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Destiny 2: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

Like any long-running game, Destiny 2 is massive. With three mainline expansions in Forsaken, Shadowkeep, and Beyond Light, plus fifteen seasons of content, there’s a lot to take in. This has been great for long-time players, but it can be incredibly daunting for beginners.

With the latest expansion and changes to some of the vendors and systems, Destiny 2 is as difficult to jump into as ever. But have hope, potential Guardian — it’s not impossible to figure out, especially if you have a Destiny 2 beginner’s guide. This rundown will cover everything you need to know about the game to jumpstart your experience and get you closer to the fun of collecting and end-game content.

Now, eyes up Guardian. Let’s get you New Lights into the fray.

Destiny 2 Beginner’s Guide: Choosing Your Class

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Image: Bungie via HGG

To kick off our Destiny 2 beginner’s guide, let’s talk classes.

When you first load up the game, you’ll see a class selection screen. You have three options to choose from, each with different jumps, grenades, melee and class abilities, as well as Supers. Your Super is basically your ultimate ability that you can unleash after charging up a meter for a given amount of time. 

The three Class options you have access to are Titans, Hunters, and Warlocks:

  • Titans are the most aggressive Class, basically serving as a tank equipped with a deployable barrier. This Class is all about offense and resilience with abilities leaning into getting you close to enemies, protecting allies, or laying out massive AOE attacks.
  • Hunters are like DPS gunslingers. They come equipped with a dodge roll, higher mobility, and more elusive or long-range Supers. This Class encourages you to be strategic, nimble, and willing to balance risk with long-range play.
  • Warlocks are basically space wizards. They create wellspring rifts that either grant offensive or health regenerating buffs, and share the same mobility as Hunters but with increased hover and jump mechanics. This Class falls somewhere in the middle of the other two and allows you to rely on your abilities a bit more to entrap or wipe out enemies with a single move.

To help you narrow down your Class choice, check out our Destiny 2 Class Guide for a rundown of specific abilities and how each options plays. And don’t worry — if you end up wanting to try out another Class, you can always start a new character build. Plus, you can transfer weapons and some armor between characters, making leveling up new builds that much easier.

Subclasses 

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Image: Bungie via HGG

Elemental burns are all over Destiny 2, but they got their start as the basis for each Subclass. These are specific element-focused ability sets that you can switch between whenever you like from your inventory menu. You currently have the electrically-charged Arc, fiery Solar, enshrouded Void, and freezing Stasis Subclasses. 

Each option will have a different set of Grenades, melee abilities, and Supers to choose from through a simple three-route skill tree. The only unique option is Stasis, which doesn’t leverage skill trees like the rest and instead incorporates systems known as Aspects and Fragments. These are basically Mods that influence how your Stasis abilities function and allow the developers to continue releasing new options on a Seasonal basis.

You’ll start off with a single Subclass and quickly earn the ability to upgrade it and unlock your other options as you level up. Stasis, on the other hand, will require you to run missions with the Exo Stranger on Europa and is locked within the Beyond Light expansion. 

Check out our guides on every Titan, Warlock, and Hunter Subclass to learn more.

Power Level & Seasonal Level

Speaking of leveling up, let’s talk about the two unique leveling systems within Destiny 2

Power Level

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Image: Bungie via HGG

The next topic for discussion in our Destiny 2 guide for beginners first is your Power Level. This progression system is the primary statistic that increases your ability to successfully face more powerful enemies. It’s directly tied to the average of your Weapon and Armor Power Levels (the base stat of each weapon) and is displayed to the right of your character. 

You’ll notice on specific game modes, like Strikes and Raids, that they include a recommended Power Level. You can still play these activities even if you aren’t at that current level, but it will be a rough time. 

When starting on your journey with this Destiny 2 starter guide, your Power Level will be set to 1100. This will allow you to jump into the different campaigns for each expansion, general game modes like Strikes, Crucible, and Gambit, as well as check out Patrols. Your goal at this point is to play an unlock Weapons and Armor in each slot that is a higher Power Level. 

You’ll eventually hit the Soft Cap of 1260, then the Hard Cap of 1310, the Pinnacle Cap of 1320, and finally Max Power at 1330. Each Cap will get increasingly harder to reach, with only specific gear and activities granting you higher leveled unlocks. Additionally, the Pinnacle and Max Caps shift up by 10 every single season.

Seasonal Level

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Image: Bungie via HGG

The other part of leveling up your Guardian is your Seasonal Level. Seasons in Destiny 2 are smaller content drops in between larger expansions that typically include a Season Pass, Challenges, new story content, a unique game mode, and other limited-time events. These last for about two to three months before they reset, and they include what’s known as a Seasonal Artifact.

The Artifact is how you level up in a given season and does require that you purchase the Season Pass (which is only $10). This will allow you to unlock unique Seasonal Armor Mods and unlock an additional 10 Power Levels that are active throughout the current season. Unlike your standard Power Level, you unlock these by earning XP and unlocking new slots on the Artifact, with no weapons or armor involved.

Where Does Gear Come Into Play?

As we mentioned earlier in our Destiny 2 newbie guide, increasing your Power Level beyond a certain threshold will require you to play specific activities and obtain specific gear.

First, to reach the Hard Cap, you’ll need to earn Powerful or Pinnacle Gear. Powerful Gear is typically tied to Vendor bounties, some playlist activities, seasonal activities, and Prime Engrams. To reach Pinnacle Cap, you have to earn Pinnacle gear. This is an even more limited assortment of activities such as Nightfalls or playlist activity completion (such as 3 Strikes and 3 Crucible matches).

You can learn how to quickly Max out your Power Level, by checking out our Power Leveling Guide for Season of the Splicer.

Gear Up, Guardian: Rarity Tiers Explained

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Image: Bungie via HGG

As you begin your journey collecting gear from playing missions and progressing through the storyline, you’re likely to notice different colored drops. This color-coded system indicated rarity and helps you easily distinguish between each type. Here are the five currently in the game:

  • Common (White). This Tier is typically limited to armor for exclusive events and is usually meant to be upgraded. Don’t expect to find any Common gear by just playing the game.
  • Uncommon (Green). Like the Common Tier, this rarity is pretty much nonexistent. You’ll start with it during the initial mission and it may be an upgrade level for armor earned during exclusive events, but that’s it.
  • Rare (Blue). These are the most common pieces of gear you’ll encounter early on in the game. They will drop more often whenever you are underleveled or at the start of a new season. Rare gear will occasionally feature one or two perks and Armor features two fewer Mod slots. They can drop at higher Power Levels than Legendary gear, so be sure to hang on to them for infusion (we’ll explain that in the next section).
  • Legendary (Purple). Legendary Gear is your go-to option for collecting. These offer a wide range of perks, mod slots, and stats to try to roll for. Depending on the Weapon or Armor you’re going after, you can typically improve your chances by playing specific modes with a limited loot pool.
  • Exotic (Gold). This is the rarest gear type in Destiny 2. You can only equip one Exotic Weapon and one piece of Exotic Armor at a time, due to the highly specific Perk it provides. There is a limited number of Exotic Gear currently in the game and some are locked behind specific tasks or expansions.

Read our Exotic Farming Guide for the best way to unlock Exotics and check out our Exotic Gear rankings for Titans, Warlocks, and Hunters to see what you should go after first.

Gear Upgrades and Customization

The biggest mechanics in Destiny 2 include weapon and armor upgrades, and customizing your Guardian. These systems are integral to your ability to maximize your Power Level, keep the weapons and armor you like playable, and look good while doing it. There’s a lot to take in, but that’s what our Destiny 2 beginner’s guide is for.

Here’s everything that goes into upgrades and customization.

Materials

Upgrades use a combination of the following materials:

  • Glimmer: Standard currency earned by defeating enemies, opening chests, and completing activities.
  • Legendary Shards: A common currency earned by completing activities or dismantling Exotic or Legendary gear.
  • Upgrade Modules: A rare currency used for gear infusion. Earn from Gunsmith bounties, random armor or weapon dismantles, or purchase from the Gunsmith.
  • Enhancement Cores: A rare currency used for Masterworking. Earn from dismantling a Tier 4 piece of gear, completing specific bounties, or purchased from vendors.
  • Enhancement Prisms: An incredibly rare currency used for the last few steps of Masterworking. Earn by completing high-level Nightfalls, Empire Hunts, or purchasing from vendors.
  • Ascendant Shards: An Exotic currency that is used in the last step of Masterworking. Earn by dismantling Exotics, purchased from the Gunsmith or high-level Nightfalls and other activities.

Weapon and Armor Infusion

Weapon and Armor infusion is an upgrade process where you combine gear in a given slot to increase the Power Level. This process requires that the gear you are upgrading and the gear you’re infusing be the same weapon or armor type and that the infused gear be a higher Power Level. Additionally, you’ll need one Upgrade Module to complete the process.

One thing worth noting in this Destiny 2 beginner’s guide — if you have a duplicate piece of gear but like the stats or benefits of the less powerful version, the infusion will not cost an Upgrade Module in this case.

Masterwork

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Image: Bungie via HGG

Aside from Power Level, Masterworking is the other go-to process for upgrading your ability to play in Destiny 2. This is a process where you upgrade a Legendary piece of gear ten times in total or unlock a Catalyst for an Exotic Weapon. Doing so will provide you with benefits like Orbs of Power generation (which increases your Super recharge rate), +10 to a stat, and other general perks.

You can Masterwork gear directly within your inventory by clicking on a Weapon or piece of Armor and selecting the current Tier. You’ll need Glimmer, Legendary Shards, Enhancement Cores, Enhancement Prisms, and Ascendant Shards to reach level 10. Exotic Catalysts, on the other hand, will either be unlocked randomly or from specific activities depending on the Exotic weapon.

Read our full guide on Masterworking gear in Destiny 2 to streamline the upgrade process.

Shaders

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Image: Bungie via HGG

Shaders are simply color swaps that you can switch out on Armor and Weapons. While they’re not as integral to the game as some other topics on our beginner’s guide to Destiny 2, they’re still an essential part of the game’s charm.

Shaders are permanent unlocks that are earned randomly by playing Destiny 2, with some shaders only being available to purchase or unlockable through specific feats. It costs 500 Glimmer to apply a single shader and 2,500 to apply the whole set to your armor.

This can be done on each piece of Armor or Weapon individually or through the new upgrade menu at the base of your inventory.

Armor Synthesis and Ornaments

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Image: Bungie via HGG

Armor Synthesis is a new system that allows you to turn pieces of armor into Ornaments or skins. Known as Transmog, this process means you can now change the look to whatever you like without having to switch gear or sacrifice your Power Level. Some Ornaments are only available to purchase, but anything that is earned in-game is now fair game to turn into an Ornament through a lengthy series of quests.

Learn all about the new Armor Synthesis process in our full Transmog Guide.

Armor and Weapons

There’s a lot of stats and attachments that make up your armor and weapons. Here are the basics to help you get started.

Weapon Types

Let’s quickly talk about what you can expect in combat. The first-person shooting mechanics should feel familiar for anyone that’s played a Bungie title, but it’s the weapon types and ammo that greatly differ. Here’s what to expect:

Kinetic Weapons

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Image: Bungie via HGG

Your top inventory slot. Includes assault rifles, pulse rifles, hand cannons, scout rifles, and a handful of random shotguns, bows, and other weapons. These weapons have no elemental buff, additional ammo, lower damage output, and can be refilled with white ammo bricks.

Energy Weapons

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Image: Bungie via HGG

Your middle inventory slot. Includes shotguns, sniper rifles, fusion rifles, and random variations of other weapons. These weapons have an elemental burn, do higher damage, have less ammo, and can be refilled with green ammo bricks.

Power Weapons

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Image: Bungie via HGG

Your middle inventory slot. Includes machine guns, rocket launchers, grenade launchers, linear fusion rifles, and swords. These weapons have an elemental burn, do massive damage with drastically low ammo, and can be refilled with purple ammo bricks.

Armor Stats

Here are the different stats that impact the performance of your armor. These have a direct influence over your health, shield, and ability regeneration. 

  • Resilience: The amount of damage resistance your armor provides.
  • Recovery: How quickly you regenerate health after being damaged.
  • Mobility: Jump height and walking speed.
  • Intellect: How quickly your Super recharges.
  • Discipline: How quickly your grenade recharges.
  • Strength: How quickly your melee recharges.

Check out our guide on Armor Stats to learn how to earn high-stat armor.

Weapons Stats

Here are the different stats that impact the performance of your weapon. These have a direct influence on your accuracy, firing distance, and speed.

  • Impact: How much damage the weapon does.
  • Range: The distance you can shoot at a target before damage falls off.
  • Stability: How steady the weapon stays while pulling the trigger
  • Handling: How quickly you can switch to or stow a weapon.
  • Reload Speed: How quickly you reload the clip.

There are also hidden weapon stats only accessible through 3rd party apps. Read our Weapon Stats guide to learn more.

Armor and Weapon Mods

Armor and Weapon Mods are unique additions you can unlock and add to your gear. Armor pieces have up to five total slots for each piece that can be unlocked by Masterworking your gear. These are specific Mod types, so you are limited to a given selection and energy total.

Weapon Mods, on the other hand, are limited to one per weapon. These are far more limited than Armor Mods, with the only true advanced option being Adept Mods. You also have Weapon Perks, which are random buffs that roll with a given weapon.

These are fairly complex systems that are really more important for when you start playing Nightfalls, Dungeons, and Raids. To learn more, check out our guides on Armor Mods, Weapon Mods, and Weapon Perks

Game Modes

There’s a lot to do in Destiny 2. Here are the primary game modes you’ll be playing.

Patrols and Lost Sectors

Short missions and secret locations specific to each location in Destiny 2. Both can be found randomly while roaming the world, but some Lost Sectors can also be played at higher difficulty from your map.

Strikes

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Image: Bungie via HGG

Vanguard missions or strikes bring in a team of three to fight through a themed 15–20 minute mission. This typically includes waves of enemies and a final boss fight. These can be accessed at specific locations on your map or from the Strike Playlist. Higher levels of difficulty don’t provide matchmaking. When it comes to learning how to play Destiny 2, this is your bread and butter for leveling.

Crucible

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Image: Bungie via HGG

Destiny 2’s PvP mode. There are currently 4v4, 6v6, and free-for-all modes with unique rotating options each week. Additionally, you have the highly competitive Trials of Osiris, a 3v3 mode only available on weekends, and the Iron Banner, which provides exclusive bounties for Pinnacle Gear.

Gambit

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Image: Bungie via HGG

This PvE plus PvP mode requires two teams of four to bank motes as quickly as possible to summon and defeat a final boss first. You can also send additional enemies to the enemy team and even invade their arena to disrupt them.

Nightfall: The Ordeal

A more difficult version of Strikes that include larger quantities of more powerful enemies. These have unique debuffs, limited matchmaking capabilities, and require that you play at a specific Power Level.

Dungeons

Smaller iterations of Raids that function more like Strikes but with the puzzle mechanics of a Raid room. These three-person experiences are challenging both from a mechanics and enemy-type standpoint.

Raids

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Image: Bungie via HGG

The big show that brings together six Guardians through a multi-hour, puzzle-infused death trap. These are the most difficult activities in Destiny 2, and require a great deal of patience, optimized Guardian builds, and clear communication.

Complete a raid to get a diverse variety of gear drops, exclusive rewards, and the ability to attempt more difficult iterations of each Raid as they are released. Once you’ve cleared this field, it’s safe to say you’ve progressed beyond the scope of this Destiny 2 beginner’s guide.

Vendors and Missions

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Image: Bungie via HGG

The main thrust of Destiny 2 is missions and quests. The main story beats for expansions like Beyond Light will be labeled as story missions. Seasonal, secondary and Exotic missions will be labeled as specific quests, which you can sort through specific labels in your quest log. Lastly, there are bounties, which you acquire by visiting vendors. 

Now there are a ton of vendors in Destiny 2, with more seemingly added every season. But in this Destiny 2 beginner’s guide, let’s just focus on the main NPCs.

  • Zavala. Provides Vanguard bounties and Strike quests. Earn Powerful Gear after completing 8 bounties each week.
  • Lord Shaxx. Provides Crucible bounties and quests. Earn Powerful Gear after completing 8 bounties each week.
  • The Drifter. Provides Gambit bounties and quests. Earn Powerful Gear after completing 8 bounties each week.
  • Banshee-44. Provides Gunsmith bounties, weapon quests, mods, and resources. Earn Powerful Gear after completing 8 bounties each week.
  • Xur. Sells Exotic weapons and armor, Exotic Engrams, and resources on weekends. Use this resource to locate him.
  • Exo Stranger. Exclusive to Beyond Light. Unlock Stasis Aspects and Fragments as well as main story quests
  • Ada-1. Provides Armor Synthesis bounties, mods, and armor sets.
  • Seasonal Vendors. New NPCs specific to a given season in Destiny 2. These will provide the unique upgrade mechanic, seasonal bounties, and mods.
  • Planetary Vendors. A variety of NPCs specific to each location in Destiny 2. They provide bounties and resources specific to the planet.
  • Quest Kiosk. Reactivate any lost or accidentally defeated questlines, as well as a way to access the new tutorial mission for current players.
  • Postmaster. Where any gear you earn lands if you fail to collect it or your inventory is full.

Become a High Grounder

There’s a lot to do in Destiny 2, and it can be a bit overwhelming when first starting out. Hopefully, this Destiny 2 beginner’s guide has helped jumpstart your experience and you’re well on your way to max Power level and filling out your gear collection. Be sure to share this article on your favorite social platforms to help all the other New Lights you know get up to speed, and sign up for our newsletter for the latest on Destiny 2

Happy gaming!

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