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Destiny 2: New Light beginner’s guide

Starting fresh with Destiny 2’s free-to-play offering? Here are some tips on how to play

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Destiny 2: The Dawning - Dawnblade Warlock fighting Sentinel Titan in Mayhem Crucible match Bungie
Ryan Gilliam (he/him) has worked at Polygon for nearly seven years. He primarily spends his time writing guides for massively popular games like Diablo 4 & Destiny 2.

Destiny 2: New Light makes dozens of hours of content free-to-play. If you’re a new player, you may feel a bit lost. Even if you played at launch in 2017 — or the original Destiny five years ago — a lot has changed.

We’ve been around since the beginning, and in this New Light beginner’s guide, we’ve compiled 14 tips to help ease you into the world of Destiny in 2019.

Run through the Red War, Curse of Osiris, or Warmind campaign

A screenshot of Cayde-6 in Destiny 2 Image: Bungie/Activision

When you begin Destiny 2, you’ll play an intro mission set in the old Cosmodrome from the original Destiny. After that, you’ll find yourself in the Tower with a thousand blinking lights on your map. So what do you do now?

Consider playing through one of the original Destiny 2 campaigns. If you’re still getting a handle on how Destiny 2 works, you may want to slow down before jumping headfirst into the newest seasons or updated planets.

The Red War campaign launched with Destiny 2, and it tells a decent story. It’s also pretty long, so you should learn a lot about Destiny 2 by the end.

If you’re looking for something a bit shorter, you could play the Curse of Osiris or Warmind campaigns as well. In our opinion, Warmind is a bit shorter and more interesting than Curse of Osiris.

You won’t get much in terms of weapons or armor for completing these campaigns (there are only a few guaranteed Exotic drops in each. (Exotics are powerful weapons and armor with unique perks). But they should give you a sense of what to expect from Destiny 2.

Aim to deal bonus damage

If you’ve played a first person shooter before, you probably know that getting a headshot deals a lot more damage than shooting anywhere else. Well that’s only mostly true in Destiny 2. For most enemy types, aim for the head, but enemies like the Vex (the white and gold teleporting robots) are a bit more complicated.

Headshots aren’t always headshots

The Vex won’t take additional damage when you hit them in the head. Instead, you need to shoot them in the glowing spot around their abdomen (lovingly referred to as the “juice box”). Other enemies like Servitors or Shanks (the floating orbs and drones that come with Fallen enemies) take precision hits from their big center eye or visor respectively. The Skorn also have some unique hit spots, like their bubbly glowing backs or flaming flails.

When you get a precision hit (Destiny 2’s word for headshot), yellow numbers pop up around the enemy. If you aren’t getting yellow numbers, hit the enemy elsewhere.

Use Energy weapons on shields

If enemies have shields (usually denoted by a little white bar above their health), they won’t take precision damage at all. You can get rid of a shield with any damage type, but Energy weapons (guns in your secondary or heavy slot) deal bonus damage to shields. If you can match the element to the shield on the enemy (Void/purple damage to a Void/purple shield), then the shield will explode and deal bonus damage to the enemy and their nearby allies.

Always take a special weapon

Destiny 2: Forsaken - two Guardians using the PlayStation 4-exclusive exotic trace rifle Wavesplitter Bungie, High Moon Studios/Activision

In Destiny 2, there are three ammo tiers: primary/white ammo weapons (a single white bullet near their icon), special/green ammo weapons (two green bullets near their icon), and heavy/purple ammo weapons (three purple bullets near their icon).

Special weapons and primary weapons can each go in the first two slots, depending on if they’re Energy or Kinetic (which means no energy element). That allows you to wield two primary weapons or two special weapons if you want. You can make some interesting builds out of both, but each has its problems.

If you go with double primary, you’ll always have ammo but won’t be able to deal as much damage. Special weapons offer high bonus damage at the cost of ammo. So if you have two special weapons, you’ll always be low on ammo but deal great damage.

Take one of each in most scenarios — a single primary and a single special. That way, you always have a special weapon to take care of bosses and big enemies and a primary weapon when you run out of ammo.

Think twice before deleting your items

In Destiny 2, you don’t need to use your most powerful weapons for better gear to drop. As long as you haven’t deleted it, the game will always drop loot based on your highest possible Power Level — including items in your vault.

Your Power Level is how the game measures your strength. Your Power Level grows, depending on how powerful your gear is. If you want to take on harder content in Destiny 2, you’ll need a higher Power Level.

When you’re first starting out, don’t delete the items you get unless they’re white, green, or blue quality. Even then, make sure they’re not better than what you’re currently using.

It can sometimes be a real pain to get certain weapons in Destiny 2, and you don’t want to delete something you may eventually have to spend hours getting back. Before you have an idea of what you want to keep and what’s safe to delete, throw stuff in your vault instead of getting rid of it.

You can access the vault from the Tower, near the Banshee-44 — the Gunsmith. The vault comes with 500 inventory slots, and all you need to do is open the vault, open your inventory, and start storing or withdrawing items.

If you find something you really like and are afraid of deleting, you can lock a weapon by pressing shift on PC or pressing an analog stick with a controller. At that point, you can’t delete a locked weapon until you unlock it.

Experiment with different guns and perks

Destiny 2: Shadowkeep image of Guardians protecting a plate Image: Bungie

When you first start out in Destiny 2, enemies and quests will throw weapons at you all the time. That’s OK! Take a moment to try out the new weapon types you get, even if it’s not as good as your current gun. There are lots of different gun types in Destiny 2, and while you never need to commit to just one, it’s always helpful to know what you like.

As you get more comfortable, start inspecting the weapons you like most. What perks do they have? (Perks are abilities attached to your gun that impact its effectiveness) Guns in Destiny 2 usually come down to feel (they all feel unique) and perks.

Eventually, you’ll learn exactly the kinds of perks you like on, say, hand cannons — we’re partial to combinations like Rampage and Outlaw — but you have experiment to get there.

Wait to infuse your gear

If you have a piece of gear that’s low level, you can sacrifice another weapon to bring your favorite gun up closer to your current Power Level. The process is called infusion.

Infusion is a great for keeping your loot usable in more difficult content, but it’s also pretty expensive.

Before you start tackling the really hard stuff like raids or dungeons, infuse your favorite gear so your damage isn’t lacking. But while you’re still learning how to play, don’t worry too much about leveling up your favorite gear after it falls behind. You’ll have plenty of time to play with your favorite stuff, but you don’t want to waste infusion materials on items you’ll likely replace in a few hours.

Let higher level players show you the way

One of the coolest parts about Destiny 2 is the shared world experience. If you jump onto a planet to play some Public Events (small missions that take place in an area) you’ll inevitably bump into other players.

Public Events have more difficult and rewarding versions called Heroic Public Events. To trigger these, you need to complete a secret objective. If you’re new, watch the players with higher Power Levels or cooler looking armor than you to see what they’re doing. (Also read our guides.)

The Destiny community is usually friendly and helpful to new players, but it’s not uncommon to run into a grumpy Guardian if they feel like you’re messing up their Public Event. If someone is running around you, shooting you, or punching you, they’re probably trying to get your attention. See what they’re trying to teach you!

For PC players, Bungie has local chat off by default. This makes communication pretty tough, so head into the gameplay setting and turn it on. You’ll learn all sorts of new stuff from nearby players.

Run weekly challenges to gain powerful gear

Destiny 2 - four Guardians mug for the camera before a Crucible match Image: Bungie via Polygon

There are many opportunities to get powerful pieces of gear in Destiny 2. Each week, there are a set of challenges to complete around the world. They’re denoted by a blue star over a vendor or planet, and they reset every Tuesday morning.

Some of these are pretty complex (like the Nightfall) or change season to season (like the Vex Offensive). But many of them just involve playing activities in Destiny 2.

Check out the weekly Flashpoint on one of the planets (just complete Public Events or Lost Sectors) or play a few Crucible matches to get a great piece of loot.

Look into your Collection to find cool weapons and armor

If you see a Guardian running around with a cool looking gun or some great armor, you can inspect them to see what it is. But you can also look into your own Collection to find awesome stuff you don’t own yet.

Hoping into the Collection is easy, and it’s right next to your character sheet. Once in the menu, you can look at all the different hand cannons, auto rifles, and armor pieces in the game. There’s a spot for Exotics that tell you where most of them come from.

You can’t see some pieces until after you discover them, but if you’re just looking for some new gear, the Collection is a great place to start.

Grab new bounties every day

If you’re looking to power up, you’ll need XP to upgrade your Seasonal Artifact (an upgrade system that offers power and unique weapon abilities). With each new level, you’ll gain a permanent Power Level increase to your character. One way to get bonus XP every day is to pick up bounties around the world.

Different vendors offer different bounties for a small amount of Glimmer (the game’s most basic currency). Most of these missions just ask you to kill a certain number of enemies or run a Lost Sector. Bounties are great to have while you play, so pick up the bounties for whatever activity you’re doing before you venture out for the day.

Killed by the Architects means it’s not your fault

You’ll kill a lot of stuff during your time with Destiny 2, but you’ll die a lot as well. Most of those deaths will probably be your fault. But if you see “killed by the Architects” in your on your screen after you die, it means you didn’t really do anything wrong.

The Architects is Bungie’s fun term for “something went wrong.” Usually this pops up if you get accidentally flung into a wall by enemy movement or spontaneously combust — believe it or not, both have happened before. It may also mean that you fell off a cliff or didn’t slow yourself down and died of fall damage.

It’s great that the game tells you how you die, because if you pay attention, you can learn from your mistakes. But if you keep seeing “killed by the Architects,” just know that there’s not necessarily anything you could’ve done to prevent that death. You can filter those out and focus on other reasons you died.

Grab new Exotics from Xur each week

Xur Share Meme

Since the original Destiny, Friday is Xur day.

Xur is a merchant who spawns in a random location around the Destiny 2 world each week. He sells Exotic weapons and armor — powerful, unique, and desirable tools.

All of Xur’s items can drop randomly if you play enough, but Xur is a guaranteed way to get some new items to fill out your arsenal. Find him every week, and spend some Legendary Shards — a ubiquitous currency you get for almost everything, especially deleting the purple Legendary weapons you get as rewards from most activities or vendors — to purchase new items.

We post a Xur guide just like this one every week.

Use group finding apps like Discord

Now that you know the Destiny basics, you’re ready to tackle some harder content. But if you’re short a few friends, you won’t be able to raid or complete the most difficult activities. That’s where Discord and the Bungie app come in handy.

The Bungie app lets you create custom fireteams — groups of two-six players — that others can join. It’s really easy to use, especially for console players. Just link up your account on your phone and get going.

If you’re looking for some very specific, difficult stuff to play, there are a number of Discord servers devoted to finding Destiny 2 groups. We’re fans of the Destiny subreddit Discord and the Destiny 2 PC LFG Discord group.

No matter where you play or what platform you’re on, you can just about always find some Guardians to play with in those groups.

Use an inventory management app like DIM

Destiny Item Manager

Once you have a lot of guns in Destiny 2 — especially if you intend to play multiple characters — you’ll need some help managing your inventory and vault. You don’t need to go back to the Tower every time you want to deposit something or put it in your inventory. Instead, there are a few apps to use.

Bungie has a decent management app for phones. But there are some great third-party apps as well. If you’re using a laptop or your desktop to manage items, we recommend the Destiny Item Manager (DIM). If you want a DIM alternative or want to use your phone, check out the Ishtar Commander app.

And that’s it! If you made it all the way to the end, congratulations: You have a great foundation for getting the most out of your first few days with Destiny 2. There’s still a lot to learn, but that knowledge will come with time. Now is the time to explore space and destroy evil, Guardian. Good luck, and see you starside.