Destiny 2 Beginner’s guide for 2021

by | Jul 31, 2021 | Leveling

Destiny 2 is a great game. It has some of the best gunplay of any shooter out there (it comes from the creators of Halo, after all) and features hundreds of things to do.

Problem is, new players are easily overwhelmed and developer Bungie does little to help them learn the ropes. This results in many giving up on the game way too soon. A new Tutorial was recently introduced to better explain the game to beginners, but it’s still not enough.

But fear not. After reading this guide (which I’m trying to keep as short as possible), you’ll have a good understanding of how the game works and how to best enjoy it.

Checkmark icon V3List updated as of Season of the Splicer (S14).  Link


0. Essential tools every player needs

Destiny 2 may be a great game, but it desperately needs a few basic features. Namely, a better inventory manager and an in-game group finder.

You can still play and enjoy Destiny 2 “out of the box”, but these third-party tools will greatly improve your experience (plus, they’re all free and come from reliable sources):

DIM V2

Destiny Item Manager (DIM)

This is my go-to inventory manager and loadout optimizer.

With DIM you can easily move items between characters and vault, create loadouts, see your active quests, and so much more. It’s free too!

Destiny Companion V2

Destiny 2 Companion App

Somehow, Destiny 2 doesn’t have an in-game Fireteam finder.

Luckily, this companion app has a good LFG (looking for group) system, plus an inventory manager, and lets you collect bounties on the go!

Destiny Tracker V2

Destiny Tracker Network

This massive database includes every weapon and armor piece that exists in Destiny 2, but on top of that, is the best PVP stat tracker available.

If you’re serious about PVP, you need this.

Other excellent tools worthy of your time:

  • Light.gg: Probably the biggest D2 database around, I use it all the time to check stats and rolls for weapons.
  • Braytech.org: A web app that covers everything. My favorite parts: Quests and Triumphs tracking.

You can find more essential apps and tools for Destiny 2 players on our dedicated page


1. The Basics: A Destiny 2 New player guide

Unlike your average beginner’s guide, we won’t spend too long talking about the different classes or covering the absolute basics such as changing weapons or navigating the menus. Bungie’s New Player Guide does that just fine.

We’ll cover the foundations of the game: The activities, your character, and weapons.

Activities: Planets and game modes

When you first load Destiny 2, you’ll be confronted with an overwhelming menu (called Director) filled with planets and game modes.

The Director is the tool you’ll use to load into the different activities the game has to offer:

Director Destiny 2

It includes the following game modes (commonly referred to as Playlist activities):

  • Vanguard (Strikes): Strikes are matchmade 3-man “mini-dungeons” in which you basically slay everything in your way until you get to a final boss.
  • Crucible: This is the PVP area in Destiny 2 and includes several PVP modes such as Control, Survival, etc.
  • Gambit: A mixture of PVE and PVP, I recommend not starting here if you’re new to Destiny 2.

It includes the game’s main social space:

  • The Tower: This is where you’ll find most Vendors and quest givers.

And finally, it includes several planets:

  • Explorable planets: Europa, Cosmodrome and European Dead Zone (both on Earth), Moon, Tangled Shore, Dreaming City, and Nessus.
  • The H.E.L.M: A relatively new area where you’ll find mostly seasonal quest givers and vendors.

Alert icon About the Destiny Content Vault (DCV): All you need to know is that on November 10, 2020, roughly half of the game (entire planets, activities, gear, etc) was removed from the game.

Each planet is full of activities you can participate in, either solo or in a Fireteam. On a planet, you’ll find Patrol Zones (open areas you can freely explore), Public Events, Raids and/or Dungeons, and more.

Europa Destination Destiny 2

Entire paragraphs could be written to properly explain each and every one of those activities. But for now, let’s keep things simple and talk about how the weapon system works in Destiny 2.

Weapons classes & Ammo types

We have an entire section dedicated to upgrading your arsenal and getting the best items in the game. For now, let’s cover the different weapon types and ammo classes in the game.

Weapon classes

There are three weapon classes in Destiny 2:

  • Kinetic: Does more damage to enemies without a shield but cannot do elemental damage.
  • Energy: Does elemental damage (either Arc, Void, or Solar) and does extra damage to shielded enemies with matching elements.
  • Heavy: Does elemental damage and is very powerful but needs Heavy ammo (which is harder to find).

Also, your character has one slot per weapon class which means you will always have three weapons (one of each class) equipped at all times:

Character screen Destiny 2

These are the symbols representing the four elements in the game:

Arc
Arc
Void
Void
Solar
Solar
Stasis

Stasis

For the record, the fourth element, Stasis, was recently introduced with Beyond Light, but so far it is mostly limited to abilities with virtually no weapons nor enemies using it.

Pro tip: Always use your Energy/Heavy weapons on shielded enemies when the elements match! Example: Use your solar sniper rifle on an enemy with a solar shield for extra damage!

Ammo types

In parallel, there are 3 different types of ammo in the game. Unlike the Kinetic, Energy, and Heavy classes that match your character’s inventory slots, these are directly connected to the different weapon types available:

Weapon Type Ammo
  • Hand Cannons
  • Scout Rifles
  • Auto Rifles
  • Pulse Rifles
  • Sidearms
  • Submachine Gun

Primary

Destiny 2 Primary ammo

  • Fusion Rifles
  • Shotguns
  • Sniper Rifles
  • Trace Rifles
  • Single round Grenade Launchers

Special

Destiny 2 special ammo

  • Rocket launchers
  • Linear Fusion Rifles
  • Swords
  • Multi-round Grenade Launchers

Heavy

Destiny 2 Heavy ammo

⚠ Note that some Exotic weapons do not respect the table below. More on that later.

As a rule of thumb, Special weapons are more powerful than Primary weapons, and Heavy weapons are more powerful than Special weapons.

In parallel, Special ammo is harder to find than Primary ammo and Heavy ammo is harder to find than Special ammo.

This means you’ll want to use your Primary weapon on the weaker enemies and save your Special and Heavy ammo for the Majors and Bosses.

Pro tip: Always carry a Special weapon alongside your Primary weapon, as Special weapons deal much more damage.

Your Character: Power Level & Infusion

In Destiny 2, your character’s level works differently than in most MMOs. For example, your Guardian starts at 1100 Power Level, which means you’ll be strong enough to tackle most core activities on Day 1.

Your Power Level: The average of all your stuff

As you progress towards more difficult content, you’ll need a higher Power Level which can reach a maximum of 1320. We’ll cover how to level up fast in a latter section, but for now, keep in mind that your Power Level is the average of the Power Level of your current gear.

Overall, just make sure you never dismantle a piece of gear unless you have something with a higher Power Level on that same slot.

Example: Even if you know you’ll never use that ugly blue helmet you just found, keep it until you find another helmet with an equal or higher Power Level.

Infusing weapons

As you level up, your favorite gear, especially weapons, will quickly have a Power Level that is too low to use. You can use a mechanic called “infusion” to take another item with a higher Power Level and destroy it to increase the Power Level of your preferred item.

This means you can use infusion to continuously increase the Power Level of your favorite weapons. Infusion does cost you gear and resources, therefore, keep it to a minimum, especially at the beginning. From Power Levels 1100 to 1260, you’ll level up so fast, infusing is a huge waste of resources.

My advice:

1. As your favorite weapons are left behind in terms of Power Level, store them in your vault.

2. In parallel, use and experiment with the new, higher Power Level weapons you find along the way, even if they aren’t great on paper. This will allow you to try a lot of different weapon types and eventually find the weapons that work best for you.

3. Once you reach a high enough Power Level, you can use infusion to increase the Power level of some of your favorite weapons stored in the vault and use those in more challenging content.


2. Where to get started: New Light Quest

You’re in luck.

Destiny 2 used to have the worst tutorial for new players. It was extremely short and barely scratched the surface. It left players lost and overwhelmed and many quit because of it.

With Beyond Light, Bungie added a new Tutorial called the New Light quest. This questline is much better and properly explains the basics. It also gradually unlocks activities and planets to better explain what everything is.

How to play the New Light quest?

If this is your first time playing Destiny 2, the quest will automatically start as soon as you create your first character.

If you’ve dabbled with Destiny 2 before but would still like to experience this quest, you can grab it from the Quest Archive, which is located in the Tower, next to the Postmaster:

Quest Archive Destiny 2

Once you have the quest in your inventory, you can launch it from the Director when selecting the Cosmodrome.


3. Leveling Up & XP in Destiny 2

All MMOs have grindy leveling systems and Destiny 2 is no different. In fact, it has several leveling systems, but you should mainly worry about your Guardian’s Power Level and XP.

The road to Max Power Level

This is how Power Leveling works in Destiny 2:

1. Your Power Level dictates how much damage you inflict and receive.

2. All activities have a recommended Power Level, you want to be as close to that as possible (or above).

3. Your Power Level is 100% determined by the Level of your equipable gear. By equipable, this means you don’t need to equip your highest Power Level weapon at all times. You just need to keep it on your character or in your vault to count towards your average Power Level.

4. There are different level caps that require gear from different sources to continue leveling up.

This chart summarizes what gear will be needed to increase your Power Level until reaching that elusive Max Power Level, currently set at 1320:

Destiny 2 Powerful and Pinnacle chart Season 14

This means you should always pay attention to the Power Level of the gear you find. If something has a higher Power Level on a specific slot (Heavy weapon, helmet, etc) than what you already have, keep it until you find something higher. This includes Blue gear, which is otherwise useless outside of leveling up.

All gear found everywhere will help you increase your Power Level to 1260 (the soft cap). After that, you’ll have to tackle specific activities that reward Powerful Gear to reach level 1310 and then Pinnacle Gear to reach level 1320.

This guide covers exactly all the Powerful and Pinnacle sources in the game and provides tips and strategies on how to level up fast:

Max Power level guide

All Powerful and Pinnacle gear sources

Earning XP

In Destiny 2, XP is only useful for 2 things:

  • Unlocking your Season Pass rewards
  • Upgrading your Seasonal Artifact to unlock Mods and bonus Power Levels

The Season Pass includes two tracks: a free track (available to all) and a paid track (available to owners of the current Season). The Season Pass does include a lot of good things, such as weapons, armor, Exotic engrams, and more. Needless to say, you’ll want to grind XP to get all the rewards.

Season of the Splicer Season Pass featured

The fastest and most efficient way to earn XP in Destiny 2 still revolves around doing bounties (which you can pick up from different vendors in the game).

The community has complained a lot about “bounty farming” and with reason. But if you’re looking to efficiently get XP, you don’t really have a choice but to grab the best bounties and work on them simultaneously.

This guide explains how XP works and provides the most efficient XP farming methods available:

XP farm guide

How to earn XP fast [Bounty chart]

PVP ranks

Finally, if you’re mainly interested in PVP, there’s another leveling system you should be aware of: Glory.

In a nutshell, Glory is a skill ranking system. Winning games grants Glory points that will help you climb the ranks and losing games will cost you points.

If you are an average or below-average PVP player and are looking for a game mode where you can slowly improve as you gradually face tougher opponents, the “solo” playlist called Survival: Freelance is for you.

There, you can be sure you will only match against other solo players (and therefore avoid stacked teams).

This guide covers everything there is to know about Glory. How it works, what awards are locked behind it (spoiler: some of the best weapons in the game), and more:

Glory Ranks

Why they matter more than ever


4. Upgrading your Weapons and Armor

Now we can finally talk about the most exciting part of any MMO: the loot.

One of the most engaging aspects of Destiny 2 is the chase to get better gear. And as can be expected from a looter shooter, Destiny 2 has hundreds of items available for you to discover.

But not all gear was created equally. You have different rarity levels, pinnacles, exotics, and more. In this section, we’ll cover the basics regarding weapons and armor in D2.

The Lament Destiny 2 featured

Side note: In most MMOs, rarity levels play an important role (blue gear is better than green, purple is better than blue, and so on). But in Destiny, rarity levels are close to meaningless. You should only care about Legendary gear (purple) and Exotics (gold).

So you’re done with the campaign, now what?

At this stage, many feel stuck. You played the campaign and had a pretty good story to follow along. But now what?

There are two things I recommend focusing on: Leveling up (see the previous chapter) and start chasing better gear.

You’ll need a higher Power Level to tackle the end-game activities that reward some of the best gear. But in parallel, you can start chasing easier-to-obtain yet still great weapons.

Chasing the best Weapons

Let’s start with one of the foundations of Destiny 2’s weapons: Perks.

Good weapon = Good base stats + Good perks

Don’t make the mistake I did in thinking base stats were all it mattered. I used to google “best destiny 2 weapons”, read Spare Rations somewhere in a list, grind until I found one, and call it a day.

But a weapon’s perks are equally important. And as perks are randomly assigned to weapons, it can take a while before you find the right weapon with the right perks. So be prepared to dismantle a lot of “good” weapons because they rolled with the wrong perks.

Season 14 Nighfall Ordeals weapons Destiny 2 wide

Take the Gnawing Hunger auto rifle. It’s an excellent PVE weapon but only if it has the right perks (Subsistence + Rampage for example). Therefore, always pay close attention to perks and not only the weapon itself. Finding a “good weapon” is nearly worthless if it has the wrong perks.

Pro tip: Never dismantle a “good” weapon before paying close attention to its perks.

PVP and PVE needs

The best PVE weapons are rarely the same as the best PVP weapons. There are exceptions of course, but PVP requires very different perks and stats than PVE. For that reason, you have to see PVP and PVE weapons as two separate things. When chasing gear, you have to know in advance what you’re looking for: PVP or PVE gear.

The best weapons in Destiny 2

This guide covers in detail the best weapons in Destiny 2 (including the best exotics, PVE, PVP, and more):

Best Destiny 2 Weapons

PVE, PVP and Exotics.

Great yet accessible weapons

Many of the top weapons in Destiny 2 are hard to obtain (as they should). But there are some great weapons out there that are much easier to find and can help you quickly build a good arsenal for both PVE and PVP.

Seasonal weapons

Every season brings new weapons that are relatively easy to farm and the current season, Season of the Splicer, was particularly generous. Among the many weapons released this season, the following are excellent choices (provided you have a good roll):

Season 14 Override weapon Destiny 2 wide

For PVE:

  • Ignition Code
  • Chroma Rush
  • Farewell

For PVP:

  • Gridskipper
  • Chroma Rush

Notice how the same weapons make both lists. However, the perks needed for PVP and PVE will be completely different.

Umbral engrams

The best part is that farming these fine weapons couldn’t be easier thanks to the Umbral engrams system.

Found at the H.E.L.M, the Prismatic Recaster will allow you to take all those Umbral engrams you found while playing the game and use the Seasonal currency (called Decrypted Data this season), to target farm the weapons you want.

Prismatic Recaster Season 14 Destiny 2

Again, this is not the place to cover all the best weapons or perks. Still, you can also find these weapons in the wild so make sure you always check if you have a good roll before dismantling them. You can use Light.gg to get an idea of what the better perks are:

Destiny 2 weapon rolls

Perks highlighted in gold are considered the best all-around, those in red the best ones for PVP and those in blue for PVE.

Other things to keep in mind:

  • Exotic weapons are extremely powerful, that’s why you can only carry one at once. Prioritize finding the best exotics (this guide should help).
  • A weapon’s starting Power Level is not important, as you can always increase it through infusion. But don’t waste resources infusing weapons all the time, only infuse when it’s a good weapon or something you enjoy using a lot.

High stat Armor

Armor in Destiny 2 is all about the stats. In a sense, the looks of a piece of armor are unimportant.

What you’re looking for is armor with high stats (anything with over 60 total base stats is considered good) and good stat distribution. Not all stats are equal, and some will be vastly more important than others, depending on what class you’re using. For example, Mobility is always good but It’s crucial for Hunters.

High stat armor Destiny 2

Other things to keep in mind:

  • The Energy level (ranging from 1 to 10) in a piece of armor dictates how many Mods you can apply to it.
  • The Energy level can be upgraded at any time. The first levels are cheap, but the latter are definitely not.
  • Mods can increase the armor’s stats or provide other benefits such as faster reload, etc.
  • You can Masterwork your armor to increase even more your base stats (Masterwork = Energy level 10 = very expensive).
  • But your base stats are the most important part of your armor and cannot be increased!
  • If you find armor with good base stats, keep it!

I’m sorry that I keep repeating myself but I personally made that mistake when I first started. I didn’t know what was worth keeping and ended up randomly dismantling great armor…

This guide covers every Armor set in the game and explains what are the best sources of high stat armor:

Best Destiny 2 Armor sets

The complete collection [Full set images]


5. End game: The most challenging activities

Once you’ve leveled up and have acquired good weapons and armor, it’s time to use them to tackle the most challenging activities in the game.

Some of these activities will become part of your weekly routine as you’re trying to reach the max Power Level. On top of rewarding players with Pinnacle gear, some of them can also reward you with some of the best gear in Destiny 2.

Other than meticulously tracking the upcoming features and changes with our Destiny 2 roadmap, these activities are what you could call Destiny 2’s endgame.

In PVE

Raids

Raids are considered the best PVE content in Destiny. They are challenging, fun, complex, and take place in some of the most memorable locations in the Destiny 2 universe. Raids are particularly tough to organize too, as they are 6-man activities requiring coordination, good communication, and skill.

Dungeons

These are similar to raids but smaller (and only require a 3-person Fireteam). If you’re interested in the Prophecy dungeon, we have a guide for that.

Master and Grandmaster Nightfall: The Ordeals

These activities are among the few Pinnacle sources in the game. Grandmaster Ordeals also reward the Conqueror seal and Adept gear.

Legend and Master Lost Sectors

One of the most recent additions to the game, Legend and Master Lost Sectors are some of the best end game content for solo players. On top of being challenging and fun, when completed solo, they can also reward you with unique Exotic gear.

In PVP

At this stage, you’ll want to have the best setup possible. Our Pro Settings guide includes the gear (mouse and keyboard, controller, etc) and main settings (sensitivity) of 40+ of the best Destiny 2 players and can serve as inspiration to help you find the best setup for you.

Trials of Osiris

The equivalent to raids but for PVP, Trials is the most challenging PVP activity in Destiny 2. This is a 3-man activity that will put you in front of the best players in the game. Needless to say, good communication is mandatory if you want a remote chance of success. If you prefer to experience the competitive scene solo, the Freelance Survival mode is a great option.

You’ll need a fireteam!

All of these activities lack matchmaking, however,  which means you’ll have to assemble a Fireteam yourself. This can be challenging for new players, but this guide can help you use Discord to easily find other guardians on PC to play with:

Best LFG Discord servers

How to find a Fireteam.

It’s worth mentioning that most third-party tools and resources to LFG (looking for group) cater to the PC version of the game because PS4 players use the companion app while Xbox players have a built-in system.

On PC, on the other hand, players can use Discord servers, Reddit, and dedicated sites such as the100.io.


Destiny 2 tips and tricks for beginners

Now, before you go on to your adventures, these are some last-minute tips and tricks for you:

Get used to the Weekly Reset

Most challenges are dependent on the game’s Weekly Reset. Many rewards and activities are limited to one per week, and that limitation is lifted every Tuesday at reset. This page tracks all the current challenges and provides tips on how to best tackle them.

Visit Xur every weekend

Xur is an NPC that sells Exotics. As mentioned before, Exotics are powerful and you should try to find as many of them as possible. To find Xur, you can use an app such as Find Xur on iOS or visit a website like WhereisXur.com.

Finding the perfect weapon is all about its perks

Don’t delete anything before carefully looking at the roll you got (roll = combination of perks). I used to Google the best weapons and then be happy with the first version I found, regardless of the perks (shame on me). For legendary weapons, the roll you get is just as important as the weapon’s base stats.

Don’t infuse your gear too soon or too often

When leveling from Level 750 to 1050, you will be switching weapons so much, you shouldn’t waste Upgrade Modules infusing weapons or armor. Just make sure you always keep on your inventory the gear with the highest Power Level. This will keep your guardian’s Power Level as high as possible.

Always aim to do precision damage

Most enemies receive extra damage when hit on their critical spot (usually the head). In that same vein, always try to use elemental damage (arc, void, or solar) on matching elemental enemy shields. Doing so will melt their shields and make it explode in a very satisfying way.


The Last Word

Hopefully, you are now ready to navigate the massive and complex world that is Destiny. It may be overwhelming at times, but trust me, it’s definitely worth it.

Major changes introduced to this guide:

With the release of Season of the Splicer (Season 14), the following changes were made:

  • Updated the way Umbral engrams are decrypted
  • Update Power Level caps
  • Updated images for weapons and armor
  • Removed all remaining references to the Red War Campaign

Let's keep the conversation going

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6 Comments
  1. 277770

    cool

    Reply
  2. Destiny noob

    I 100% would have given up on Destiny 2 for good if not for this guide.
    You couldn’t be more correct in saying the tutorial was useless and the game plops you smack dab in the midst of the most overwhelming densely packed scavenger hunt in gaming history. On top of that there’s essentially zero intuition involved as nothing but the most obvious basics are covered.
    Destiny 2 truly is a game that requires a person to watch a video or follow a guide (like this one) and that’s sad.
    I’d say Destiny 2 is even worse than No Mans Sky in terms of players getting lost.
    tl;dr thanks for the guide, because of this and this alone I’ll give the game another chance.

    Reply
    • Ric (aka Prim)

      THANKS a lot for this comment. It’s always a good feeling to hear that this stuff was actually useful to someone. I say it on the intro, Bungie has done a poor job explaining the game to new players, but damn it, it’s a fine game that deserves a real chance.

      Glad to hear you stuck around. Cheers.

      Reply
    • Richard Kolp

      Yup, guides like this definitely help. People need to realize that Destiny is a grinders game and that in it’s self turns many players away. I love grinding so Destiny is my game.

      Reply
  3. Nexthe7th

    You should probably update the guide to reflect the new base Power Level (1100) and current cap (1320), and remove the bit about playing the Red War campaign as it no longer exists in-game. Otherwise, an excellent guide for brand new players who don’t know what is what.

    Reply
    • Ric (aka Prim)

      Yep, this was a very valid request that I’m happy to confirm I already took care of! The guide was updated with that and some other stuff to make it 100% relevant to the current state of the game!

      Reply
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