Destiny 2 is a much simpler game than its predecessor, but that doesn’t mean it’s simple. There are a lot of numbers, currencies, and strategies to get your head around.
The tips in this post are mostly based on about 60-70 hours of play, during which I reviewed the game and completed almost everything there is to complete.
I initially published this on 9/13/2017, and have given it one revision on 9/22/2017. I gave it one last update on 10/24/2017, as the PC version just came out and I’d put a lot more time into the game. Here are my tips for playing Destiny 2.
BIG-PICTURE STUFF TO KEEP IN MIND
Let’s start with some broad ideas to keep in mind while you play. Nothing major, nothing specific; just big ideas.
Forget a lot of the junk you may have learned playing Destiny 1.
If you played a lot of the first game, you’ll have some advantages going into Destiny 2. You’ll know who’s who, how most weapons work, and how best to fight most of the aliens. However, you’ll also probably find that you’ve got some ingrained habits that are hard to shake.
You no longer have to max your level before decrypting an engram, because the engram’s level is set when you pick it up. You no longer have to hoard gunsmith materials, because you no longer have to spend mats to upgrade weapons. You no longer have to go to orbit between activities. I could spend a thousand more words listing the quality of life improvements Destiny 2 has made over its predecessor, but for now I’ll just say, try to let go of all that nonsense you memorized during the first game. Enjoy the extra space you now have in your brain. Use it to store some new recipes for the next time you cook dinner.
Learn a few common terms that players use.
The game itself does an okay job of explaining what most of these things are, but you should know these terms going into Destiny 2:
- Subclass - Each class has three subclasses you can pick from, and each subclass has strengths and weaknesses depending on the activity you’re undertaking. For example, Warlock subclasses include Dawnbreaker, Stormcaller, and Voidwalker. You’ll want to get comfortable with all three in order to be maximally effective in the game.
- Super - Each subclass has a “super” that charges up over time. Activating it will usually give you a limited duration power-up that lets you do immense damage, clear enemies, and become extremely deadly in PvP. A well-timed super can be the difference between victory and defeat.
- Kinetic vs. elemental damage - Guns in Destiny 2 either do kinetic damage or energy damage. Kinetic guns go in your kinetic slot—that’s straightforward. Similarly, energy weapons go in your energy slot. There are three types of energy: Arc, Solar, and Void. The guns in your energy and power weapon slots also do elemental damage, and each subclass also corresponds to one of the three. You’ll often see shielded enemies cruising around with glowing circles around them. Energy weapons cut through shields much faster than kinetic weapons, particularly if the weapon’s energy type corresponds to the shield’s color. (Orange for solar, purple for void, blue for arc.) It’s actually less complicated than it sounds, but it takes some getting used to.
- Weapon rarity - Gear in Destiny 2 falls into one of five categories: White normal gear, green common gear, blue rare gear, purple legendary gear, and yellow exotic gear. Everything can fall in “engrams,” which then decrypt into various pieces of gear. After a couple of days, you’ll probably only be equipping legendary and exotic gear, though blue rare gear can still be useful.
- PvE vs. PvP - Destiny 2 is divided into two types of activity. There’s player-vs.-environment (PvE), which pits you against computer-controlled enemies either solo or as part of a team. And there’s player-vs.-player (PvP), which pits teams of players against one another in an arena called the Crucible. PvE and PvP usually demand different subclasses, strategies, and weapon loadouts, and appeal to different sorts of players.
Pick a class you think sounds fun.
Destiny 2 starts out with a difficult choice for newcomers: which class should you play? You can’t exactly go wrong, but it’s good to understand the differences between the three when you pick.
- Titans are the toughest class, and are built for up-close combat and defensive buffing. They’ve got a super that can drop a protective bubble around their team, along with a few more standard damage-dealing supers. Their class ability throws up a protective wall, and one variant automatically reloads the player’s gun every time they crouch behind cover. They’re a versatile class that helps keep their teammates safe.
- Warlocks are slow moving but able to do a lot of damage. They’ve got powerful grenades and can do a lot of aerial attacks. Their supers all revolve around damage-dealing, to one extent or another. They can throw flaming swords, shoot lightning, or fire a massive purple bomb. Their class ability is a healing/buffing rift that other players can step into to heal or gain other benefits. They’re a really powerful support class in Destiny 2, and a good all-rounder.
- Hunters are the least like the other two classes. Their abilities center mostly around slowing and debuffing enemies. They help their team by hurting enemies, rather than directly buffing their friends. They have the widest range of super-types—one gives them a gun with deadly golden bullets, another a staff that shoots lightning, the third a “tether” that ties enemies down and weakens them to incoming fire. Their class ability is a quick-dodge move that’s only useful situationally and, unlike the Warlock and Titans, doesn’t offer any benefit to other players.
Catch up on the backstory.
The story and characters from the first Destiny play a major role in the sequel, and if you want to get the most out of the new game, you’re going to want to catch up on what happened in the first one. Fortunately for you, I wrote a big beginner’s guide to the world of Destiny that shouldn’t take too long to read. It explains the lore of the world, the events of the first game and its expansion, and even has a section on memes and community inside jokes. After finishing Destiny 2’s story, I can confirm that it tells you basically everything you need to know to more fully appreciate Destiny 2.
Play through the story campaigns before you do anything else.
As you progress through Destiny 2, more and more activities will unlock. You’ll get access to strikes, patrols, adventures, and more. Feel free to try that stuff out, but in my opinion, the best way to play is to focus on completing the story first. The game significantly opens up after the final story mission, and everything fits together more cleanly with the story out of the way.
Do the final few missions on your own.
Really, I’d advise playing the whole story solo, but the last few missions in particular are best on your own. The narrative makes more sense with just one heroic Guardian, and you’ll miss some of the jokes and kick-ass music if you’re in a party chatting with teammates. Almost everything in Destiny 2 is more fun with a team, but the story is better solo.
Take the time to do planetary Adventures.
Each patrol zone gets a handful of orange “Adventure” markers that denote short optional side missions you can undertake. It’s easy to skip over these once you finish the story, or to blow through them with some friends while only half paying attention. I actually recommend playing through these on your own and paying attention to the dialogue. A lot of the Adventures have cool stories, and many call back to characters and events from the first game while hinting at what may be coming in the future.
Download the Destiny app to manage your gear.
Bungie’s phone app has gotten pretty useful for managing your gear on the go. You can use it to send items to your vault mid-raid, or pull something from another character over to the character you’re currently playing.
Better yet, use Destiny Item Manager.
Destiny Item Manager has been around since the first game. A couple years ago, I even wrote an article about how great it is. Bungie’s app may be more functional than it used to be for managing your gear, but DIM is still king. It’s constantly getting new user-friendly features and doesn’t even require a plugin anymore. It just works as a website. Essential for anyone with a lot of stuff in their vault, and damned essential for anyone with alt characters.
Join a clan!
Clans actually matter in Destiny 2 to an extent that they didn’t in the first game. By repping your clan you can help everyone win precious “powerful gear” engrams that’ll greatly help everyone raise their Power level. You also get Trials and Raid drops, if people in you clan can get to seven wins or beat the final boss, respectively. Not bad! It’s also fun to feel like you’re part of a team. Even if you just have a couple friends you regularly play with, make a clan anyway. Most of the weekly rewards are easy to get, and as a bonus, you can pick a dumb name that makes you all laugh.
Learn the game’s schedule.
Bungie appears to be making an effort to be clearer and more transparent with Destiny 2’s weekly schedule, sharing some information weeks in advance. That’s helpful, since it’s a good idea to stay abreast of Destiny 2’s schedule week to week. Three to keep in mind:
- On Tuesdays, the game resets and all your weekly activities will be available again. There’ll be new Milestones to achieve, a new Flashpoint to take on, and a new Nightfall raid to challenge you.
- On Fridays, the exotic vendor Xur arrives to an undisclosed location, so you’ll need to look around for him in order to buy his exotic gear.
- Also on Fridays, the Trials of the Nine PvP tournament begins, and it runs through the Tuesday reset.
- Every so often, a couple of week-long events called “Faction Rally” and “Iron Banner” run. The first involves pledging to one of three factions and competing to see who can score the most points in PvE and PvP. The Iron Banner is a PvP tournament. The game will tell you when both of those events start, and instruct you how to proceed.
BASIC TIPS FOR STAYING ALIVE
A lot of Destiny 2’s fundamentals carry over from the first game. Here are a few basic gameplay tips, including some lightly edited tips from my Taken King tips post that directly apply to the sequel.
Don’t waste too much time on missions that are too hard for you.
If a mission suggests Power level of 240 and you’re at Power level 190, don’t beat your head against it if it’s proving too difficult. Just go do something that’s appropriate to your level. You’re not losing because you aren’t good enough, you’re losing because enemies are doing exaggerated damage against you and your own attacks are doing a fraction of what they should.
Reviving is almost always your top priority.
If you’re playing with a team, make reviving your teammates a top priority in a fight. There are exceptions to this—times when staying alive is more important than getting an immediate revive—but generally speaking, revive people as fast as you can. No one likes seeing “LAST GUARDIAN STANDING” on their screen, and when one of your fireteam goes down, you’re one teammate closer to that happening. Res early, res often.
Be careful with the barrels.
Destiny 2 introduces a novel new mechanic: There are red barrels, and if you shoot them... they explode! I know, right? Groundbreaking. Seriously though, those barrels (and other explosive objects) will mess you up if you’re standing on them at the wrong time. They’ll also mess enemies up if they get close. Use them to your advantage.
Backpedal and take advantage of cover and invisible walls.
A lot of fights in Destiny can be beaten if you’re cautious and don’t run out into the middle of the room. Stay near the entrance, with clear ground behind you, and you should generally be able to backpedal out of danger if you’re really getting hosed. Pick enemies off from a distance and you can thin the herd until you’re able to close more aggressively. Destiny 2 does a better job than its predecessor or forcing you to move around enclosed spaces and really stay on your toes, but a lot of fights will still give you an advantage if you keep your back to the door through which you entered.
Aim for the soft spot.
When you shoot an enemy, you’ll see damage numbers flying off of it. When the numbers are yellow, you’re hitting the monster in its critical spot—you always want to get those yellow numbers, so aim for the sweet spot! It’s usually the head, but sometimes it’s somewhere else. Look for whatever’s glowing and try that.
THE RAID AND THE NIGHTFALL
Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil anything specific about the raid here. But if you’re planning to do the tough PvE endgame stuff like the Leviathan Raid and the weekly Nightfall strike, there’s some stuff you should keep in mind.
Read up and do one specific sidequest before doing the raid.
The Leviathan raid kind of comes out of nowhere, unless you’ve done one particular side ‘Adventure’ and/or read some of the materials that came with the Collector’s Edition of the game. I won’t spoil anything specific here, but if you want the backstory, I summarized it all in a separate article.
Some of your raid rewards reset every week.
As you make your way through the raid, you actually won’t get that much loot. You’ll get coins that can be cashed in at a vendor that unlocks when you beat the final boss, so those can get you raid gear. You’ll also get keys with names like “Drain Key,” which correspond to chests located in a hidden area of the raid. The Internet at large has got you covered if you want to google specifically where to find the chests for those keys, but it’s important to know that those keys will vanish at the weekly reset. Also, you actually don’t need a full squad of six to get most if not all of the chests. So if you’re gonna use them, use them.
Definitely read the lore on raid guns and armor.
They explain much more of what’s going on, how this guy got where he is, etc.
Carefully read each Nightfall modifier before you start.
Destiny 2 Nightfall strikes work differently than in the first game, in that so far at least, they’re all on a timer. Each week there’s been a different modifier that lets you win back time as you go, which means that each week you’ll have to take a different approach to get to the end with your team. I recommend getting a feel for the new modifiers for a few minutes, then loading out, picking the best loadout, and starting fresh.
My only other tip for the Nightfall is: don’t panic! It can feel like all is lost, particularly because the clock keeps ticking down. You’re probably doing better than you think. The worst-case scenario is that your team panics and everyone gets stuck in an endless cycle of death. As long as you can get everyone up and regroup, you can almost always pull out of a spiral.
GUNS, GEAR, AND LEVELING UP
The more you play, the more guns and armor you’ll get. That can quickly get overwhelming, particularly as you enter endgame and start to try to get a higher overall Power level. Here’s some stuff to keep in mind.
Don’t sweat your Power level too hard.
Once you hit the level cap, everything starts to be about your Power level instead. That number is based on your combined armor defense and weapon damage, so each piece of gear you get potentially raises it. Happily, in Destiny 2 you can steadily raise your Power number without worrying too much about the specific best, fastest way of doing it. If you do really want to min/max, however, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Hang on to the highest-number piece of gear in a given slot, even if you aren’t using it. Destiny 2 calculates your new gear in terms of your character’s highest possible Power number, which means you don’t have to equip your best stuff before decrypting engrams. If you get a piece of gear that’s higher than anything else you have in that slot, keep it!
- Get your head around infusion. For a bit of glimmer and a couple legendary shards, you can take a low-powered piece of legendary or exotic gear and “feed” a higher powered piece of gear (of the same type) into it to raise its power. You can infuse a 265 blue gun into a 103 legendary gun of the same type. You’ll lose the blue gun forever, and your 103 legendary will now be a 265 legendary.
- Understand how legendary mods work. If you really want to get your Power up fastest, you should understand how legendary mods can help you do that. I wrote a whole article explaining how it works, but short version: purple legendary mods can add 5 damage or defense to a gun or piece of armor, and sometimes the gear you’ll get will have a legendary mod. Because of the mod, the gear’s actual power number is five lower than what you see on your character, which affects infusion, because gear infuses at its actual level, not its modded level. That can work for you or against you. Before you get rid of a legendary piece of armor, check to make sure it doesn’t have a legendary mod.
- Understand “Powerful Rewards.” Every week you can complete some Milestones and other challenges that reward you with purple engrams that contain “Powerful Gear.” These are called Luminous Engrams, and they give rewards that drop much closer to your current max Power level than other legendary engrams you get in the game. If you care about power-leveling as quickly as possible, wait to cash these in until you’ve gotten to 265 Power or higher.
- Okay, just follow a guide. If you want a guide that specifically tells you how to raise your powerful level with maximum effectiveness, Jason wrote one.
Buy blue mods from the gunsmith.
If you’re nearing the 100k glimmer cap, one of the best things to do is go blow a ton of cash on random blue mods at the Gunsmith. The more you buy, the more you’ll get enough to combine them into purple legendary mods, which you really want. You can’t do that second thing until you’re power level 280, but there’s no reason to hit the glimmer cap and let money go to waste before that happens. Buy blue mods often, and once you can make purple mods, do that often as well.
Don’t spend all your upgrade points on your first subclass.
At the start of Destiny 2, your character will have one subclass. Each time you level up, you earn a point you can use to unlock a subclass ability. It can be tempting to just mindlessly unlock these as they become available, but at a certain point it actually makes more sense to save your points. Eventually you’ll have all three subclasses, and not enough points to unlock every ability. Pick and choose your abilities. If there are grenades you know you don’t like, skip them for now. If you know you prefer one of the two subclass branches, unlock that one and leave the other one locked. Eventually you’ll be able to unlock everything, but at first it pays to bank a few upgrade points just in case.
Experiment with guns to find what you like.
Destiny 2’s gun balance is in a pretty good place right now, and it’s possible to find success with just about any weapon in PvE or PvP. So really, my main tip is to just experiment with guns and find what works for you! Since every new weapon you get is already fully leveled up, you can freely swap things in and out and test them. Once you start getting more legendaries, one more thing to keep in mind…
Go in and read your legendary gun’s alternate perks.
Legendary weapons all come with a few perks that you can switch between. One may give you a quicker reload, while the other gives you a stability boost. One scope may highlight enemies and zoom way in, while another is lower zoom and better for closer fights. Read through each weapon’s perks and test them out to find what works best for you.
Read each gun’s lore, too.
Time was, if you wanted to read the story behind a weird piece of Destiny gear, you had to go to Bungie’s website. Thankfully, Destiny 2 puts lore right there in the game. It’s easy to forget to read that stuff, though, so press the left trigger when you’re inspecting some gear and enjoy the juicy lore giblets.
Understand your armor’s attributes.
In Destiny 2, armor has one of three primary and secondary attributes. Those are: Mobility, Resilience, and Recovery. Mobility increases your walking speed (but not your sprint speed, oddly), Resilience lets you take a bit more damage, and Recovery increases the speed at which your shields replenish. At the moment, the general consensus is that Recovery is the best of the three, followed by Resilience, trailed by Mobility. That could change with future patches or balance tweaks.
Save five blue scout rifles.
Just put them in your vault. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did!
On PC, you can “lock” items with the shift key.
There UI doesn’t tell you this unless you go into the detailed view on a given piece of gear, but you can lock an item from your inventory just by hitting Shift. It’s a good idea to lock anything you want to keep so you don’t accidentally scrap it.
Cut it out with the frickin MIDA Multi-Tool.
Look, basically everyone agrees that the MIDA Multi-Tool is a really good gun. And yeah, if you crush with it in the Crucible, I guess I’m not going to talk you out of using it. But I actually almost always have more fun when I switch up my loadout and try something different in my kinetic slot. Auto rifles are really strong in Destiny 2, at least for now. Some pulse rifles are also a blast. MIDA is great, but try changing it up for once.
HOW TO STAY ALIVE IN THE COMPETITIVE CRUCIBLE
When I started playing Destiny, I mostly avoided the Crucible. Midway through 2015, however, I finally got into it and I’ve been a Crucible diehard ever since. Destiny PvP can be a lot of fun once you get your head around it, so I suggest giving yourself time and space to try it out, even if you don’t normally like PvP games. Here are some basic tips for staying alive and getting the most out of the Crucible.
Play in a team if possible.
Destiny 2 PvP emphasizes team play, even in the less team-focused “Quickplay” playlist. It takes longer to bring down a given opponent, which means that working with a teammate to teamshot an opponent is the fastest way to win a fight. If you do get into a team, be sure to move as a team. Go from point to point in Control, calling out your next destination. Move up and around corners as a unit in Supremacy or Clash.
Focus on calling out directions and destinations.
When you’re playing as a team, it’s easy to fall into the habit of calling out random things that happened, or stuff you’ve noticed the enemy doing. “They’re at C.” “Shit, they got me!” “Oh man, they’re everywhere!” Sometimes it can be helpful to call out enemy locations, but in general I’ve found it’s best to keep callouts focused on what your team should be doing. “Okay, let’s circle around to A.” “Let’s move on Rugs, I’ll cover the lane.” “Okay, let’s push! Push, push, push.” It puts your team in a more proactive mode, and in my experience, whichever team is on offense in a match is the team that’s winning.
Pick complementary weapon types.
Kind of a no-brainer, but pick kinetic and energy weapons that work well together. Maybe a scout rifle in your kinetic slot and an auto-rifle in your energy slot; maybe a pulse rifle in your energy slot and a hand cannon in your kinetic slot. The easiest way to think of this is: one ranged option, and one up-close option.
Play the objective!
Even in quickplay, most Destiny 2 Crucible game-types have specific objectives that you have to focus on to win. In Control, you want to get kills while controlling at least two control points. (Also remember, multiple players don’t make you take a control point faster. One person cap the point, one person cover them!) In Supremacy, you have to pick up crests that downed Guardians drop, be they from opponents or your teammates. Just getting the kill isn’t enough. The objectives in competitive modes are more obvious, but be aware of the rules of each game type and play to win.
And now, four tips from my Taken King tips post that still apply:
Get your crosshairs up.
Even when you’re not aiming down your sights, you have a crosshair in the middle of the screen. If you play a lot of PvE, you may have developed some bad crosshair habits. In PvP, keep your crosshair UP and centered on where an opponent’s head would be. If you’re going around a corner, keep your crosshair right on the line where the edge of the wall meets your view. If you get in the habit of doing that, you’ll start to quickly get more kills.
Watch your radar and play smart.
Your most useful tool in Crucible isn’t a gun or a piece of gear—it’s your radar. Keep an eye on it at all times; learn to check it obsessively. If you see a line of red at the edge, it means there’s an enemy about a room away from you. If you see a radar pie-piece fill up with red, that means there’s an enemy in the very next room. If the circle around you lights up red, there’s an enemy in the same room, or possibly in a room above or below you.
Don’t rush in guns blazing.
If you’re smart about your radar, you can also be smart about your positioning. Don’t just rush into fights. Wait for your opponents to come to you. I cannot stress this enough: Wait, wait, wait. Everyone rushes everywhere in Crucible, but the majority of the time, the patient player will be the one who wins the fight. If you know someone’s coming and are ready for them, you’ll beat them out unless they’re just way better than you are.
Don’t be afraid to flee...
If your shields get taken out, run. If an enemy sees you before you see them, run. If you’re getting shot by more than one person, run. Lots of players treat each shootout as a fight to the death, but the smart Crucible player quickly identifies when they’re at a disadvantage and lives to fight another day. If your opponent sees you first and gets a few hits up on you, you will lose nine fights out of ten. There’s no shame in bailing. However...
... though sometimes, the smart play will be to rush forward.
The more I play Destiny 2 PvP, the more I’m finding that actually, the smart play is often to rush forward instead of running away. This really only applies to situations where it’s you versus one other player, but if you take a few hits and manage to get some small cover between the two of you, it can actually work well to jump over the other player and disorient them. If you back up, you’ll wind up in a shootout that puts the two of you on equal footing. If you can surprise them by being aggressive, a lot of times you’ll wind up in their blind spot and can finish them off before they get a bead on you.
A FEW EXTRA THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT
Explore the environment for small things to scan.
Every patrol region is full of little things you can scan, and if you do so, Ghost will tell you some fun fact or other about it. This also applies to social spaces, so be sure to explore!
Quickly access the map with a shortcut.
You can access the map by holding down the trackpad/select button, but you can go right there by pressing start and trackpad/select at the same time. If you play a lot of Destiny 2, this can actually save you a bit of time. (This doesn’t apply for PC players, obvs.)
Charge your super at rally points.
When you come across a public event flag while on patrol, you can approach it and “rally to the flag,” which charges your super. It’s never a bad idea to stick around for the public event, since they’re a good way to farm items and each one can give you legendary or exotic engrams. But you don’t strictly have to.
Make your public events heroic when possible.
Every public event in Destiny 2 has two variants—a normal version and a Heroic version. To activate the Heroic version, you have to do some special thing during the event. Maybe you blow up a ship, or power down some force fields or destroy a power generator. Heroic public events give more glimmer and more drops than regular ones, and are more fun, to boot. Here’s a good video that breaks down how to activate each type of heroic public event.
And that’s what I got. Thanks to all who’ve shared further tips in the comments!