeper, check out this guide to all the intricacies of armor.

Stats

Your core stat is your Power level. (It’s the big number right up by your head in the character screen.) It’s an average of the power ratings on each piece of gear you have equipped. You need higher power ratings to access more difficult activities, like Nightfall strikes and raids. Right now the max power rating caps out at 1320. When Witch Queen releases, that cap will increase to 1500.

A more immediate way to tweak your stats is to pay attention to the attributes your armor gives you. Each piece gives boosts to stats that dictate how you play.

Mobility: How fast you move and how high you jump.Resilience: How much damage you can take.Recovery: How fast your health regenerates after taking damage.Discipline: How fast your grenade recharges.Intellect: How fast your super recharges.Strength: Melee range (how far you can reach to punch) and how fast your powered melee attack recharges.Most PopularBusinessThe End of Airbnb in New York

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Hover over the little icons to the left of your armor in the Character menu to see what rank each stat is at. For every 10 points boosted by your armor, each stat improves by another tier. The most desirable stats depend on your playstyle, but always be on the lookout for armor with high numbers in the stats you want.

Customization

There’s no point in traipsing across the solar system to battle infinite alien hordes if you can’t look snazzy while doing it. To customize your duds, go into the Character screen. At the very bottom of the screen, there’s a button with a down arrow next to it. Press that and it will shift to your customization screen. Here you can change the color of your armor, the paint job on your ship, and what finishing moves and emotes you use.

If you feel limited by the color options, there’s a way to get more for cheap. In the Store menu, go down to Archive. Scroll over a couple of tabs and look for the Year 1 Shader Bundle. It costs a small amount of Glimmer and will get you more than 30 color schemes that you can use to pretty up your equipment. You can acquire additional shaders as loot, or buy them for Bright Dust from week to week.

If you want to go deep, there’s a (controversial) transmog system that will let you take one piece of armor and convert it to a cosmetic that you can wear over another. Here’s a guide for that.

The Vault

You can access your vault in the Tower or the HELM (just above the Tower on the Destinations screen). The vault holds up to 500 items, and you can access everything in there with any character on your account.

Upgrades

As you play, you’ll find that gear drops with higher and higher power levels. But sometimes you find that perfect gun that has all the right attributes and you just don’t want to let it go. Luckily, you can boost an item’s power level and keep it up to speed with the rest of your gear.

If you want to increase an item’s power level, go into your character menu, then into an item’s details screen. The left-most box on that screen should say Infuse. Hover over it, and you’ll see other items below it. You can then sacrifice another weapon or armor piece of the same class with a higher power rating to boost the one you want to keep.

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Separately, you can also upgrade an item’s states in a process called Masterworking. Go into your character menu, then into an item’s details screen. On armor, the upgrade option will be in the bar that says energy. On weapons, it’s the middle box in the middle left of the screen, where it should say Tier Weapon. If you have the requisite materials (see the section below) you can boost an item. The max level rating is 10, at which point the weapon or armor piece becomes a Masterwork item and receives a boost in stats.

Keep in mind that upgrade resources can be rare, so be discerning in what you choose to invest in. If an item doesn’t have all the attributes you’d like, you might want to wait until you find another version with a better roll.

Resources

Upgrade items are for leveling up your weapons and armor. They come in a few shapes and sizes. From least to most rare, you’ve got Upgrade Modules, Enhancement Cores, Enhancement Prisms, and Ascendant Shards. You can buy most of these from Banshee-44 in the Tower and can occasionally find them out in the wild. Ascendant shards are especially rare, and necessary in the final stage of masterworking an item. Be careful about how you use them because they can be hard to come by. (Here’s a guide for finding more.)

Engrams are little dodecahedrons that can be unlocked to reveal a (mostly) random item. They can come as quest rewards, or sometimes just drop as loot. They’ll have a color and power level that indicates the rarity of the gear inside. Take them to Master Rahool in the Tower or go to the Umbral Decoder in the HELM to unlock.

Planetary materials are bulk collectibles found on planets in free roam areas and on missions. Use them to trade with different vendors for gear.

Legendary shards are a form of currency used to acquire legendary and exotic items. Gain them by breaking down legendary or exotic weapons, or by ranking up in the season pass.

Consumables are one-time-use items that can be used during missions to boost stats or increase your chances to get loot. A Raid Banner, for example, will give everyone on the fireteam Super energy and refill all of their ammo.

Consumables, shards, resources, and upgrade materials in your character menu are shared between all the characters on your account.

Currency

There are three main types of currency. 

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Glimmer is the easiest to get. You’ll find it in missions and receive it as rewards for certain quests and bounties. Use Glimmer to buy equipment and resources from merchants, and to acquire bounties.

Bright Dust can be used for some cosmetic skins, ornaments, or color shaders for your armor. What’s available to buy depends on the rotation of items for the week. (More on that later.) In the store menu, there are Bright Dust offerings at the bottom of the Featured screen and in a separate Bright Dust tab. The items available there change weekly. Bright Dust can be acquired in-game, but it’s usually from special activities, like completing story campaigns or ranking up enough in the season pass.

Silver is Destiny’s premium currency. You buy it with real-world money and use it to buy weapon and armor skins, extra emotes, and other cosmetics in the Eververse shop. If you’re going to buy something, make sure you know what you’re getting. Each exotic gun and armor ornament can only be used on a specific piece of equipment. So you will need to find the gun the ornament fits in-game before you can actually apply the visual skin you paid money for.

If you buy something by mistake, you can still return it within seven days of buying it. Your purchase will be in the Inventory menu, under Wrapped Items. Hover over your recent purchase and press refund. Just be sure not to open it, otherwise there are no takesy-backsies. Many items that previously could only be purchased with silver do come back in the Bright Dust section. It’s never really clear what will return, so it’s a bit of a gamble. But if you're patient, you might be able to snag a skin without having to pony up.

Stray TipsIn the Tower, there is a vendor called the Postmaster. Any items you missed grabbing in a mission will go there so you have a chance to pick them up again. There are a maximum number of inventory slots, so be sure to check back regularly for anything you’ve missed.Some things are shared between characters, some are not. Quest progress and bounties are specific to each character, so you'll have to play story missions again with each character you want to level through the campaign. Most inventory items, season pass experience, and triumphs are pooled between all the characters you play.Destiny servers reset every Tuesday at 9 am Pacific. That’s when the weekly bounties offered by vendors refresh, as do the items in the featured and Bright Dust sections of the store menu.Xur is a mysterious character who flits between Destiny’s locations and planes of reality. Every week, from Friday at 9 am Pacific to Tuesday’s 9 am Pacific reset, Xur reappears in one of the free-roam areas. He sells a random assortment of exotic and legendary gear in exchange for legendary shards. Handy sites like whereisxur.com will tell you where to find him each week.Get the Destiny 2 app. It works shockingly well and really smooths out the process of inventory and menu management. You can use the app to transfer items between characters and pick up bounties in real time. Now Destiny will be with you wherever you go, forever. You are one now.


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