Destiny 2 Beginners Guide

How to get started in 2020
By Ric aka Primatrix | August 27, 2020

Destiny 2 is a great game. It has amazing gameplay, it does come from the creators of Halo, and includes hundreds of things to do and chase.

As a looter shooter, Destiny 2 is both a first-person shooter and an MMO. It’s therefore expected to be complex and vast. Problem is, Bungie may have created a great game with enormous potential, yet they have done a poor job at introducing new players to said game.

They have plans to improve this with the release of Beyond Light, but in the meantime, thousands of new players give up on this amazing experience because they are quickly overwhelmed.

On top of being a huge game with a lot of systems, destinations, and game modes, Destiny 2 has also changed a lot since it was first released in 2017. This explains why many things don’t necessarily feel intuitive. Entire systems have been heavily altered to fix core issues (double primaries, I’m looking at you).

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.


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)

My go-to inventory manager, 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.
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:

  • Braytech.org: A web app that covers everything. My favorite parts: Quests and Triumphs tracking.
  • Destiny Sets: A web app to track what gear you already have, organized per themes/seasons.

Find all the essential apps and tools for Destiny 2 players on our dedicated page


1. The Basics: A Destiny 2 New player guide

When you first load Destiny 2, you’ll be confronted with an overwhelming menu (called Director) full of planets, game modes, and activities. And to top things off, the game doesn’t really tell you what’s important and/or urgent.

In this section, we’ll cover the basics. It will be short and sweet because we don’t want this guide to be as overwhelming as the game itself!

Planets and game modes

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

Destiny 2 The Director

It includes the following game modes (also referred to as Playlists):

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

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: European Dead Zone, Moon, Tangled Shore, Dreaming City, Nessus, IO, Titan, Mars, and Mercury

PS: Planets highlighted in red will be removed from the game on November 10th, 2020.

Each planet is full of activities you can participate in, either solo or in a Fireteam. On a planet, you’ll find Patrol Zones, Adventures, Public Events, Raids and/or Dungeons (see End game section), and more.

Entire paragraphs could be written to properly explain each and every one of those activities. But for now, let’s keep things simple and move on to weapon systems.

Weapons classes & Ammo types

There is a dedicated section explaining how you can upgrade your gear and get the best items in the game. But first, let’s cover the different types and classes of weapons in the game.

Weapon classes

There are three weapon classes in Destiny 2:

  • Kinetic: Does not elemental damage and is most efficient against enemies without a shield.
  • Energy: Does elemental damage (either Arc, Void, or Solar) and does extra damage to shielded enemies with matching elements.
  • Heavy: Does elemental damage, is very powerful but needs Heavy ammo.

Also, your character can equip one weapon of each class simultaneously:

Destiny 2 Weapon classes

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

Arc
Arc
Void
Void
Solar
Solar

Pro tip: Use your Energy/Heavy weapons on shielded enemies when the elements match! Example: Take out your solar sniper when you see a solar shield!

Ammo types

In parallel, there are 3 different types of ammo in the game. Unlike the Kinetic, Energy and Heavy classes that are connected to a slot on your character’s inventory, 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 can be expected, Special weapons are much more powerful than Primary weapons, but Special ammo is harder to find. Heavy weapons are even more powerful, but Heavy ammo is even rarer.

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


2. Where to get started: The Red War Campaign

You may feel overwhelmed by the several planets and activities in the game already. If that’s the case, I recommend you forget about the Director for now and simply launch the Red War campaign, aka the original campaign that launched with Destiny 2. 

Destiny 2 Red War Campaign

Why should you start with the Red War campaign?

  1. It’s good! Some like bashing on it, but this is a solid campaign worth experiencing.
  2. It gradually explains a lot of the basics.
  3. It gradually takes you to several planets in the game.
  4. It gradually explains the universe in which Destiny 2 takes place.

Plus, the campaign will be removed from the game in just a couple of months so you better enjoy it before it’s too late…

For some inexplicable reason, Bungie decided to hide the Red War campaign behind a useless NPC, but I’ve got your back. To launch the campaign, simply head over to the Tower and go to Amanda Holiday. Her exact location can be seen below:

Destiny 2 Amanda Holliday location

Then, select the Red War campaign. Enjoy.


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:

  • Your Power Level dictates how much damage you inflict and receive.
  • All activities have a recommended Power Level, you will want to be as close to that as possible (or beyond).
  • Your Power Level is 100% determined by the Power Level of your equipped gear.
  • 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 1060:

Destiny 2 Powerful and Pinnacle chart

 

This means that 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, 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 1000 (the soft cap). After that, you’ll have to tackle specific activities that award Powerful Gear to reach level 1050 and then Pinnacle Gear to reach level 1060. 

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

Destiny 2 Max Power level guide

All Powerful and Pinnacle gear sources

Earning XP

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

  • Unlock your Season Pass rewards
  • Upgrade 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.

Destiny 2 Season Pass

Season 11’s Season Pass

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:

Destiny 2 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:

Destiny 2 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.

Destiny 2 Anarchy featured

Anarchy, one of the best PVE weapons in the entire game

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 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.

A good roll for PVP, but mediocre for PVE…

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

Most of the weapons in the guide above are hard to obtain (as it should be). 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.

World Drops

The game often rewards you with random gear, referred to World Drops. Among the 20+ weapons in the World Drops loot pool, the following are excellent choices (provided you have a good roll):

For PVE:

  • Dire Promise (hand cannon)
  • Gnawing Hunger (auto rifle)
  • Interference VI (grenade launcher)

For PVP:

  • Dire Promise (hand cannon)
  • Gnawing Hunger (auto rifle)
  • Last Hope (sidearm)

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

Cold Denial Focusing

Use the Prismatic Recaster to target the weapons you want

Umbral engrams

Introduced with Season 11, Umbral engrams are also a great source of excellent weapons:

For PVE:

  • Gnawing Hunger (auto rifle)
  • Falling Guillotine (sword)
  • IKELOS_SMG_v1.0.2 (SMG)
  • IKELOS_SR_v1.0.2 (sniper rifle)

For PVP:

  • Cold Denial (pulse rifle)
  • Gnawing Hunger (auto rifle)
  • Seventh Seraph CQC-12 (shotgun)

Again, this is not the place to cover all the best weapons or perks. Still, you will find many of 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:

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). For example, the armor pieces you get from the Season Pass (from level 37 onwards) have insanely high stats and you have to keep them!

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!

Destiny 2 Armor chasing

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 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.

These activities are what you could call Destiny 2’s End Game.

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/Grandmaster Nightfall: The Ordeals & Nightmare Hunts

Both of these activities are among the few Pinnacle sources in the game. Grandmaster Ordeals also reward the Conqueror seal.

In PVP

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:

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 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 critical 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.

Your turn

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.