Just last month I was a total beginner in the Destiny 2: Beyond Light universe, having downloaded the core game and its shiny new expansion with absolutely zero Destiny experience. A month later and I'm well over 100 hours in – but that doesn't mean I know what I'm doing half the time. There's far too much in this game for five days worth of playtime to equal mastery, but the elusive promise of higher Destiny knowledge has consumed me.
As I wrote in my first Destiny feature, I was "confused but completely enamored" by Destiny 2. Thanks to its boggling plot and crispy combat, I often felt aimless, but in a cool way – like a space beatnik with a penchant for violence. For a time, I had no idea what quests I should attempt and why I should be invested in them, but soldiered on with the kind of dedication only buttery smooth gunplay can inspire in a player like me whose attention span is as fleeting as the tenure of a Destiny 2 voice actor.
But now, little over a month since I first gave Destiny 2 a try, I've completed the main campaigns for Beyond Light and Forsaken, I've tried out the Trials, successfully completed a dungeon, and hobbled through a raid. I've learned to ride the Destiny 2 bike, but it hasn't been easy to take off the training wheels. Where other games' lack of hand-holding might cause me to give up out of frustration, the allure of shinier armor, fancier weapons, and bigger numbers has kept me plugged in.
Beyond Beyond Light
One of the first issues I ran into after completing the Beyond Light campaign was what in the frozen fuck to do next – there are so many proper nouns, vendors, quests, raids, bounties, and so little direction. For the first few days after stomping Eramis, my Destiny 2 routine consisted of briefly looking at the map, mentally shutting down, and jumping into Gambit to shoot enemies mindlessly.
When I finished Beyond Light, I thought I was comfortably competent as a Destiny 2 player; I had a soft spot for Variks, a crush on the Exo Stranger, and I was preaching to my partner about the somewhat antiquated positions of both my Ghost and Zavala regarding the Darkness. I had favorite weapons, a favorite class, and reached the highest rank in Gambit. But it soon became clear that I barely had a toe in the roiling ocean that is Destiny 2. And so, I turned to the community for help.
I started asking players I found in LFG (Looking for Group) what I should do next. This prompted a cacophony of contradictory advice: "Oh, you have to do [alien-sounding proper noun] if you want to get [alien-sounding proper noun]". "No, no, you have to focus on getting your light level up, it's too low to tackle [epic-sounding location name]". "The first thing you need to do is unlock more Stasis abilities, and you can't do that without this multi-tier quest that you'll need [alien gun] from another quest for". I took copious notes, compared the advice, and made a list of priorities. And so, my quest for Destiny nirvana began.
Deep Stone Friends
Destiny 2, outside of the structure of its campaigns, is inherently convoluted and overwhelmingly crowded with content. Players like me, who prefer to learn a game's mechanics via trial and error, will find themselves almost immediately unmoored. Destiny's endgame can't be played willy-nilly; it must be approached with steadfast dedication to repetition for progress' sake and a thoroughly researched plan of attack. That's where the Destiny community comes into play.
Aside from frequent and generous help from my peers, I've used guides for nearly everything and received a ton of support from other players. I've had great interactions with the incredibly large community – for context, Destiny 2's subreddit has more followers than Star Wars – and that's even when it was discovered that I hadn't touched my Fang of Xivu Arath artifact because "I didn't know I could". Helpful and kind encounters with a majority male player base are unexpected for me, but the fact that they put me on their back and quite literally carried me through some crucial Destiny 2 content is the kind of feel-good story we need for the start of 2021. One part of that story involves a random group of Brits and Americans who dragged me through the Deep Stone Crypt – here's how it went down.
At the start of the raid, my new best friends offer me the role of "scanner". Blissfully ignorant as to what this would require of me, but also nervous about having a defined role, I acquiesce. Then, a chorus of English and American accents walk me through my role, which requires me to grab a Scanner buff from a terminal and shout out which hard-to-see datapads are glowing gold – and that's not even the first part of the raid. By the time I get to the third encounter, which requires me to grab the Scanner buff and call out which boss is glowing gold and is, therefore, the real boss before all the bosses blow up and force us to restart the section, my palms are sweating so bad I can barely hold the controller.
It took us four-plus hours to best the Deep Stone Crypt, during which I skipped dinner and drank nearly a bottle of wine. When we finished off the final boss, I wasn't sure if it was reality or the alcohol taking its toll, but when that last loot chest opened up, and I finally reaped the rewards of this challenging quest, the relief and smug satisfaction rolled over me like a wave.
Big Brain Destiny
The Deep Stone Crypt is a prime example of how much Destiny asks you to do in its more involved scenarios and combat encounters. Sure, you can "no thoughts, head empty" your way through PVE with a blank-eyed smile plastered on your face, but if you want to go beyond that, you're going to need to do some serious mental sweating. That means making lists for things like entropic shard locations, cookie deliveries, and poring over your inventory until all the weapon icons blur together (yes, I use Destiny Item Manager now).
Just when you think you have this game cornered, it nips at your ankles and runs to the other side of the room. I thought I was starting to understand the weapons after weeks of squinting in confusion at words like "Arbalest" and "Riskrunner". But I'm not a min-maxer by default, and I have a tendency to skip-read things that get too deep in the minutiae as it overwhelms me. So, if I got two of the same Legendary weapon and one had a higher light level than another, I certainly didn't bother to compare the two because I thought they were the same – I just dismantled the lower level one and moved on. That, my friends, is a Destiny no-no, akin to rolling through an entire Call of Duty: Warzone match trying to kill people with just your standard-issue pistol.
It turns out there are things in Destiny called 'God Rolls', which I was shocked to learn aren't a nod to the cinnamon roll/chili combo I came up with in college. Every single weapon drops with wildly different perks. The right combination of perks results in the so-called God Roll, the ideal weapon build. Like my Stars in Shadow pulse rifle, which has a quickdraw handling ability that's perfect for PVP, a polygonal rifling barrel that increases stability, a tactical mag that both increases stability and reload speed. I only vaguely understand thanks to Destiny Item Manager (which displays a thumbs up icon next to good weapon builds), Light.gg, and the Destiny community, which has proved unerringly patient in the face of my asinine questions.
During one Crucible session, my randomly found Discord teammate asked me to screen-share my inventory with him after I struggled to describe my build and weapon selection. As soon as I did, he let out a genuine gasp and shouted, "You have the best boots in the game, and they aren't on?!" To which I responded, "I don't like the way they look with my outfit." I think it's safe to say I'm not far along the road that leads to Destiny enlightenment; there's still a lot of walking to be done, but at least I'll be doing it in my Transversive Steps.